17 Sep 2018 Story Cities and lifestyles

Young Champion of the Earth, winner for Europe

Hugh Weldon is the Young Champion of the Earth for Europe. The Young Champions of the Earth Prize is powered by Covestro.

Together with Evocco app co-founder Ahmad Mu’azzan, Weldon was won the UNITECH Carbon Footprint Challenge 2017, the What Design Can Do Climate Action Challenge 2017 and Climathon Zurich 2017.

Now it’s personal: vote with your dollar

When I was younger, summer in Ireland was a perfect time for camping, building treehouses and, most exciting of all, going go-carting. During those long, balmy evenings, my cousins, siblings and I would build carts from scrap wood and secondhand junk yards and race down the hill. We would cling on and hope they didn’t fall to pieces, and somehow, they never did.

From an early age, I was inspired to fix things. It fascinated me that a machine, at first appearing one single creature, might be broken down into nuts and bolts: a single go-cart or washing machine, deconstructed into many pieces. The task of an engineer is similar. We pick a problem into little pieces – then put it back together again.

Evocco app co-founder Hugh Weldon. Photo by Evocco.

The real problem

At seventeen, I went to Calcutta to teach as part of a school exchange. I met the most amazing people. Seeing the impacts of population pressure and poverty, I understood for the first time just how privileged I was to take food security for granted. Back in Ireland, I was immediately struck by how abundant food was, and how the very real impacts of climate change can be ignored.

My outlook irrevocably altered. At university, I joined the fossil fuel divestment campaign and later a group that lobbied the Irish government to ban offshore drilling. Yet climate change remained my main concern.

While half the population – 54 per cent according to Pew Research – believe that climate change is a serious problem, the solutions seem too big for ordinary people to tackle. Consumers are bombarded with information about climate change: heat waves sweep the continent and climate refugees flood Europe. But as individuals, what can we do about it?

A bite-sized solution

This is where food comes in. Food choice matters hugely: a few little changes to a weekly shop can have a big impact on your carbon footprint. Just as I would break down a machine into nuts and bolts to fix it, I broke the problem down. On a daily shop, what impact could the food in my basket have?

We are continuously researching behavioural change and are researching a means for consumers to not only track and understand their climate impact, but to do something about it. Our smartphone app helps consumers align their buying power with their ethics. To date, our app provides data about 500 products in your shopping basket.

It allows you to take a photo of your receipt and get instant information. It also tracks your impact over time, motivating you to buy foods with high nutritional value but low environmental footprints.

We believe in the power of individuals uniting. Consumers can trigger a mass movement, impact the whole food chain and ultimately engender better agricultural practices at the sources of production.

Evocco is just trying to make good choices easier. As a global community, we can create a better future for ourselves and our planet. Given that food is our most intimate connection to the earth, when we buy good food, we invest in a better world.

Follow the Young Champions of the Earth journey on social media #YoungChamps.