Down to Earth

ANZA Cycling member Murli Ravi describes himself as a ‘venture capitalist by weekday, eco-warrior by weekend’. Murli recently joined the governing board of Centre for a Responsible Future (crf.org.sg), which oversees the annual green festival EarthFest and other environmentally-focused programmes.

What is EarthFest?
EarthFest (earthfestsingapore.com) was first held in 2015. It was started by a passionate Canadian teacher called Michael Broadhead to celebrate and promote all forms of sustainability in Singapore. It’s now a yearly festival. The festival spans food, waste, energy and other aspects of sustainability, and brings together a diverse group of small businesses, documentary filmmakers, international schools, environmental groups, large companies, Singapore government agencies, public educators, musicians, and others. The festival has grown dramatically over the years, with the 2019 instalment in January drawing thousands of visitors to Marina Barrage.

What makes the event so special?
EarthFest is entirely waste-free. Food and drink stalls encourage visitors to bring their own reusable cutlery or they are given biodegradable cutlery which can be composted after use. All food served is entirely plant-based, including ice-cream, cakes, pasta, burgers, satay and a lot more – though you wouldn’t know they were plant-based if simply presented with a plateful.

Taferine Huang, Creatives for Causes

How important is plant-based food?
Plant-based food is a core underpinning of environmental strategies the world over now, with respected institutions highlighting the dramatic impact that the livestock industry has on the environment. Recent research shows plant-based diets could reduce emissions by 73% and that we would require 76% less farmland – land that could be used for other purposes or to reverse wild habitat loss. A piece published in the Financial Times states: “about a quarter of greenhouse gases attributable to human activity come from intensive farming” – which is even more than industry and transportation! This was all a surprise to me. I felt it would be irresponsible for me to not do my bit. It was then easy for me to support an event like EarthFest and other initiatives, helping to contribute to a change in our environmental impact in every way from our food choices, energy use and waste.

Taferine Huang, Creatives for Causes

What is your current role with EarthFest?
After volunteering with EarthFest for a couple of years I agreed to join the board of the organisation, Centre for a Responsible Future (CRF), which oversees the festival and many other programs. The CRF professional staff and volunteers are truly dedicated to the cause of long-term sustainability and are well-informed and fact-based in their work. They’ve created real impact in a relatively short few years and relying on a tiny budget. For my part, CRF asked me to consider joining their governing board because they recognised the need to further professionalise and systematise their operations, which is something that I may be able to help with given my involvement with several corporate boards and fast-growing companies.

Why is working in an environmental area important to you personally?
Our stewardship of the environment is our legacy to future generations; anything we do now will reflect squarely on us in future history books.

What is your day job and other passions?
I’m also passionate about cycling and I run Tin Men Capital (tinmen.asia) a South-East Asian venture capital firm I co-founded with two partners.

What other programmes does CRF run?
Another programme is called the Alliance for a Responsible Future, (arf.org.sg) which engages businesses and policy-makers towards a plant-based future. The ARF is the organiser of the Disruption in Food & Sustainability Summit which brings together government policymakers, large businesses, researchers, hotels, start-ups, hospitals and many other industry participants to raise awareness and foster growth in the plant-based, clean meat and sustainable space.

What events do have planned?
EarthFest is expanding to run several smaller events throughout the year, in addition to the big annual festival. We now have staff working full-time on this. In addition, CRF organises several other events, ranging from small talks at schools to beach clean-ups and many more. Keep an eye on our website!

How can people get involved?
We always welcome more volunteers and donors. Details on how people and companies can contact CRF are available at crf.org.sg/donate

How can people strive for Zero Waste in Singapore?
It is almost a cliché now but the best advice I have to offer is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. Most people who hear this only internalise the recycle bit of that advice, whereas reduction of one’s consumption habits and reusing things we already have can have much higher benefits towards waste reduction.

Murli’s Easy Green Tips
– Consume less animal products. Even as little as a day or two every week makes a difference. You’ll see health benefits too!
– Cut down aircon usage or turn up the thermostat by a couple of degrees. I’ve found that using a ceiling fan instead of the aircon in my bedroom has helped me wake up much more easily in the morning and I almost never have a stuffy nose.
– Use dimmers for your light bulbs and lower the brightness of your TV, laptop and cell phone screens at night. This also wonderfully improves sleep quality.