Peggy Chan of Zero Foodprint Asia Shares Her Green Vision
Asia/ Terra/ Sustainability

Peggy Chan of Zero Foodprint Asia Shares her Green Vision for Asia's Future

Peggy Chan of Zero Foodprint Asia Shares her Green Vision for Asias Future

Peggy Chan is a name synonymous with sustainable food practices, organic sourcing, and plant-based culinary expertise. As the owner and chef of Nectar and Pollen Lab, Peggy Chan has revolutionised the concept of high-end dining with a progressive seasonal tasting menu featuring locally sourced and often-forgotten ingredients.

Starting with Grassroots Pantry in 2012, Peggy Chan sought to advocate for a plant-based diet. Fast forward to today, she has emerged as an authoritative voice on sustainable food systems and organic sourcing.

The Hong Konger’s wish to educate for sustainable food and nutrition practices became a reality when she opened the Hong Kong chapter of Zero Foodprint Asia in 2021. The NGO aims to stimulate discussions about eco-friendly, nature-first solutions, and regenerative agriculture in Asia. We spoke with Peggy to cover her journey to commit to carbon-neutral diets in Hong Kong and beyond. 

Peggy Chan of Zero Foodprint Asia Shares her Green Vision for Asia's Future

On introducing Hong Kong to Zero Foodprint Asia

“We chose to licence Zero Foodprint’s model in Hong Kong and Asia in 2021, after both Hong Kong and China pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and 2060, [respectively].”

“This 1% pledge to restore the planet allows us to utilise the restaurant platform in Hong Kong to ask diners to pledge 1% of their bills to aggregate for a larger fund to support local farming projects to remove carbon from the environment.”

“[When we opened Grassroots Pantry], we were the first restaurant to become carbon neutral in Asia through the footprint. We funded regenerative farming projects in California through adding a percentage surcharge at the end of our bill. We have worked with Zero Foodprint since 2018, and we know how our customers feel about it.”

Peggy Chan of Zero Foodprint Asia Shares her Green Vision for Asia's Future

On driving carbon-neutral food practices in Hong Kong and China

“If Hong Kong and China have plans to reach net zero, they must integrate some form of nature-based solutions and prioritise nature-based solutions.”

“There's no way to reduce our emissions to net zero alone. We must remove existing carbon emissions and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through nature-based solutions, such as restoring farmland, oceans, pastureland, ending deforestation, and first and foremost, stop utilising all these chemicals on the fields.”

“Zero Foodprint Asia grants funds raised from the 1% pledge to farmers in Hong Kong, China and Asia-wide who are looking to farm fossil fuel free. They're looking to move away from chemical fertilisers, pesticides, and even the organic system, because organic is still a very low bar in places like Hong Kong. Organic is still a very low bar, and it does not help with soil health and mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

“With regenerative agriculture, it improves soil health, increases the nutrition of crops, improves the taste, and becomes[helps crops to become] more climate resilient.”

On shifting culture for conscious eating in restaurants

“It is a cultural shift to change the perception of Hong Kongers and consumers worldwide. We need to think not only about environmentalism, preserving and conserving nature, but also about our costs to conduct business.”

“For our industry in food and beverage, where we're responsible for up to 80% of deforestation and up to 70% of biodiversity loss, why wouldn't it be our responsibility to ensure that we have a healthy ecosystem for food to be grown on for the next generation?”

“It is a cultural shift of rethinking the economics of restaurants. How do we integrate this externalised cost [of charging consumers 1% extra] into bills, into our profit and loss spreadsheets.”

“If someone goes to a Michelin star restaurant and spends HK$2,000, that's HK$20 on top of their bill, it's nothing. It's nominal to what they spend, but the key part is the communications piece.”

Peggy Chan of Zero Foodprint Asia Shares her Green Vision for Asia's Future

On what chefs and restaurants can do to make the future green in F&B

“If you asked what restaurants should focus on, it must be the farm stages, and that requires chefs and procurement teams to ask questions from their supplier and producers.”

“How are their ingredients grown? Do they contribute to deforestation? Do they use any GMOs or chemicals on the fields? Do they add tons of nitrogen? Does it contribute to chemical leakage, things like that? Do the animals eat soy, mono, GMO soy? We need industry leaders to ask those questions.”

On working with governments to make the future green for eating

“We need more focus on nature-based solutions. We tend to think that sourcing local is important, and many cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing have a 30 by 30 strategy to consume 30% of nutrients in city diets by 2023 from local sources.”

“For the percent of ingredients that should be grown locally in Hong Kong, we don't have that space. We need a target to reach, because once the government sets a target, you can start to see money going into those areas to drive the demand.”

Peggy Chan of Zero Foodprint Asia Shares her Green Vision for Asia's Future

On funding new green projects in 2023

“We have just finalised our 10th-funded project in Bali in the past year and a half in Bali, for an 87-hectare rice patty field for a community of over 220 farmers to work on, with experts providing technical assistance for transition on what applications they can utilise to sustain a carbon-free output.”

“This year, we are very much focused on expanding our zero footprint across Southeast Asia. We are setting a chapter in Singapore and then working with larger size farms across the region to introduce best practices in regenerative farming.”

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