Tessa Clarke: The Shocking Truth about Food Waste

Tessa Clarke, co-founder of Olio and passionate advocate for sustainability, has unveiled a revolutionary mobile app that empowers communities to come together and reduce food waste. By facilitating the sharing of resources among neighbours - whether it be giving away items or borrowing goods from local businesses – Olio encourages healthier living practices, taking one more step closer to making our planet greener.Tessa ClarkeHow would you describe your story?

In a sentence my story is about a farmer’s daughter coming back to her roots, and trying her best to solve the climate crisis at scale - by ending waste in the home and local community, one share at a time.

What inspired you to start Olio?

The lightbulb moment for Olio came when I was moving country and found myself on moving day with some good food that we hadn’t managed to eat, but that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away. Through the whole process of trying to find someone to give it to, it seemed crazy to me that I should have to throw this food away when there were surely plenty of people who would love it, the problem was they just didn’t know about it. And so the idea of Olio, a mobile app where neighbours and local shops & cafes can share surplus food, came about.

I then started to research the problem of food waste with my co-founder Saasha Celestial-One. It’s no exaggeration to say that food waste is one of the largest problems facing humanity today, given that one-third of all the food produced each year gets thrown away, meanwhile 800 million people go to bed hungry each night, and the impact of food waste is environmentally devastating - if it were to be a country it would be the 3rd largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the USA and China.
Tessa Clarke
Why ‘Olio’? Is there a meaning behind the name?

Olio means a "miscellaneous collection of things" - which is what you will see when you look on the app! It's also the name for a traditional Spanish/Portuguese stew; and stew is a dish that is commonly created in order to prevent food waste. We also chose the name Olio because we loved the two O's which could be symbolic of the planet, the local community and the idea of sharing to create a circular economy. Finally, we really loved the word and the way it sounds!

What challenges did you face during the start up of Olio?

One of our biggest challenges has been how to grow the user base with a very limited marketing budget. We’ve overcome this thanks to our Ambassador programme which has harnessed the passion of 50,000+ Olio-ers to help spread the word about Olio in their local communities, providing us with a high quality, low cost route to market.

Another challenge has been encouraging new Olio-ers to take a ‘leap of faith’ and add a listing – it’s hard to believe, but over half of all food added to the app is requested in under 25 minutes, and half of all non-food items are requested in under 2 hours! So we ask absolutely everybody to just give it a try, and once they’ve experienced how fun and easy it is to share food with a neighbour they’re converted.
Tessa Clarke
From your experience, which food is wasted the most? And what household items?

We see on the app that approximately ⅓ of all food listings are fresh fruit and veg - which makes sense because they’re perishable, and modern life is very unpredictable. The next most shared food type is bread and bakery products which account for approximately ¼ of all food listings. And then the next most common category is cupboard items - those good intentions or unwanted food gifts that often lurk at the back of our cupboards as we’re not sure what to do with them.

In terms of household items, people are generally using the Olio app to have a good de-clutter and so the most frequently shared items are clothing, household decor, toys & games, kitchenware, beauty products and cleaning products.

How much food and how many household items has your app been able to help move around? Are there certain statistics you can share with us?

To date almost 7 million people have joined Olio, and together our community has given away 92 million portions of food and 8 million household items. This has had an environmental impact equivalent to taking 373 million car miles off the road, and has saved 14 billion litres of water too. Our sharing has also had an incredible social impact too as over 40% of our community say that they’ve made friends via Olio, whilst 66% say that sharing has improved their mental health and 75% say it has improved their financial health.

In reading your blog on how you got Olio to grow on ‘Building a Founder brand is your Job’ on Medium, what one piece of advice would you give to young entrepreneurs building their ‘founder brand’ today?

My top advice would be to ‘pick your poison’, by which I mean, focus on the social media channels that feel most authentic to you. For me this meant focusing on writing (Medium and LinkedIn), rather than imagery or video (Instagram, TikTok). Once you’ve picked your poison, make sure to really double down on that, and don’t spread yourself too thin.

What do you see yourself working with/on in the coming years? Is there a plan for the future for Olio?

We’ve set ourselves an enormous goal – we want 1 billion people sharing via Olio by 2030, so that the world’s most precious resources are used, rather than wasted. This will require us to build a brand new model of consumption – one where local and second hand become the new normal. Saasha and I are committed to doing everything we can to make this happen and so will be leading Olio for the foreseeable future.

Do you have any advice for people who want to make a difference in their community?

Speaking from personal experience I know that taking the first step can often feel like the hardest step. And so we tend to procrastinate from getting started, with all sorts of excuses. However in reality the first step can - and should - be tiny. And then you just need to keep taking tiny steps, day after day. And that’s how Impact happens.

View Olio at: https://olioex.com/