Ms. Becker, you’re studying for a master’s degree in environmental engineering. And you’re also the founder of ‘Plant a Seed’. What’s this project all about?
Anyone walking across the TUM campus in the summer feels the heat. The masses of concrete cause the phenomenon known as an ‘urban heat island’. By creating more green space, we can help to counteract this effect. So we’re working to make the university greener – literally ? by building raised beds right on campus. But we’re more than a nice little garden project.
What else are you?
We want to give ‘Plant a Seed’ a scientific background. The project has a lot of overlaps with various fields of study at TUM. On a small scale we can discuss and investigate many big questions.
Can you give us some examples?
Students of environmental engineering can analyze the impact of the green spaces on the microclimate. Social scientists could look at the value chains. Architects could explore the design of the raised beds and the campus gardens. Or people in management studies could produce business plans. In short: There’s something for everyone!
You started ‘Plant a Seed’ by yourself in August 2020. How many are involved today?
In the meantime, there are more than 80 students on board. One student is even writing her bachelor thesis on the irrigation systems for raised beds. Many others are in the planning stages. I obviously have a talent for getting people excited about things that excite me.
And what do you think it takes to inspire people?
That’s obvious. You need a big vision. That’s the only way to break down the boundaries. If you don’t have the big goal in front of you, people quickly lose their motivation.
And what is your long-term vision?
We want more universities and cities to get involved in ‘Plant a Seed’. If we network the projects, we can create an entire network of local food supply chains.
Do you see yourself as ambitious?
Yes, definitely. When I decide to do something, I follow through. When I invest that kind of time, I want to succeed. Otherwise it would be a waste of energy. Of course, I’m willing to change the strategy if something isn’t working. But I don’t give up on my goal.
What was the best moment in the project so far?
When we set up the first raised beds. On that day, 10 months of planning became a reality. I saw all of the other participants who I’d only seen in video calls. Suddenly everyone was there, ready to work. I was impressed to see the impact a few raised beds can have.
And how have your gardens been growing this year?
Our tomatoes are thriving and the lettuce is looking great, too. Naturally we’re having a lot of conversations about what to do with the first harvest. We’d like to use it for a team event – maybe a barbecue where students could network with professors. That’s the great thing about ‘Plant a Seed’: People get together on a practical, hands-on level.
What was the biggest surprise so far?
As soon as other people are won over by an idea, it’s surprising how quickly things get moving. Everyone was cooperative, from the professors to the facility management people. The enthusiasm feeds on itself.
Who is financing the project?
To prove we were serious, we worked to raise funds externally right from the start. We got donations from hardware stores and garden centers. We also received funding from some research chairs. The support from professors was important to me in terms of credibility.
‘Plant a seed’ has grown into a major initiative. On top of that, you’re studying fulltime and working on your own as a yoga teacher. How is that possible?
I can only work on issues and projects that I’m passionate about. My studies give me a lot of fulfilment and ‘Plant a Seed’ is a labor of love. Of course it takes work, but we have plenty of fun, too. That releases a lot of energy for me.
How does your scholarship help?
Without the Deutschlandstipendium I simply couldn’t do ‘Plant a Seed’. That’s obvious. I used to have three parttime jobs. The Deutschlandstipendium has given me a lot of leisure time that I can now use for my projects. And that’s not only true in my case: In the umbrella initiative “Donating Talent”, I’ve been very impressed to see how many other scholarship students are giving back through volunteer work.
Do you have any tips for people planning to apply for the Deutschlandstipendium?
I have now received this scholarship for the third time and every time I have seen that the application process is not difficult. The best thing about it: It’s not only your grades that count. That makes the process fair and, in the end, open to anyone who gets involved in things.
And what are your dreams?
One thing for sure: Before I graduate I want to be sure the project is on a solid enough footing to carry on after my time here. After making the university more sustainable, I want ‘Plant a Seed’ to be sustainable, too.
Gärtnern in der Stadt - Projekt: Plant a Seed (from the television programme "Querbeet" in BR Fernsehen, August 2, 2021)
- Veronica Becker (27) is in the fourth semester of the TUM master’s program in Environmental Engineering. What does she love most about her subject? “I can make a difference through far-reaching changes at a structural level,” she says.
- Ms. Becker also works parttime as a yoga teacher.
- The „Deutschlandstipendium“ is celebrating birthday: It has been in existence for 10 years. Since then, more than 5,200 scholarship holders have received financial and non-material support at TUM.