Veronika Tietz turns her passions into a business and helps us discover our sustainability mindset
When Veronika Tietz applied for the EnergyLab Women in Climate & Energy Fellowship (WICEF) Program, she had doubts about whether she was the ‘right fit’ for the program. ‘I wanted to explore the idea of entrepreneurship,’ she said, ‘but I initially thought, ‘I can’t apply because I don’t have a technology background.’ Thankfully her curiosity won out. Despite her hesitations, Veronika applied for the program and joined the 2022 cohort of women entrepreneurs in the EnergyLab fellowship.
Veronika's background is in food science and systems change. She holds a masters in Sustainable Food Systems from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, so it made sense that she would be drawn to find solutions to problems in this space. When Veronika was asked to talk about the issues she sees in our global food system she spoke about the problem of industrial agriculture contributing simultaneously to the obesity epidemic and the crisis of widespread malnutrition. She went into details of inefficient land use, contamination of soil and water and the effects on human health. In Veronika’s words: ‘humans have designed a food system that is not aligned with human health and the natural environment.’
When she joined the WICEF program, Veronika sought to tackle one of the many problems she saw in our food system: waste. You may have heard the statistic, one third of the world’s food is wasted. In Australia, food waste generates a loss of $36.6 Billion per year and is grown on an area in excess of 25 million hectares. For those visual learners out there, that’s the equivalent of throwing all food grown in the state of Victoria into the bin. Meanwhile, 870 million of the world’s people go hungry. It’s a big problem!
It’s a big problem that deserves local solutions from multiple angles. Veronika’s solution focused on the retail point of the value chain. ‘I was working to create an app that helped prevent food waste in hospitality and retail,’ she said, ‘cafes and restaurants could use the app to sell food at a discount which would otherwise be thrown away.’ Et voilà, a solution that reduces all the costs associated with food waste and bolsters the bank accounts of hungry uni students simultaneously.
As the end of the WICEF program drew near, Veronika was torn. She had a cracker startup idea that solved a big problem, but something was amiss. During the program, Veronika had started a blog, Reimagine Sustainability. What started out as a passion project was slowly gaining traction. She began to experiment with different service offerings and realised very quickly that she could create a lot of impact through this channel. Now, unless you are in possession of a Time-Turner like Hermione Granger in the Prisoner of Azkaban, it’s difficult to focus on multiple new projects at once. Veronika was torn between pursuing her food waste startup idea and her passion for sharing her knowledge on sustainability. ‘I realised through this (WICEF) program that my passion was to speak about sustainability and to teach people about sustainability.’ In the end, her passion won out; she pressed pause on her startup idea and poured all of her energy into her blog.
Through her blog platform, Veronika is working hard to shift our mindset around sustainability. Her business now offers coaching packages and education services to ‘help people understand sustainability at its core and all the amazing opportunities that come with it.’ She believes that the fundamental step to achieving systems change is a mindset shift: ‘We do not have a technology problem, we have a human problem,’ she says, ‘We need to change ourselves before we can change the world. We are the problem, but we are also the solution.’
Veronika’s story is a great lesson in following your curiosity and your passion. Sometimes ideas and opportunities come around like 100 year floods - everything all at once - but if we take a moment to block out the noise and curiously follow what lights us up, we can find the paths that truly bring us joy. This joy is what Veronika hopes you find on your own sustainability journey. Her advice to you: ‘Reconnect with what brings you joy!’
Words by Milly Young.