Could you please introduce yourself, share your nationality, where you have lived, and your time at ISL? My name is Giovanni Raiteri and I am Italian. I was born in Switzerland and lived in Italy, Mexico, and the United States before joining ISL for high school from 2014 to 2018. Upon graduating from ISL, I moved to the United Kingdom to study philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) at the University of Oxford. I graduated from Oxford this summer and will now be moving to London for a master’s in economics at the London School of Economics.
Could you share more about your experience at Oxford University and what you studied? Best part of being at Oxford? Studying at the University of Oxford was an incredible experience. Before moving to Oxford, I was slightly concerned that it might be a rigid and stressful environment. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the approachability of the tutors and professors, the openness of the student community, and the great number of social occasions and events in and around the university. I studied philosophy, politics, and economics which allowed me to pursue several interests in my first year before tailoring my degree in the latter two years of the programme where I chose to focus only on economics and politics.
Can you tell us about your startup, Carbon Codes? How did you get the idea of creating your own company and who are you working with? Towards the end of my first year, I got together with a couple friends I met at the university and embarked on a project to make sustainable eating more affordable for students. What started off as a project soon developed into a registered startup, Carbon Codes, which provides price discounts for sustainable meals in Oxford restaurants. Creating a company alongside my studies has been a continuous learning experience, filled with challenges but also with opportunities to meet innovators and entrepreneurs through the university’s events and alumni network.
What does Carbon Codes do? Carbon Codes is an app and website aimed at making sustainable eating easier and more affordable. By signing up to our platform, users get directed towards environmentally sustainable meals near them in Oxford, together with exclusive price discounts for these meals. We are constantly working to improve our criteria for environmental sustainability; at the moment, the meals we advertise need to be primarily plantbased, contain no red meat, and contain no seafood from overfished stocks.
What have been some of the challenges in creating a startup? I originally founded Carbon Codes with two fellow undergraduate students and a doctor of philosophy student in computer science. As a group of students, one of the main challenges we have faced has of course been balancing our studies with our work for Carbon Codes. This said, I often found that having a stimulating project alongside my course actually improved my motivation to study and certainly enhanced my experience as a student. More broadly, the greatest challenge we faced as a company was no doubt the closure of restaurants due to the lockdowns starting in 2020. However, this was also an opportunity for us to adapt by implementing discounts on take-away meals, partnering with online vendors, and working to improve our team and internal processes.
Did ISL play a role in the person you are now, and if yes how? I was at ISL for four years between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. Since those are such formative years, ISL no doubt had an enormous impact on who I am today. Through the strong relationship that exists between the teachers and students at ISL, I was able to develop my approach to learning and discover new interests. However, perhaps most important were the friends I made at ISL, whom I have grown even closer to over recent years, and who play such a key role in my life.
What is your ambition for the future? On a personal level, I do not have a clearly laid out plan of what I want to be doing in a couple years. What I know for sure is that I would like to pursue a career in sustainability, perhaps in environmental economics. For the time being, I will continue to study in the UK and then see what opportunities arise in impact-driven sectors. As for Carbon Codes, we are looking to expand to other UK cities and to broaden our network of sustainable partners, of course in the hope that there will be no further lockdowns in the coming months.
A piece of advice for people wanting to start their own company? My advice to somebody wanting to start their own company would be to make sure you have a strong, competent team that you enjoy working with. That has been the key factor motivating me to put in the hours for Carbon Codes despite the challenges and setbacks we have faced; a strong team makes working enjoyable and creates endless opportunities for personal growth and development.
Gradient Issue #2: The magazine of the International School of Lausanne
In this edition, we explore how our community has coped during this special year to make the best of it. We also have a special section on multilingualism and how it can both benefit and challenge our students.