Confidence, confidence, confidence. Don’t be afraid to suggest new ideas, projects or reach out to people. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no. Know your worth and don’t let anyone take your time or energy — especially all the women out there! When I first started collaborating with sustainability brands, I didn’t know my worth. Now that I gained confidence through my previous projects, I am much more open to get in touch with people that could help Climate Nights to grow.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewingLivia van Heerde.
Livia is a sustainability influencer and the co-founder of Climate Nights, a non-profit event series.
The former ethical fashion blogger based in Vienna and London, uses her social media to spread awareness on environmental and social issues and inspires people online to take action. With degrees in BSc Environmental Science and MSc Climate Change, Livia is passionate about climate activism and was featured as Forbes 100 UK Environmentalist for it. She co-created “Climate Nights”, a non-profit that aims to create an inclusive event series in Vienna and London raising both climate awareness and donations while revolutionizing nightlife events.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
I am originally from Vienna, Austria and enjoyed a happy childhood there. I lived in the city but spent my lots of time on the countryside growing up. It was very important to my mother that I breathe fresh air, get in touch with nature and experience the freedom that children cannot get in the city as much as on the countryside. There, I could just get on a bike and ride through fields and forests, spend the whole day at a lake or go hiking with my grandparents.
I moved to London, UK for my studies in Environmental Science and Climate Change and have been living here since.
You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
After meeting the star violinist Yury Revich, I acted as a sustainability consultant to his classical music event series “Friday Nights” to organize a climate themed event: “A Melting World”: It was a huge success in Vienna and it gave birth to an idea. Yury and I felt inspired by the passion for climate change, we experienced from the event guests and wanted to reach more people. Together with a team of likeminded people, we created Climate Nights which aims to raise climate change awareness while also raising donations for climate action. Climate Nights will host nightlife events in Vienna and London at the end of this year that align with our sustainable values. These inclusive events will incorporate art works — from videos to music to poems — by environmentally conscious artists trying to raise climate change awareness. Due to the pandemic, we had to postpone the events planned but, in the meantime,, we are building a community online that wants to be inspired by art, sustainability tips, eco facts and more.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
As a teen, I went to a business-focused school where I learned the connection between human activities and our environment. That’s when I read an article on wastewater from garment dyeing polluting local rivers in China and my interest for the environment grew. I went on to study Environmental Science and later on, a master’s degree in Climate Change. I knew that I needed to contribute to climate action and tried being part of the solution through online activism, “influencer” work and taking part at panel discussions.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
It always takes courage to execute what you were contemplating of doing. My first plunge was becoming a blogger and sustainability influencer. I couldn’t find a lot of people online talking about sustainability and thought that it would be fun to try it. Years later, when the idea of Climate Nights was born, I already had a “just try it” attitude. Plus, I was surrounded by people that had the same mindset.
I would recommend thinking about it thoroughly before you start your new project. When you come to the conclusion that you would have fun doing it, that you could see yourself sticking to it and that you really like your idea, then you just have to go ahead and be courageous. We need to enter foreign territories sometimes, to be able to grow. You also have to be disciplined. As cheesy as it sounds: don’t stop, don’t give up.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
It’s always easier to have people supporting you. Whether it is friends or family who encourage you and give you advice or people you are starting your project with together. I am lucky to have both. At the beginning of the project, I put my organisation hat on and wrote all of my ideas down. Once the first brainstorming session was done, tasks had to be organised. An online platform like Monday.com, Microsoft Teams or Google Drive helps with staying organised. Our first to-do was coming up with a name, a logo and creating a one-pager of our project that we could send to partners, sponsors, collaborators or simply people that offered their help. It also helped talking to my team and coming up with our to-do list. Two or more brains are better than one.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The willingness of other people to help the cause you’re fighting for, was very surprising for me. My co-founder Yury Revich and I got in touch with many people from different professional backgrounds and everyone was eager to contribute. When I started Climate Nights, I wouldn’t have dared to reach out to big organisations like UNICEF or UNEP but Yury did. We had Zoom calls with several enthusiastic changemakers from UNEP who are just as excited about our project as we are. We are still figuring out how to collaborate but we certainly know that the sky is the limit.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
I am sure the Climate Nights team and I will make many funny mistakes in the future but so far, we were really lucky.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
There were several of people that I am thankful for. When I took part in my first panel talk, I met Moin Roberts-Islam who works at the Fashion innovation Agency of the London College of Fashion. He encouraged me to think bigger and always did his best to support me. He was an important part in my journey to building my confidence in my projects.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Another person who I am grateful for, is my friend Danial Naqvi who is a true problem-solver. He was the president of the Geography Society when I was doing my BSc in Environmental Science. He constantly tried to connect me with people that might be relevant to my projects, he listened to my stories and concerns and made me see things from a different perspective. Other people can help you grow.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
First of all, solutions are made by people. It doesn’t matter if you are an employee, a politician, a mother or father or student — there are ways to take climate action. If you have the drive, do whatever is within your possibilities.
- I believe in both systemic change and behavioural change to combat climate change. Make those little changes to your lifestyle to live more sustainably.
- My mother’s job had nothing to do with climate change — yet she took action and became part of the environment committee within the company she was working for. You can create systemic changes.
- Make use of your voting rights and vote for a climate friendly future.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Possibilities are endless. When I first started talking about sustainability and the environment online, I didn’t think it could lead to anything. I had no idea of the journey that was in the making. An online conversation was created, and it grew bigger and bigger. Then, the first non-profits and sustainable companies became aware of my platform and collaborations were created. Soon some journalists wrote about me and I was featured in a Chinese fashion magazine. If I someone would’ve told me that the possibilities that can come from my little project, are endless, as long as I am confident and creative.
- The most valuable thing you will gain from this, is a meaningful network. When I got invited to my first panel talks and events, I had no clue that some of the people I would meet there, would become part of a bigger meaningful network of likeminded people. I thought blogging online means that I can do my thing by myself and be isolated from others. I did not realize how much joy and opportunities other people would bring me and I would bring them. Behind every project are people with ideas and can-do attitude. Be open to other people’s ideas, projects and see how far it can bring you. It was because of the connections I’ve built from my blogging that I started freelance writing for sustainability magazines, and it was because of meeting Yury Revich, that I helped with his classical music event which eventually led to Climate Nights.
- Consistency is key. It’s quite simple. If I had stopped blogging early on, I never would’ve built my confidence, met the people that I did, changed my mindset and learned so much. If I would’ve stopped, then one project wouldn’t have led to another. It was because of my consistency that I got where I am today.
- Confidence, confidence, confidence. Don’t be afraid to suggest new ideas, projects or reach out to people. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no. Know your worth and don’t let anyone take your time or energy — especially all the women out there! When I first started collaborating with sustainability brands, I didn’t know my worth. Now that I gained confidence through my previous projects, I am much more open to get in touch with people that could help Climate Nights to grow.
- Have fun! Sometimes I was so consumed by insecurities, doubts and worries on what other people think that I forgot to have fun. During my blogging beginnings, I was so consumed to take the perfect shot that it ended up ruining my day. When I started Climate Nights and it became clear that our events have to be postponed, I almost gave up. But instead, our team got creative and came up with ideas to launch a community despite current limitations. Don’t let your negative thoughts get in the way and remind yourself that this project is your passion. There are lots of people that would not enjoy doing what you do and lots of people that didn’t have the guts to. You are unique in your passion and drive — enjoy it and be proud of it!
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
If you are passionate something, take action. It will give your life purpose and you will be able to connect with likeminded people. So, if you care about climate change, there are endless ways on becoming active and feeling part of a community. Be creative!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Mark Constantine, CEO of Lush. It would be amazing talk about collaborations for Climate Nights. Although a Zoom call would be more suitable these days.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find us at climatenights.com, as well as @climatenights on Instagram to be part of our community. I am always happy to start a conversation on my personal Instagram @liviavanheerde or talk about ways to be part of Climate Nights on my LinkedIn.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Thank you for giving me a platform to speak about my project and the importance of climate change!