How one app is revolutionising the way people treat food waste

As part of our female innovation series, we look at the work of Saasha Celestial-One and Tessa Cook, whose app is solving the problem of food waste

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Business partners Saasha Celestial-One (L) and Tessa Cook (R). Together they founded food sharing app Olio, which aims to cut food waste

Saasha Celestial-One’s parents, as you may have guessed from her name, were unique. Hippies, in fact. “I have an unusual background, in that my parents were very counterculture,” she said.

Celestial-One, along with business partner Tessa Cook (who grew up on a dairy farm), founded food-sharing app Olio, which has revolutionised the way we share food and items that would otherwise get binned.

As her parents raided skips to reuse items, formed a natural food cooperative and struggled for money, Celestial-One longed for normality as a child. “My rebellion was to get straight As,” she said.

After studying economics at the University of Chicago, Celestial-One went on to work at Morgan Stanley for four years before going to business school. “I really did feel like I’d established myself, I knew no matter what happens to me, I could always get a good job,” Celestial-One revealed. That security gave her the freedom to do something more entrepreneurial.

Food-sharing app Olio has revolutionised the way we share food and items that would otherwise get binned

When she was on maternity leave, Celestial-One opened London’s only drop-in crèche, but later dropped the project as she realised it simply wasn’t a scalable business. “That’s why I wanted my next venture to be around technology,” she said.

Olio combines mobile technology with a local community to solve what we believe to be one of the most pressing problems of mankind: “The immoral simultaneous existence of extraordinary food waste and extreme poverty and malnutrition in every single population,” she revealed.

Though Celestial-One says it’s a tech product, it functions as a GPS, notification, private messaging console and can be rearranged in a way that enables people to communicate about food. It’s now grown into something where locals place classifieds: local babysitters, entrepreneurs, plumbers and local organisations can advertise community events.

“We are hyper-local and nothing else exists that can truly drill down to this level, not even Facebook.” She said. “For example, you might have an allotment with a glut of 100 tomatoes to give away – you only want people within a five-minute walk to see this… we could develop a business model and charge £1 (€1.12) a week for this.”

Launched in summer 2015, by 2016 the app had reached nine UK cities. In under a year, it had launched globally with 11,000 volunteers and 220,000 users. These account holders, between them, have shared over a quarter of a million items of food, which is equivalent to 52 tonnes of food or 120,000 meals.