The Greek word meraki roughly translates as “doing something with soul, creativity or love” – an apt description of how Laura Offe approaches her work as the co-founder of Meraki Hospitality, the restaurant group behind eateries including Uma Nota and Bedu, who proudly champion local produce, veggie-forward menus and sustainability initiatives.
In our latest edition of ‘8Shades Of’, we talk to Laura about her favourite local eco products, must-order vegetarian dishes and why she believes business owners have a responsibility to protect the environment.
1. In one sentence, tell us what you do?
2. Why are you an 8Shader?
Many people don’t know that the F&B industry is responsible for 30 percent of global energy consumption. I’ve lived in Hong Kong for 20 years and I’ve seen temperatures rise, winters shorten and blue skies get rarer and rarer over the years. This city is my home and I feel that it is our responsibility as business owners to change the way we source our produce and find ways to protect both our environment and our community.
As an individual and an entrepreneur, I want to make an impact. At Meraki, it’s important to me that we do that through a planet-positive approach.
3. What’s your best eco habit – and your guilty not-so green one?
My best eco habit is that I try to be as mindful as possible – although I know there’s a lot more I could do! I only use bamboo toothbrushes and never leave the house without my reusable grocery bag.
As for a not-so-green habit, I love a good shower and have a tendency of staying under the hot stream a little too long!
4. Fave eco brands?
I love Benassie masks as they’re ethically and sustainably produced, with parts made from recycled plastic bottles. We were lucky to have some custom-made for Meraki and our teams use them in all our restaurants.
I’m also a big fan of the Invisible Company, which was founded in Hong Kong. They started with “Invisible Bags” that dilute in hot water and have since expanded this non-plastic bag concept to be usable across takeaway, retail packaging and pets’ needs.
I love Luüna Naturals too, for introducing toxic-free and eco-friendly period cups and organic cotton tampons to Hong Kong.
5. Fave veggie dishes in Hong Kong?
Being completely honest, I think we do vegetable dishes really well at Meraki, so I genuinely do go to Uma Nota or Bedu for my fix! I love the chilli roasted corn dish that chef Corey has recently added to Bedu’s menu, and his charred broccoli is another must-have. Chef Gustavo at Uma Nota has also just launched a delicious take on Brazilian pulled pork using Karana’s plant-based meat.
Besides our restaurants, I love the cabbage rolls at Posso – they are so simple yet utterly delicious. I also love a stir-fried garlic broccoli from any good dim sum place!
6. What are some of the ways you incorporate sustainability into your restaurants? Are there any other sustainability initiatives you’re hoping to introduce?
We’ve always been conscious of our environmental impact. We eliminated plastic straws early in the business, only use compostable takeaway packaging and FSC-certified paper for our menus and shifted to cloth napkins to reduce our waste.
We also offer vegetarian and vegan menu options in all our venues, sourcing produce grown from the Asia Pacific region as much as possible. Through donating to Zero Foodprint Asia, our menus help fund regenerative farming practices here in Hong Kong, and our chefs also try to source from partner farms that adopt these methods.
We’re currently looking into composting solutions with Rooftop Republic and measuring each restaurant’s individual carbon footprint, with a view to reducing our impact by 2023.
7. What is something about sustainable food that you think people should be more aware of?
It’s not only about sourcing locally, but also about recognising the international suppliers that are doing things differently through regenerative farming and sustainable fishing methods, and supporting these great products too.
8. What shade of green are you and why?
Little Bedu minty green! Being sustainable is a never-ending learning process. It has so many layers and I’m learning something new every day, so I’m excited for our journey into the deeper shades of green.