Partner Blog Post

Helping to Build a Green City: The Downtown Dallas EarthFest Celebration

by John Stadelman, Dallas Earthfest
Not long ago you may have had a hard time finding many people who would name Dallas, or any Texas city for that matter, as an environmental leader. But that is all changing. Texas’ two largest cities, Dallas and Houston, lead every city in the nation in the purchase of renewable power. Dallas boasts one of the largest green fleets in nation and, most recently, has enacted a comprehensive green building policy for all commercial and residential construction.

Texans are, in a sense, natural environmentalists. They are surrounded by wildlife, rivers and lakes, and unlike most states, Texas boasts an array of geographical regions: plains, desert, mountains, coastline, prairies, the Hill Country and Pineywoods. With over 268,000 square miles of land, Texans have a lot of Earth to love.

For the past seven years, Dallas has been celebrating all it has to love with EarthFest. This annual Earth Day observance was designed as a downtown Dallas street fair and, despite its many facets and refinements, still retains this essential fun and upbeat quality in this year’s 2010 celebration.

The success of EarthFest largely comes from the collaboration of talent, expertise and specialties of the EarthFest partners who present the event - the City of Dallas, the City’s Green Dallas initiative, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional 6 office, and Keep Dallas Beautiful. Each of these organizations play a specific role and all participate in decisions and overall organization. The event is funded through corporate sponsorships generated by the City of Dallas and Keep Dallas Beautiful, while EPA provides overall coordination and volunteer support.

EarthFest creates a visible environmental focal point for the city that draws the attention of media and sponsors, while providing a means of highlighting the programs, efforts, and initiatives that, on a daily basis, under gird and propel the real-life environmental progress of the city. However even as the basic vision, direction and construct of EarthFest have remained the same through the years, the event remains highly dynamic, and no two years have ever been the same.

The event takes place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. in two, centrally-located and adjacent downtown Dallas plazas. The colorful banners and balloons of EarthFest, live music, many exhibits, and other amusements make it a great place for a lunch-time office outing. Over sixty environmental exhibits can be found along with food vendors, balloon artists, face painters, photo exhibits, “walking” vines and flowers (actually costumed people on stilts) and more! However, a casual walk through EarthFest may not reveal many other significant facets of this event:

• Earlier in the day, volunteer corporate clean-up crews disperse, via mass transit, to nearby schools for several hours of service work. Crews complete this activity before returning downtown to rejoin the EarthFest celebration.

• During the mid-morning hours, the Recycled Fashion Show combines high fashion with environmental awareness. This much anticipated event is always fun, creative, and features many celebrity judges. The design creations seen in the Recycled Fashion Show never fail to impress.

• School buses arrive at the start of EarthFest bringing students from many area schools. The students and their teachers have ample time to soak up the exhibits, presentations, and fun of EarthFest in a more educational mode, before the downtown audiences arrive a bit later.

• As an Earth Day centerpiece for the city, EarthFest also provides a celebratory backdrop for the presentation of recognitions and awards to many who have made Dallas a greener city throughout the year. Following a VIP reception at an adjacent facility, important initiatives and projects are highlighted formally on the EarthFest main stage typically by the Mayor and EPA Regional Administrator.

• Among the varied and diverse exhibits that fill every nook of the EarthFest plazas, a selection of exhibitors is also invited each year to highlight a particular environmental area of interest to the public. This does two things: enables EarthFest to address emerging issues and timely topics; and to invite exhibitors whose connection to the environmental health of the city, while vital, may not be readily apparent to the public. This allows EarthFest to remain fresh and relevant.

EarthFest takes place through the generous support of its sponsors whose commitment to making Dallas a greener, healthier city extends to this very public Earth Day event. Corporate interest in EarthFest has grown significantly over the years as more and more businesses seek their own environmental solutions and efficiencies, and engage more actively the green marketplace. From engineering firms to retailers, media outlets to churches, transportation authorities to recyclers, EarthFest sponsors are truly a reflection of the entire community for whom Earth Day means something special. EarthFest 2010’s presenting sponsor is Downtown Dallas, Inc.

In the years to come, EarthFest is on track to retain its dynamic character. The partners who present the annual event are daily engaged in events, programs and initiatives that will environmentally impact Dallas and ultimately lead to a greener, more sustainable future. EarthFest continues to impart real and practical meaning to the world-wide celebration of Earth Day all while imparting a larger mission and purpose for Dallas’ present and future environmental well-being.

Information on EarthFest can be found at www.GreenDallas.net