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The Rurbanist: Q&A with Quintessentially’s Ben Elliot

An exclusive interview with Quintessentially co-founder Ben Elliot, our May Rurbanist

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Ben Elliot, co-founder of Quintessentially, has just been named the government’s food surplus and waste champion…

The Rurbanist: Q&A with co-founder of Quintessentially Ben Elliot

Ben Elliot

Photo © Chris McAndrew

What are your ‘sustainability’ rituals at home?

We have become much better at meal planning, which not only helps avoid unnecessary waste but also makes mealtimes less chaotic, particularly with young children. At home, in the country, we grow a lot of what we eat, which is sustainable but also very satisfying. Having read about the alarmingly large carbon footprints of household pets, we try to feed our dogs leftovers to keep the balance. I ride a bicycle a lot as well. We aren’t perfect but we try our best. Any ideas are always welcome.

What is the last book you read that inspired you?

I am currently reading Andrew Roberts’ book on Churchill. It says clearly to me that if you believe in something, even if everyone else thinks you’re a fool, you must follow your conviction.

yellow black racing sport road bike bicycle racer isolated

Where do you go to ‘lose’ yourself?

India – the most beautiful place. I have visited once or twice every year since I was 18 (I am now 43). I was inspired by my late uncle, the conservationist Mark Shand, who rode across India on his elephant in the 1980s. He then set up the Elephant Family to protect the Asian elephant.

Where’s home to you?

West London and the Cotswolds. Spiritually, Dorset is where I am from.

Best thing a cabbie has ever said to you?

‘I think you’re in there, mate!’

Elephant washing in the river

Mayor for the day…

I would undertake a huge tree-planting initiative, similar to the one that my great friend and leading environmentalist, Zac Goldsmith, proposed in his election campaign. I would have loved him to have been Mayor of London.

Secret shop?

I really like LASSCO. My mother, Annabel Elliot, is a brilliant interior designer, and she also helps us to source lovely pieces of furniture.

The Zero Waste Food Trend: What You Need to Know

What item do you wear the most?

A 1970s Rolex that belonged to my late grandfather, Major Bruce Shand. I also inherited all of his suits, which still look good 70 years on.

An eco item that you couldn’t live without?

A Food Waste Caddy (below). It’s my ambition that every household has one so that we can all measure and visualise how much food is being thrown away per week. Thirty per cent of food is wasted globally, contributing to seven per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste were a country, it would come in third place after the United States and China in terms of the impact on global warming – we have to stop this.

Food Waste Caddy

Most valuable piece of advice you have ever received?

From my mother, which is: ‘Work hard and be nice to people’.

What brings out the worst in you?

Rampant consumerism and the cheapness of products making us think that we can just throw things away. Whether that be fashion or food, the environmental consequences are stark – we are betraying future generations.

What are Saturday afternoons made for?

Falling asleep, playing sport and going for a walk with our children and dogs.

What would really improve your life?

People agreeing with me more!

Signature dish?

I am a hopeless chef but I would source ingredients from the Felix Project, a wonderful initiative that saves surplus fresh food from suppliers and redistributes it, resulting in over one million meals a year.

Where should the UK take notice of?

According to research by the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, Denmark reduced its food waste by an estimated 25 per cent between 2013 and 2017. The Danish Government and the not-for-profit Stop Wasting Food run fantastic projects to tackle food waste, including doggy bags for restaurants, a great initiative to fight back against throw away culture.

Favourite new eco invention?

Winnow, a new technology that helps chefs measure, monitor and drastically reduce food waste. A smart meter is attached to your food waste bin with the subsequent data identifying the key areas for reducing food waste. Genius!


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