Greenhouse Game Changer: Honor May Eldridge
As a communications agency focused on the environment, our goal is to spotlight the remarkable change makers for the planet. We want to shine lights on innovative and passionate sustainability leaders who go the extra mile to fight the climate crisis head on.
Within the realm of notable female sustainability leaders, we had the opportunity to interview Honor May Eldridge. She is a knowledgeable food systems expert, who's shared insight on the crucial role of placing agriculture at the heart of the climate narrative to restore environmental hope globally.
I’m Honor May Eldridge. I have been a food systems expert for over a decade, working in the USA and in the UK. I specialise in farming policy and help to design a support system that allows sustainable production to flourish. I have just written a book titled The Avocado Debate. The book considers the social and economic history of this super-fruit and examines how it came to occupy its current cult-like status in our global cuisine. It's available through my publisher’s website, local bookshops and Amazon.
What was your catalyst moment for taking action?
While working in Washington DC, I did a research project for Foundation Earth that looked at how the World Bank funds agriculture and I realised how broken the system was. Only large-scale industrial businesses could benefit from the loans and the small-scale subsistence farmers were completely shut out from funding. I realised how perverse that was, and decided to do something to change the policy. We came up with some great recommendations that called for an approach of “Biosphere Smart Farming”.
What's been your biggest challenge when it comes to communicating about the climate crisis / your work?
Ploughs and pitchforks. Most people have a very outdated image of farming. They think it is all haystacks and shire horses. Politicians are guilty of this too – they imagine farms as some bucolic idyll with a thatched cottage and a rusty tractor. One obstacle I have faced has been helping people understand the realities of modern farming. Even in the most sustainable farm, technology now plays a central role. Sustainability and innovation can go hand-in-hand and we need to embrace both elements to face our food future.
What’s a time when you’ve got something completely wrong?
I was finalising a written response to a government inquiry and suddenly discovered that I had missed an entire set of questions. I had to scramble and pull together responses with only hours to go before the deadline. It was a race to the finish but we got something submitted. Sometimes it’s best not to overthink things and just write what you know. But still, I always take time to check the appendices now.
What makes you angry?
I hate seeing junior team members being undervalued. Most of the time, it’s the younger members of staff that are doing the heavy lifting and the people at the top take the credit. I think it’s so important to nurture and support people who are starting out in the third-sector. Otherwise, we will continue to see smart and engaged people leave to join the business community. I try to make time to mentor new entrants into the sector, particularly young women.
What gives you hope?
When I first went to the UN’s COP in Paris, farming was not on anyone’s radar. I had to scream to get anyone to listen about soil carbon or its potential role as a mitigation tool. I worked with the Center For Food Safety to release a video on Soil Solutions with the French Agriculture Ministry and the delegates in the audience had no idea. That has changed so much in only a few short years. I’m so pleased that agriculture has become central to the climate story. I’m excited to see how much more attention it will get in Dubai and how it might become more mainstream.
What's been your favourite approach / example you've seen during your career of communicating about the climate crisis?
I love the approach of More Than Weeds. They mark up pavements with chalk to identify the plants growing in the cracks. Dandelions. Hairy bittercress. Borage. It helps people see nature in our everyday lives and it’s so fun. The campaign educates people on biodiversity and how nature is around us all the time. It isn’t preachy and serious. Instead, it’s fun and quirky. I find myself looking more closely to the plants on my commute and have spotted some unusual ones along the way.
Tell us about something you've done that might surprise people.
I have been scuba diving with sharks. I love scuba diving and seeing the enormity of the water and how they are teeming with the most incredible and diverse creatures. I feel so passionately about protecting marine life. We have done so much damage and destruction to our seas from overfishing to micro-plastics and we don’t have enough respect for our oceans. As a global society, we must work to ensure that the oceans have an opportunity to rebound and heal.
What’s something you’ve done that really scared you? What pushed you to do it?
When I was at the Sustainable Food Trust, I did a food project in Bristol Prison where we looked at how small changes might create a healthier environment for the inmates, improve health outcomes and connect them with nature. It's a Category B prison with some very dangerous people serving there. It was an incredible opportunity and very rewarding, but it was a challenging environment to work in.
What’s something that you think should just change tomorrow?
It might sound quite boring, but I would change the public procurement regulations. I would make it so that local councils could prioritise purchasing food from local farmers and local food producers. It would immediately help to develop stronger food communities and build links with local farmers who can often become disconnected to the consumers who are closest to them. More importantly, I’d increase the funding. Westminster needs to give local authorities more money so they can provide healthier and more sustainable options, as opposed to having to go for the cheapest option because of budget constraints.
Who do you think should be interviewed next?
Ha-Joon Chang who wrote Edible Economics and considers how our food choices are impacted by economic pressures.
Sustainability leaders such as Honor May Eldridge are instrumental to the pursuit of environmental justice. Their efforts involve pushing for policy reforms and creating more funding opportunities for small-scale subsistence farmers, actively contributing to the fight for a more equitable and sustainable future.
Learn more about climate game changers and their key role in protecting the health of our environment by reading more of our blogs.
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