Love and Climate, a speed-dating event for environmentally minded singles, helps people “find love and save the planet”.

Hud Oberly is a catch. He’s tall, he’s handsome and he loves love. “Being around romance and stuff is fun and exciting,” says the 29-year-old New Yorker, standing in a Manhattan park. “My favorite movies are romantic comedies.”

Oberly’s desire for a partner is only eclipsed by his lust for a more sustainable world, so it’s important that his next girlfriend cares about the climate crisis. That’s why he’s trying Love and Climate, a speed-dating event for environmentally minded singles. “It’s more niche” than dating apps, he says, given that everyone there shares similar beliefs and values.

The nascent event is hosted and filmed by Kristy Drutman, and activist and influencer known as @BrownGirlGreen on Instagram. Drutman and her producer, Christa Guzmán, play matchmaker in parks around the city. They hope the series, shown on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, helps people “find love and save the planet”.

I met Oberly on a recent sunny Sunday in Sasaki Garden, a shady green space near New York University’s main campus nestled among a housing superblock. Drutman planned to hold the event near the celebrated Washington Square Park arch, but the parks department unceremoniously kicked her out for not having a permit. So Drutman and her contestants walked five minutes away, deciding to play Cupid underneath a canopy of trees, as a group of city kids scootered nearby.

I sat opposite Thasfia, a soft-spoken 25-year-old model wearing Gloria Steinem-ish aviators and croc-printed flare pants. (Thasfia declined to give her last name.) Oberly described his perfect eco-friendly first date: bring a bottle of natural wine to the beach, drink it and then clean up trash together. Thasfia’s revolved around biking to a park and hanging out – natural wine sounded good in that situation, too.

After meeting, Oberly and Thasfia exchanged numbers and decided to plan a second date. “I definitely want to get to know her more,” Oberly said as they sat next to each other on a park bench. “It’s nice that we can talk about climate as a niche, and it’s not just a regular speed-dating thing.”

Trying to find a partner with a shared anxiety about the world ending might sound a little gloomy, but Drutman says she wants to change people’s perceptions of climate activism. She came up with the idea for a climate-themed speed dating event in 2018. “I was at the UN climate negotiations a few years ago, and it was such a boring, stifled space,” she said. “I thought, why don’t we make this more interesting?”

She set up a makeshift matchmaking table at the 2021 Cop26 conference in Glasgow, connecting strangers with each other. She’s been holding pop-ups in New York parks since August and says each one has led to second and third dates, romantic pairings and platonic ones. “I like that people come to make friends,” Drutman said. “It’s another type of community space where people can connect through their activism.”

Dating has become more political: last year, a survey conducted by Tinder found that 75% of singles were looking for a match who respected or were invested in social issues. “People are like, if you don’t care about sustainability or the planet, then you’re probably not going to be the boo that I want,” says Drutman.

Maya Nahor, a 23-year-old master’s student at Columbia University studying climate and society, moved to New York City after living in Atlanta for 10 years. “It was more difficult there to date,” Nahor said. “There are plenty of people who thought climate change was real, but they didn’t relate to it on the level that my friends in the Sunrise Movement and I did.”

Things got easier once Nahor enrolled at Columbia, but she doesn’t really want to date classmates. “That seems like a problem, and I want to meet people outside of that,” she said.

Luckily, Nahor found a match at the event: Jacob Simon, a 26-year-old content creator. They bonded over a love of plant-based Indian food, and Nahor said she might cook for Simon. Or they could hit up a puppy yoga class – Nahor recently saw a targeted Instagram ad for that and wants to try it out with another animal lover. “Somewhere along the lines of talking about food, I thought, OK, I could eat Indian food with this guy, or make him pasta,” Nahor said.

Nearby, Sakshi Regmi, a 29 year-old singer, cozied up to Taylor Sartwell, an aspiring rapper. They flirted with the idea of making music together. “I am so serious about a collab,” Regmi said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but it was fun riffing with him.”

Regmi’s dating experience includes dealing with men who are snide about her involvement in the climate movement. “People can be dismissive of others who have passions that are linked to the greater good,” she said. “I want someone who cares about me, because instinctively, if you care about something other than yourself, it lends you to being a better person in a relationship.”

The real question is: was love in the air?

A few days after the event, I spoke to the couples. Two of them had not made plans but wanted to.
Nahor, the Columbia grad student, told me that she and Simon were in the process of planning a second date. Their preferred puppy yoga class was sold out, so they were thinking about hitting up a custom perfume-making class in Brooklyn. “Fingers crossed that it’s non-toxic,” she said.

Original source: https://www.theguardian.com

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