Green Queen Heroes: Punam Chopra of Spicebox Organics

5 Mins Read

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I have been in the health and fitness industry for most of my life. I started one of the first women’s health and fitness centers in New Delhi, India 20 years ago and hosted my own fitness show on television. Following this experience, I went to Canada to study sports management, and worked at Nike Canada in sales & marketing. After a few years in Canada, my husband and I moved to New York where I taught yoga and studied nutrition at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). SpiceBox Organics is a culmination of my multi-disciplinary life experiences in the fields of fitness, holistic health, nutrition, and wellness. Through the brand, I hope to promote healthy living by encouraging socially and environmentally conscious choices.

When did you first adopt a green lifestyle?

Since childhood. I was born and raised in a small mountain town called Shillong in northeast India. Growing up, our small community ate organic produce, and a sense of cleanliness and conscious living was present in the people of the land. We adopted environmentally conscious ways from the ancient Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia tribes that have lived gently on this land for centuries. We never used the word “organic” back then. It was just our way of life. It is a blessing to have been born and raised in such an environment.

Farmers Market

What is your greenest daily habit?

SAVING WATER & ELECTRICITY (emphasis her own)! I turn off the tap when brushing my teeth, and turn off the shower when lathering (unless if its freezing, then I need the hot water on!). I also have a habit of switching off the lights when I leave a room, and don’t use plastic bottled water if I can avoid it. I know people who drink a couple of bottles every day in the gym and work – that’s 700 bottles a year per person- most of which end up in a landfill. I know small offices in Hong Kong where the staff consumes 10, 000+ bottles a year. It only takes a few seconds to fill up your own bottle from a clean, hygienic and safe water source.

Tell us about SpiceBox Organics  and its mission.

Our goal is to help people eat organic, healthy, tasty and wholesome foods, as well as use products that improve their long-term wellbeing. We encourage home cooking as a means to attain good health. At the same time, we emphasize social and environmental consciousness and strive to source products whose production is gentle on the environment and beneficial to the farmers and communities that produce them (direct sourcing is one of the ways we do this). There are a lot of things we cannot control but these are some of the practices we try our best to adhere to. Over 95% of the 700 plus products showcased in our physical store (located in Sai Ying Pun) are organic. The range is extensive and includes grains, spices, oils, superfoods, supplements, teas, fresh products, pantry goods and household cleaners.

We provide in-house workshops for various topics like health & wellness coaching, vegetarian cooking and detoxing. We are lucky to have a great group of health coaches and chefs affiliated with us. We also participate at pop up events and farmers markets around town- always a great channel to interact with the local community.

In addition, we work with two charities: The Hong Kong Society for the Relief of Disabled Children and the Asmita Center for the Disabled in Mumbai, India. Last year, our diya painting event (clay lamp painting) raised over HKD 10, 000 for the two charities. Our diyas are bought and shipped solely for this purpose by SpiceBox Organics at our cost. We hope each year’s fundraising efforts will continue to grow, and through these two arms, we hope to build a sustainable business with a social enterprise philosophy.

What are some of the greenest features of SpiceBox Organics?

One of our greenest business practices is direct sourcing. Whether it’s the SpiceBox Organics brand or the other brands we represent and distribute, we are source everything directly from producers and the country. There are a lot of things we cannot control but this is something we will make our best efforts to do and is extremely important to our SpiceBox Organics mission. We import products that must be imported, but all fresh organic produce we carry is locally grown. We have healthy vegan snacks from Anything But Salads (closed since December 2016), locally handcrafted yoghurt from Sour Times, as well as the recently added fresh curly kale and herbs from Eat Fresh.

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Share a green Hong Kong tip with our readers.

Here are a few that I follow myself:

  • •Carry your own shopping bag. It is very easy to do.
  • •Keep a water bottle at work/the gym to fill with water from a dispenser.
  • •Switch off the lights when you leave a room. It sounds like a small thing to do but it has a huge rippling effect.
  • •Reuse everything.
  • •Use green, eco-friendly cleaning products- either homemade or store bought. They are very gentle on our environment and do not pollute our waterways.
  • •Most importantly just stop and think for a few seconds when you are doing something out of habit or pure convenience – is this environmentally destructive? Can I do it differently?

Where is your favorite place to eat green in Hong Kong?

Grassroots Pantry – They follow the conscious choice in everything they do from their lovely thoughtful menu, and delightful raw truffles, to their biodegradable takeaway containers.!

Pure Veggie House in Coda Plaza for Chinese food is another favorite- the restaurant is a wonderful sustainable enterprise which includes making use of locally grown veggies. I trek all the way there just to get their food takeaway- it is such comfort food.

Light Radiant Food (closed since July 2016)- Connie is a beautiful spiritual soul and her dishes reflect that.

Mana Fast Slow Food – Just love what they are doing, and I especially love their flat breads.

When I look back to when I first arrived in Hong Kong in 2006 and there was very little in the way of organic dining, it is amazing to see all that has emerged in the past two years.

Green Queen Heroes is a monthly series showcasing the talented and relentless individuals who are helping to make Hong Kong a greener, cleaner, kinder place to live and giving us eco-warriors more accessible options!


All pictures courtesy of Spicebox Organics. 

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