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Patricia Arqeutte Q&A: The Actress on South Florida Green Drinks

​How would you like to meet up for some Green Drinks?Although Green Drinks may sound like the perfect name for some newfangled, health-conscious, eco-friendly beverage, it's nothing of the sort. It actually stands for something much better: the name the Green Drinks nonprofit uses for its meetings, where South Florida members...
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​How would you like to meet up for some Green Drinks?

Although Green Drinks may sound like the perfect name for some newfangled, health-conscious, eco-friendly beverage, it's nothing of the sort. 

It actually stands for something much better: the name the Green Drinks nonprofit uses for its meetings, where South Florida members -- area professionals who share a common interest in being "green" -- get together for drinks to discuss ways to protect the environment.

And this year, Green Drinks will be raising its glass to more than just good ideas when it celebrates its second-annual Eco-Lifestyle Gala with actress Patricia Arquette, this year's recipient of its Eco-Lifestyle Pioneer Award.

Green Drinks will honor Arquette for her work with GiveLove, the nonprofit Haiti relief organization she founded alongside Rosetta Millington-Getty in 2010. Arquette will also host the special fundraising event, set to take place May 19 at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.  

Recently, Charlie had an opportunity to speak with the celebrity philanthropist about her work with GiveLove, discuss what the Green Drinks award means to her -- and even get the scoop on her favorite eats when she's helping out in Haiti. 

Here's what actress Patricia Arquette had to say:

Clean Plate Charlie: So, how did you get started with GiveLove?

Patricia Arquette: A friend of mine was a first responder in Haiti [after the 2009 earthquake], and she had gone there to help. I remember she called me and told me what she was witnessing, and I had been watching the news. We were both really rattled. I knew I wanted to help, and she said, "You need to do this. Go ahead."

What does GiveLove do?

Initially, we had this concept to build a green village... and we started by bringing these green shipping containers. To date, we have over 200 children living in these units. We've also built classrooms, offices -- even a social service center.

What is special about this type of housing?

Early on, the argument against the shipping container housing was that it's too hot, so one of the things we did was bring in radiant barrier paint, which has these ceramic beads that work to cool the air down.

Plus, we're also serving more than 2,000 people a day by treating their waste.

Can you tell me more about the green sanitation services GiveLove provides?

[GiveLove] also works to promote ecological sanitation to hygienically treat and recycle human waste [at schools and community-based compost centers] throughout Haiti. The reality is that the lack of sanitation kills more children worldwide than AIDS and malaria combined... so we brought in an amazing sanitation team to test a new system that would create clean water and help to properly dispose of waste. 

How has it been working so far?

The great news is that we've had really great results. But, more importantly, it's a green cycle. The byproduct [of this sanitation process] is compost, so it's totally safe for the environment. It's a perfect circle model, and we've even been putting it into the schools and teaching the kids about how it works.

How do you feel about being this year's South Florida Green Drinks (SFGD) award winner?

[GiveLove] is really grateful for the SFGD award and for the promotion they're giving us. In such a little span of time, we've been able to accomplish so much, and I know that we can make an even bigger difference.

Right now, there are so many groups [in Haiti] that have raised so much more money [than GiveLove] but have done a very minute amount [of aid relief] -- or haven't made the impact compared to what we have been able to do.

Hopefully this event will help GiveLove get more support...

We [at GiveLove] are so thankful for the exposure [SFGD] is giving us. Just the fact that we're having this fundraiser is a blessing. From an ego point of view, I don't care about [winning an] award -- not even in my professional life. But, if you are, this is an incredible way to receive one. 

This is a very green group of people that understand the significance of our work, and to bring awareness to our organization really helps. Support is crucial to our success in the future. When I look at our project, every donor is a huge part of the project. It's not just what I'm doing -- it is what we are doing. And I really feel that strongly that we can do more.

Any plans to expand to other countries?

We've been contacted by other groups [outside of Haiti]. In a dream world, it would be incredible to send our Haitian team to these other countries. A big part of what we do is training -- we're very interested in empowering others so that they can carry these systems forward. The idea is to branch out into other countries, but we have to have the support in place before we can do that. 

You've travelled to Haiti several times to oversee various projects and help out. What has that experience been like?

I go back and forth a lot, and it has just changed my life. When you work very closely with very poor people and you partner with them, it changes everything. In Haiti, you have your best and worst days all at once.

Can you give an example?

You'll be running around for a day and a half trying to get blood from the blood bank, and you'll just be crying because -- sometimes -- you just can't make it happen. And it will be because it's Sunday, and no one is working. But you can't tell a kid that needs blood that. And so you'll make 40 phone calls, and then you finally can get what you need, and the kid lives.

"You'll be running around for a day and a half trying to get blood from the blood bank, and you'll just be crying because -- sometimes -- you just can't make it happen." -- Patricia Arquette
It must be very frustrating...

It's so hard to work in Haiti. You have this American drive to get things done, and sometimes it's not that easy. Going to Haiti has taught me a certain level of patience and acceptance, surrender and gratitude. But my stubbornness has served the project well. I've seen that, at the end of a very hard day, you can make a big difference.

Any moments that have really stood out for you?

When a kid will come up to you, and they'll hit fist to their chest -- to their heart -- and then point at you, and they let you know they need you.

Despite all the devastation, what are some of your favorite things about Haiti? Any favorite places to go, or food?

There's a great spicy coleslaw they make called pikliz. It doesn't have any mayonnaise, but it has these sweet peppers, carrot, cabbage, and vinegar. It's superyummy and very spicy -- but definitely one of my favorite things. They eat it with this fried dough.

Any other local dishes you've tried?

There's also a lot of rice and beans and fried chicken. But every now and then, I'll get some pizza.

Pizza? In Haiti?

There are some really great pizzas places [in the city] where they even serve some good gelato, and I'll be like, "OK, tonight we're getting pizza and ice cream."

What do you like most about Haitian food?

Local cuisine is very important there, and they take a lot of pride in their food. You'll see in the camps a lot of self-made enterprises, and people make large amounts to feed everyone. And there's a lot of frying going on.

What do you drink?

People drink this great local rum, Barbancourt, and sometimes if you eat something sketchy, there's nothing like that strong alcohol to burn it out of your system.

I also like this soursop drink. It's like a natural fruit drink, a local juice that's very delicious. I wish we could get it here, but I haven't found it [in California] yet.

Too bad. We'd love to toast with a taste of our own come the 2011 Eco-Lifestyle Gala. 

For more information on sponsorships for the event, or to purchase tickets, contact April Milliken Trigg at [email protected], or call 404-627-4630, ext. 204. For more information on the 2011 Eco-Lifestyle Gala, visit Green Drinks event page to learn more.

About South Florida Green Drinks: Every month, groups of professionals sharing a common interest in the environment come together for drinks at informal sessions, simply known as Green Drinks. With 789 chapters worldwide, South Florida Green Drinks represents the eco-enthused from the Palm Beaches to Miami with a lively mixture of people from NGOs, academia, government and business. South Florida Green Drinks' mission is to build an environmentally passionate community of individuals and businesses through networking, online outreach, and special events. 

Follow Clean Plate Charlie Facebook on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

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