By Chere Di Boscio
What would you choose to do if you could do just about anything in the world?
This was the existential question facing a young David de Rothschild, whose lineage goes back to Mayer Amschel Rothschild, who was born in the Jewish ghetto of Frankfurt in 1744 and went on to serve as the financial overseer to Crown Prince Wilhelm. Mayer taught his five sons the banking business and sent them across Europe in order to dominate the banking industry in all countries. And dominate they did: the Rothschild bank financed both sides of the Napoleonic Wars and gained incredible wealth after the Duke of Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. Later, in the 19th century, the Rothschild banks funded the robber barons who built railways, oil fields and mines during the Industrial Revolution. Today, the Rothschild fortune is said to be in the trillions.
When David de Rothschild was born in 1978, he was expected to follow the family banking and/or political traditions. But he had other ideas.
In his teens and early 20s, David already had a taste for adventure, and excelled at horse riding, kite skiing and bungee jumping. He attended the all-boys Harrow School in London, but afterwards, rather than attending Ivy League colleges or Oxbridge, he chose to receive a master’s degree in natural medicine from the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London, due to his interest in the healing powers of nature.
At the age of 22, he bought a farm in New Zealand, and at 26, he crossed Antarctica by foot, ski and kite. A year later, he traversed the North Pole with a dog sled and skis, making him the youngest Briton ever to ski both the North and South Poles. He said it never crossed his mind to go into banking.
Instead, the tall, handsome zillionaire decided to dedicate his life to raising awareness about environmental issues, and to raise his own consciousness through almost constant travel. He combines these two personal passions with his charity, the Sculpt the Future Foundation, and his eco-clothing and clean grooming brand, The Lost Explorer.
We interviewed David to learn more about how this lost explorer found his true purpose.
Tell us a little bit more about your Sculpt the Future Foundation. What are you proudest of so far with regards to this organisation?
The Foundation has been one of my greatest sources of inspiration. The aim of Sculpt the Future Foundation is to promote positive environmental change towards global sustainability by supporting creative, innovative and sustainable action. Therefore I am proud of every project we have supported, because all of them are affecting positive changes in the world.
You have a degree in Naturopathic Medicine. How did this impact the formulations of the The Lost Traveller Wellness, if at all?
This, along with my travels, has been the driving force behind the collection.
You’re arguably best known for Plasticki, the sustainable boat you sailed from San Francisco to Sydney to raise awareness about plastic waste – so it was rather surprising to find the Lost Explorer products are housed in plastic. How did you come to that decision?
With plastic, it’s our inability to understand how to use it correctly and more importantly re-use it that’s to blame – singular use is at the heart of this problem, which none of our products are. So If used thoughtfully, it can be the right choice.
We looked at a number of options, and from an overall environmental footprint, this decision came out on top. For example, if you research a lot of the bio plastics, they can be worse, as they can’t even be recycled and end up in landfill, as the system hasn’t gotten up to speed with their disposal. The Lost Explorer Wellness plastic can be returned to the system as the nutrition for another product.
On the surface, aluminium might also seem the better option, but there are environmental impacts associated with each stage of aluminium production, from extraction to processing. The major environmental impact of refining and smelting are major greenhouse gas emissions and toxicity, so it is considered far worse than plastic in many ways.
Most of the cosmetic aluminium tubes are lined with plastic similar to aluminium cans, to stop the ingredients having a reaction with the aluminium, rendering the tube unable to be recycled, so again, worse than the plastic we use that has an established recycling lifecycle.
Obviously none of this is black and white and can be highly complicated – let’s not even mention the shipping of glass vs. plastic and fuel consumption!
I’m fortunate enough to have been a part of starting this conversation, and like everyone else, and every other brand, we all have footprints, the question is not how big it is but rather how heavily and where do you step.
What are some of your favourite products in the range?
The Marula Head-To-Toe Nourishment Oil and the Traveller’s Protection Balm – both are part of my essential go to products. 100% profits from the Marula Head to Toe Nourishment Oil goes to Sculpt the Future Foundation.
What do you love most about travelling? Which places do you find yourself visiting again and again?
Travel is the best form of education, it gives you a fresh perspective. I try not to visit the same places over again – too many new and exciting places to explore!
You’ve spent some time in the Ecuadorian rainforest, documenting the damage international oil companies had caused by drilling the vast oil reserves. Have you presented your findings to any major governments or NGOs that are in a position to take action?
We have always tried to stir up conversations that need to be had. When it comes to environmental issues, most governments know all the issues; they often just don’t act unless they feel the pressure to do so. That pressure comes from empowering people with information to make informed choices; this is where we find the most traction is gained and where I will keep focusing.
Finally – when it comes to the future of the planet, are you an optimist or pessimist?
I am a pessimistic optimist. Time isn’t on our side!