A couple of weekends ago I was fortunate enough to attend The Earth Festival, which ran for the first time this year. The two-day event aimed to ‘raise awareness about all the different aspects of veganism: health, people, the environment and the animals. The event was representative of the enthusiasm young people – like the fantastic organisers Joana Chalker and Janna Fahiz, both 19 – have for sharing and promoting sustainable choices in our community.
The Earth Festival brought together stalls exhibiting vegan food, vegan protein supplements, vegan makeup and essential oils for health, as well as providing a space for The Cruelty-Free Shop, Sleepy Burrows, Vegan ACT and The Orangutang Project. The Australian Youth Climate Coalition also advocated an important central message: that we must take it upon ourselves to make changes. They are building a movement on the premise that that young people can lead the fight for solutions to global warming because we, young people, have the most to lose and to gain from a more just and sustainable planet.
The festival offered all attendees the opportunity to meet other people who are interested in and want to discover more about veganism, the environment, animal welfare, health and the effects of the animal agricultural industry.
Personally, I had never really thought too much about veganism, but after trying the foods and drinks I was amazed at how great they all tasted – mock duck bao anyone? After meeting and speaking to vegan fitness gurus I also learnt more about how vegan diets can provide our bodies with all of the nutrients a person needs to be fit and strong. There are a range of vegan protein supplements – including PranaOn: a natural protein powder made of plant-based materials – which come in a variety of flavours, pomegranate being one of my newfound personal favourites.
This experimental and environmentally conscious theme continued throughout the festival talks. My personal favourites were ‘Waste Free in One Year’ by Biana Jurd and ‘Edible Weeds’ by Sarah Aylott. The former detailed the story of a couple who decided to live for a year without putting anything to landfill, all while renovating, having a baby and travelling. It proved that it is possible for all of us to become more aware of our consumerism – from harvest to house to rubbish tip – and that we too can do the same. I realised during the ‘Edible Weeds’ talk that I’d never thought about the history or potential usefulness of common weeds – such as the dandelion, which is the plant my regular tea is based on. Attendees were taught how to identify various weeds using a seasonal identification guide, and were invited to try to find the weeds on the festival grounds. The end product? A shared meal of gnocchi, wild herb stir fry and pesto dishes that included the ingredients we had found.
It was also inspiring to see the way waste can be re-used in creative ways. The Metal Guy uses recycled bits of metal – such as bolts, cutlery, kitchen things and discarded metal objects – to create metal art, craft, sculptures and lamps that are intriguing in aesthetic and have a timely reminder: that a culture of waste dominates our society. The Metal Guy seeks to help fight a culture of waste and by encouraging recycling in alternative ways.
All of the proceeds from The Earth Festival go to a select charity. This year, all proceeds went to the Wombat Sanctuary. The Earth Festival organisers outlined the importance of wombats: ‘Wombats are important contributors to semi-arid ecosystems. They are powerful burrowers, and one of their major roles is to turn over the soil. This allows moisture to enter into the ground, helping native grasses to grow. Unfortunately for the wombat it now has another threat as many people no longer value them as a natural part of the environment.’
Though it has only been a couple of weeks, Joana and Janna are already preoccupied with improving the festival for next year. It will be expanding – with more stallholders, more exhibitions and more talks and workshops. And, although all the proceeds will go to charity, the girls will be reducing expenses to make it more affordable. I highly recommend the festival, and will be attending again next year. As the momentum builds, The Earth Festival will help to develop a movement toward sustainable living in Canberra.