Just one glance at television phenomenon Ben Fogle's CV over the last 10 years confirms the 36-year-old has relentless energy. No less than 17 TV shows, four books, writer for seven national publications and endless fundraising adventures. And, with lots of new projects in the pipeline and several just completed it seems his enthusiasm knows no bounds.
His latest project may seem tame in comparison to some of the endurance activities he's famous for, but no less exciting. Ben is supporting the Kenco Young Eco Designer of 2010. Youngsters from all over the UK have been upcycling waste products to create innovative, eco-friendly designs. We spoke to Ben about his involvement with the project, his many expeditions, his romantic side and his greatest adventure of all: life as a new father.
What has been your biggest adventure or challenge so far?
Definitely parenthood! [Ben's wife Marina gave birth to son Ludo in December 2009] Having a little child is a life changing experience, even though it sounds like a cliché. I remember everyone warning me about what a massive change it would make to our lives and how nothing is quite the same afterwards, but I kept thinking, "how hard can it be? I've dealt with sleep deprivation before!'" It's definitely a shock to the system, I don't mind admitting that. It's the most wonderful thing though, I find myself racing back home to be with my wife and my little boy.
Tell us about the Young Eco Designer Project and why you wanted to get involved in the campaign?
I've been travelling around the country for the last couple of months in an upcyled London double-decker bus, basically trying to enthuse children to take part in this campaign. The reason why I wanted to get involved is because upcycling, an alternative to recycling, is something I'm really passionate about. It's about taking one form and making it even better and improving it, so for example, taking old rubbish and making it into something useful that you can either use or admire, whether it be a wash bag or a robot. It's a great way to encourage children to have a fun way of being green.
Do you think it's important for youngsters to be creative?
Yes absolutely. I'm a father now, my son Ludo is 5-months-old, so he's not at the peak of his creativity yet, but I think it's important to get kids to use their imagination, to be clever and innovative and give them the opportunities and materials that they need to do this. These ideas can be used in so many other walks of life, and will be useful as they grow up too.
Which designs have impressed you so far?
Well we've got our shortlist of 12 finalists up on the website, so I don't want to pick just one and lose my impartiality, but those are the ones that really stood out and shone.
Would you say you are a creative person yourself?
I come from a very creative family; my mother wrote lots of books about making things and recycling and upcycling when I was younger. My sisters are creative too, one sister designs bags and clothes, the other is a graphic designer and my father has to be quite creative with stitching up animals as a vet! I'm not as creative as any of them. At school I loved art and design, and this competition would have been something I would have loved to have been involved with as a boy.
You're known for you adventures, how did touring the country on a Routemaster bus compare?
Well obviously it was very different, I visited a number of locations, such as Longleat, but I have to admit I didn't sit on the bus for the whole journey. It was great to be travelling within an iconic British vehicle.
Do you have any more adventures planned?
I've actually been working out in Ethiopia over the past few months working on a documentary called Changing Faces which is all about young children who are affected by a flesh eating disease, similar to the one I picked up. It wasn't an adventure per se, but it was an unbelievable experience to be part of, it was very moving, especially as a new father, I found it incredibly emotional.
How does your wife cope with you being away so often?
It's a different structure that doesn't suit everyone, but it suits us. I might be away more than others, but when I'm back I can be back for quite a while. I'm often at home during the week or I might be at home for a whole month before I have to go off again.
Do you have any advice for parents who spend time away from home?
I'm going away for a longer period later in the year, so I plan to leave recordings of me reading stories and I'll cover the house in reminders of me before I go. I think it's important to remember your other half as well, make sure you dote on them. So when I'm away I send flowers, candles and cards to my wife so she knows I'm thinking of her too.
To find out more about Kenco's Young Eco Designer Project, visit their website and vote for your favourite design! Voting closes 31st May.
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