“Food is at the heart of everything,” says Joost Bakker. “It’s supposed to sustain us, but it’s one of the most destructive things on the planet today.”

The environmental activist has spent the past 25 years highlighting the wasteful ways of the world with a varied and creative approach. In 2012 he founded Melbourne’s first zero-waste restaurant, Silo (later Brothl), and is the man behind Perth’s Greenhouse (all are now closed). He’s working on a self-sustaining tiny house concept, and on what’s billed as the world’s most sustainable shopping centre in Melbourne’s east. And in February, you can hear him speak at Festival21.

Through a series of TED-style talks and interactive workshops, the festival will explore the effect food production has on the environment, and the opportunities we have now to make positive change. It’s the perfect forum for Bakker.

“I want to empower people with information and knowledge,” he says. “I love nature and get frustrated about how we decimate the earth in return for what we ‘need’,” Bakker says. “We actually don’t need more land. We need to begin re-wilding the land and bringing the world back into balance.”

Over two days at North Melbourne’s Meat Market, Bakker will be joined by a mix of activists, creatives, academics, dieticians and chefs, including environmental advocate Tim Silverwood, perhaps best known for his TED talk on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; chef and author Stephanie Alexander, whose cookbook The Cook’s Companion can be found in almost every Australian kitchen; Greens leader Dr Richard Di Natale; documentary filmmaker Damon Gameau (That Sugar Film); former Masterchefcontestant and creator of children’s food education program Phenomenom Alice Zaslavsky; and I Quit Sugar author Sarah Wilson.

Entry to the festival is free, but some events require registration. There’ll be talks on living waste-free, eating well in a world more loaded with snacks and “superfoods” than ever, fermenting, and composting workshops and more. The Source is a series of sessions hosted by some of Melbourne’s best suppliers, including Market Lane coffee, Schulz Dairy, small-batch honey supplier Honey Fingers, Q Le Baker, Mount Zero Olives, Loving Earth chocolate and Noisy Ritual urban winery.

There’ll be food from Free to Feed (a social-enterprise cooking school taught by asylum seekers) and Streat (a hospitality education social enterprise), wine from Noisy Ritual, and picnic baskets from The Social Food Project, an organisation with a focus on sustainable food experiences.

“If somebody can walk out of the festival learning something new or understanding the reasons why they should seek out organic food, I’ll be happy,” says Bakker, adding that while some big-picture ideas will take time – and an overall attitude shift – to implement, there are a few things we can all be doing at home that will make a difference.

“Make food from scratch and only eat living food – anything that will eventually go off,” he says. “From sourdough bread, to cheese and sauerkraut, fresh fruit and veg. Don’t put anything in your body that is shelf stable and full of preservatives.”

Festival21 is happening on February 1 & 2 at the Meat Market, 3 Blackwood Street, Melbourne. Admission to the festival and all events are free, but some events require registration.