Last November, in an unpredictable stroke, Dallas' Earth Day organization appointed a new director, Michael Cain. As former CEO of the Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) and president of independent film company M3, he hardly came with the expected "green" credentials.
He wasn't even a diligent recycler at home. "I remember getting scolded by my niece about separating paper from aluminum for recycling and turning off the water while brushing my teeth," he says. But his background and networking skills take the event in the direction it needs to go.
"One thing I can bring is new ideas," Cain says. That includes speakers such as CNN's Hero of the Year Chad Pregracke and actor Ed Begley Jr.
"One thing I can bring is new ideas," he says. That includes speakers such as CNN's Hero of the Year Chad Pregracke; wildlife expert Dave Mizejewski; and actor Ed Begley Jr., whom Cain knows personally.
"I was in Los Angeles years ago working on a made-for-TV movie he was in, and Ed drove up in an electric VW bus," Cain says. "At the time, the reaction was, 'Why would anybody want this? How would you plug in?'"
Cain joined Earth Day Texas at the request of real estate developer Trammell Crow, who founded the event in 2010.
"Trammell happened to be in downtown Dallas on April 22 that year, where a small Earth Day celebration was being held at Pegasus Plaza," Cain says. "There were about 1,000 people in attendance at Pegasus Park and maybe 20 folding tables. He said, 'I think we can do something bigger and better.'"
Crow hosted his first Earth Day Dallas in 2011 in the Arts District. It drew almost 50,000 people with 200 exhibits and an appearance by Larry Hagman. In 2012, it moved to Fair Park.
Since his appointment, Cain's discovered an environmental awareness that's coalescing in North Texas, from the environmental philosophy degree offered by the University of North Texas to Texas' top role as a supplier of wind energy. The regional accomplishments are part of why the name of the event was changed from Earth Day Dallas to Earth Day Texas.
"So many people coming to the event — whether exhibitors, spectators or government institutions — were not just located in Dallas," he says. "By calling it Texas, it allowed them to be part of our event. And we wanted to be thought of as a Texas-wide event."
The event is part of an Earth Day network, which creates a collaboration between all Earth Day events. Cain met with the organizers of the events in Austin, Houston and San Francisco, and there are Earth Days in Grapevine, Plano, Richardson and across DFW.
Water is the 2014 theme, with a roundtable featuring city leaders from across Texas. Pregracke organizes community water cleanups across the country through his nonprofit Living Lands & Waters. There will be film screenings such as Slingshot, a documentary about Segway inventor Dean Kamen, whose latest invention is a water purifier that can produce clean water from almost any source.
Other features include the OmniGlobe, a 5-foot spherical video screen that displays weather patterns, water sources and more (which is on display at NorthPark through April 20), as well as a giant see-saw that can freeze a snow cone or power a cellphone.
"I feel like all the pieces and bones of the event were there," Cain says. "When I looked at event, I feel like what I could do to help is give it a culture, a personality – and make it easier to understand what the event is trying to do."