Published 15 January 2017 ● Last Updated on 30 September 2020
Meet Michael Broadhead – an educator with a sustainable bent of mind. We first met him when he was organising the very first EarthFest in Singapore, juggling media, vendors, volunteers and what not with his trademark unlimited energy, all this while working his day job as a chemistry teacher at the Canadian International School, Singapore! Secondsguru pitched to run a book swap at the event, and we were amazed at his open attitude and responsiveness, wondering how he managed roles so seamlessly. Earthfest 2015, held in September, was the most genuine big-scale eco meet-ups this city has seen. And Secondsguru has admired his tenacity ever since!
So what is the EarthFest? EarthFest is a sustainable, fun, and inspirational festival for all ages! This rain or shine event has a plethora of activities and options to enjoy with your family and friends- ranging from planet-friendly plant based food fair, to live music, eco-friendly businesses selling their wares, book and DVD swap, fun eco games, movie screenings, sustainability talks, upcycling activities and more. It generates a low carbon footprint by ensuring recycling and composting of generated waste wherever possible. Moreover, it is aptly hosted at Marina Barrage– an environmental icon – the Green Roof at Marina Barrage uses 100% recycled plastic and eco-friendly drainage cells and its Solar Park generates 76,000 kWh electricity per annum, equivalent to about 180 average households in Singapore.
Singapore is all set to host the second edition of this extremely popular community event at the same venue on Sunday, February 12, 2017. Click here to book your free tickets now ! This is just so that the organizers have a sense of the number of participants and plan accordingly – yes they are very serious about sustainability. Secondsguru was delighted to be at the very first EarthFest [Pictures from EarthFest 2015] and we will be there this time too. We will be holding a book/ DVD swap as well as an upcycling workshop. Sign here if you interested to join this fun, 1 .5 hr workshop.The workshop is priced at 20$. All materials will be provided.
We caught up with Michael to get inspired by his energy and learn more about how EarthFest started and where he wishes to take it from here.
1. Can you share with us where and how the idea of holding EarthFest in Singapore took hold of you ? Any inspirations? What kind of involvement does the Govt of Singapore have in giving shape to the event- any financial grant, location rent subsidy, other subsidies/support?
Before moving to Singapore, I was teaching in Beijing and became involved in an Organic Farmer’s Market and a Vegan Market. I was making and selling various desserts and foods and really enjoyed not only selling, but also having great conversations with the other vendors as well as customers. It was very positive and boosted the sense of community while helping create positive change in people’s buying habits. When I came to Singapore, I wanted to recreate that market here! I soon realised however, organising events in Singapore required many more permits compared to Beijing, so a regular monthly market just wasn’t going to be possible due to the regulations. I also found that because there is so much marketing already in Singapore, it’s quite hard to break through the noise with small events. So as I was developing the idea of the festival it became bigger and bigger out of necessity. I then looked at other large-scale sustainability festivals around the world in Canada, the UK, etc and tried to see what made them successful. From all of this, EarthFest was born! Our concept was pitched to Marina Barrage, which is a PUB facility, and they loved it enough to partner with us on the event.
2. How did you set the ball rolling on the actual event- volunteers, sponsors, participants, collaborations for EarthFest ?
It was a 2 year process for the first EarthFest to come together. After the Vegetarian Society (Singapore) accepted the pitch and were willing to administrate the event, it was a process of researching and shortlisting the vendors. It took a lot of emails and meetings to get a large of list to fill the size of the festival. Finding the right venue was difficult as well. It just came down to a lot of work, but it paid off well with the first festival going off successfully.
3. How do you set this event apart from the other green events in Singapore? How is sustainability translated into action here?
-We incentivise less waste by charging varying commissions based on how much waste a vendor produces.
-We try to eliminate material going to the trash, so most things people consume on site are recyclable or compostable. Our food fair is served on compostable materials and we partnered up with Quan Fa Organic Farm to compost that.
-All products at EarthFest must be plant-based to reduce the resource-intensity of the products.
-We also don’t allow palm oil products due to their connection to the haze. We do allow sustainable palm oil, but it’s virtually so non-existent in Singapore that so far no vendor has had a product with it yet.
-Instead of giving out pamphlets, vendors are told to distribute digitally.
-We give visitors a list of what to bring which includes their own bags and water bottle. There are water refill points and if someone doesn’t bring a bag they can get one from our info desks.
-Our vendors don’t give away material prizes either as such things are cheaply made and just end up as waste.
-Overall we are a minimalist festival, so we try to use the bare minimum in terms of signage, etc. Our stage is simply laid out with pallets and those are reusable by other groups that want them.
-We carbon offset the festival as well and invite the Really Really Free Market so that people can reuse materials.
4. Our readers would be keen to know about the interactive sessions at the EarthFest. Do share the information you have on this
- Earth Room
Singapore Youth for Climate Action members will share their experience of the recent UN Climate Conference (COP22) in Marrakech held in November 2016. They will also reflect on the progress made and updates since the historic COP21 climate agreement in Paris in 2015, while discussing what this means for Singapore and what actions we can personally take to fight climate change.
Animal Allies will give a presentation on what makes the animal agriculture industry one of the most environmentally destructive in the world, and explain how people can change the world by starting to change the food on their plates.
#Up2Degrees will be screening a short documentary of the founder’s journey to Antarctica to raise awareness for climate change. It will be followed by a panel discussion.
Singapore Eco Film Festival will be screening one of the most popular films from their film festival in the fall: A Plastic Ocean.
- Earth Carnival
Interactive edutainment from many NGOs on topics ranging from deforestation to overfishing to climate change to fair trade and more will fill the EarthCarnival area. There is also a Maker Faire there with several different sessions.
5. Tell us a little bit about the “Awesome sustainable proposal grant” – which is a first at the EarthFest 2017. Any other new events to look out for this time around?
Awesome Foundation does no-strings-attached grants of $1000 each month in Singapore. For EarthFest they are doing an extra $1000 for a sustainability-related pitch. This can come from anyone of any age and can be a personal initiative or something part of a new initiative in a business or organisation. The shortlisted candidates will give an elevator pitch at EarthFest and the Awesome Foundation will award the best candidate on the spot based on audience feedback and their trustee votes.
We also will be featuring an open mic in collaboration with OOOM this time around.
Other than that the other biggest change will be the food fair which will be about double the size it was last time as we’re investing in sinks so more types of food can be prepared.
6. Are there areas that our readers can help with for EarthFest 2017- funding, volunteers, any other?
One wish I have is to eliminate the commissions that vendors pay to help cover the cost of the festival. I really want EarthFest to be an event that helps small, more responsible businesses as much as possible. Singapore is not a very friendly place for small, responsible businesses, so any extra amount in their pockets makes a difference. To do that, we’d need a donor or sponsor. However, what we definitely do need each year are volunteers on the day of the festival to help keep things running smoothly. They can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details on the volunteer opportunities.
7. Any key messages for visitors to the festival?
Register for your free tickets via earthfestsingapore.com in advance. Before the festival you’ll get a guide on what’s going on so you can plan your day and know what to bring.
8. What’s the way forward for EarthFest?
Our hope is to refine it and make it more effective from year to year until our civilisation embodies sustainability, making festivals like EarthFest obsolete!