Led by Hong Kong’s very own acclaimed plant-based chef Peggy Chan and her sustainable food consultancy Grassroots Initiatives, and in partnership with non-profit climate organization Zero Foodprint, Zero Foodprint Asia has officially launched in Hong Kong with a ‘1% pledge to restore the planet’, a program that aims to fund local farming projects in order to remove carbon from the environment.
U.S.-based Zero Foodprint was founded in 2015 by award-winning restaurateurs Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz (Mission Chinese Food, The Perennial, and Commonwealth), in an effort to reverse the damage that industrial agriculture has caused to the environment, our health, food and people.
As of today, more than 60 restaurant members have been onboarded across the globe. Last year alone, the NGO awarded US$325,000 to U.S. farming projects that are predicted to remove 7,000 tonnes of carbon from the environment. In addition, the same year, it won the James Beard Foundation’s ‘2020 Humanitarian of the Year’ Award for its work.
Hong kong-based Grassroots Initiatives is a consultancy and training business led by Peggy Chan to help food service companies shift to a circular model of operation. Chan, who is a sort of Alice Waters figure in Hong Kong, is recognised globally for the work she has done to pioneer plant-based gastronomy in the city and for her commitment to local, sustainable and low-waste supply chains.
Chan chose to license the Zero Foodprint model in Asia in an effort to help achieve the region’s net-zero emission targets by 2050, and decided to begin in Hong Kong given that the city has the highest number of restaurants per capita in the world, with the hospitality industry accounting for a whopping 8% of the city’s ecological footprint.
By empowering restaurants to take action against climate change, the non-profit organization aims to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) by investing heavily in carbon farming. Its launch program, a ‘1% pledge to restore the planet‘, will witness participating restaurants donating 1% of all customer bills to Zero Foodprint Asia’s fund. These funds will then be used to help farmers and encourage healthy soil management projects to capture carbon from the atmosphere both locally and regionally.
But why just 1%? The figure is not accidental. Climate experts have stated that by just taking 1% of the world’s GDP, the world can bear the costs of mitigating the effects of climate change with food, land and agriculture industries release one-third of GHGs worsening the effects of climate change. At the same time, compared to other industries, the food sector can recapture as much carbon as it releases.
According to Project Drawdown, limiting GHGs aren’t enough to stop climate change and it is crucial to implement carbon “sinks” to remove carbon, and making use of all these climate solutions, the world can then reach a point called Drawdown, a point at which GHGs level off and started declining) by mid-century.
Carbon sinks can be achieved by cultivating healthy soils, also known as carbon farming through a practice like regenerative agriculture, with an additional benefit of having healthy, nutrient-dense food as a result especially given that the food people consume today has only 20% of the nutrition found in the food consumed by our grandparents in the pre-industrialization era.
Once these projects are funded through the Zero Foodprint Asia, they will be analyzed from time to time on the carbon capture via systems recognized by academia and soil scientists. The organziation is launching its project with restaurants and bars across Hong Kong including Bedu, Uma Nota, Ando, Mono, Mott 32, SipSong and Limewood and is looking for more hospitality and food retail partners to join them as well.
Elsewhere, in a world-first, as part of a new private market of carbon credits based on regenerative farming, a U.S. farmer was given US$115,000 shortly after President Joe Biden stated that new sources of income will be developed for those that use farming practices the help remove carbon from the atmosphere.
A report found that in the U.S. alone, US$47.5 billion worth of investment assets have the regenerative agriculture criteria.
Brands and companies are jumping on the sustainable farming bandwagon with Netherlands-based firm reNature raising US$670k to broaden its existing network of farmers and corporations to include venture capitalists who will all work together to enhance regenerative agroforestry, and are partnering with dairy giant Nestle to build scalable models for this practice in the commodity supply chain.
Laura Offe, co-founder of Meraki Hospitality Group, told Green Queen in a statement that the ability to contribute directly was a huge draw. “As a small business owner, it can be hard sometimes to have a direct impact when it comes to sustainability in Hong Kong. When Peggy and Joel approached us about their initiative ‘Zero Foodprint Asia’, I knew we had to be part of it. By pledging 1% to regenerative farming, Meraki Hospitality’s choices would finally have an impact not only on our earth and our community but also in creating a more ethical and sustainable food system.”
Lead image courtesy of screenshot of video production by Capsule 48.