8Shades Of… Janice Leung-Hayes, food writer and sustainability advocate

For this week’s edition of ‘8Shades Of’, we’re talking to Janice Leung-Hayes – one of Hong Kong’s leading food writers (you may know her better as @e_ting!) and the founder of sustainability consultancy Honestly Green, who have been running local farmers’ markets here for the past decade. Janice is also part of the advisory board for Zero Foodprint Asia, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping restaurants reduce their environmental impact.

janice leung hayes 8shades interview 5
Source: Janice Leung-Hayes

We find out why tomatoes kick-started Janice’s eco journey, how Zero Foodprint works to combat climate change and get her tips for eating more sustainably in everyday life.

1. In one sentence, tell us what you do?

I’m a food writer; founder of Honestly Green, the sustainability consultancy behind farmers’ markets like Tong Chong Street Market; and co-founder of Capsule48, a multimedia creative and production agency. 

2. Why are you an 8Shader? 

It started from a love of food and wondering why one tomato tasted better than another; then I got interested in farming, which led to everything from soil health and water quality to nutrient density and food waste.

Source: Janice Leung-Hayes

3. What’s your best eco habit – and your guilty not-so green one?

My best eco habit is using multiple reusable shopping bags, including leakproof ones for food like vegetables and pastries. Leakproof bags are light, foldable and much easier to carry than food boxes – as long as squashing isn’t an issue for your food!

For not-so-green, it’s my skincare routine. I still haven’t found anything packaging-free with a transparent supply chain that really works for me so unfortunately, I’m still kind of a skincare maximalist.

Source: Janice Leung-Hayes

4. Fave veggie dishes in Hong Kong?

The ratatouille at Écriture, grilled salad at Roganic and steamed eggs with morels from Kin’s Kitchen

5. What is something about sustainable eating that you think more people in Hong Kong should be aware of? 

If you eat, you can be part of the climate solution… so that means everyone! Well-managed soil can recapture excess carbon in the atmosphere, making regenerative farming an extremely effective and attractive solution for climate change, because good soil is also the basis of good food – food that not only tastes better, but is more nutrient-dense. 

Source: Janice Leung-Hayes

This is exactly the logic that drives Zero Foodprint Asia – it’s the Asian chapter of the US non-profit organisation, which connects restaurants, farmers and the dining public. Peggy Chan brought Zero Foodprint to Asia in 2021 and several restaurants are already involved here; simply by eating at those restaurants, you’ll be contributing to one of the best climate solutions there is! I’m proud to be on the advisory board for this excellent initiative; you can see their list of restaurant partners here and follow them on Instagram @zerofoodprint.asia for updates. 

6. You started your first farmers’ market at Tong Chong Street ten years ago; what are some of the biggest improvements you’ve seen to the city’s sustainability scene since then and what further changes would you like to see?

I opened my first farmers’ market in 2012; back then, sustainability was a niche, now it’s ubiquitous – for better or worse! Local organic farming was just beginning to come into play then; most consumers didn’t know that we had farms in Hong Kong, let alone ones that were practising organic or other more environmentally-conscious farming methods. 

Source: Janice Leung-Hayes

These days, people are more aware of the links between food, environment and health, and restaurants have really begun to look into sourcing locally in earnest these past few years. I hope that with the likes of Zero Foodprint Asia, we can continue to inform Hong Kongers about the importance of conscious farming methods and issues such as food waste. 

7. What are some of your easy top tips for eating more sustainably in Hong Kong?

  • Drink water and bring your own water bottle when going out – there are dispensers everywhere now.
  • Keep a freezer bag for vegetable odds and ends to make stock, for example onion skins, carrot peels and celery leaves; when the bag is full, put everything into a stock pot, cover it with water and add a bay leaf. I do the same for greens like broccoli stems too; when the bag is full, blend it into a green soup. Bonus points for using a rinsed-out frozen berry bag – those sturdy resealable bags are great for freezer storage!
  • Choose to dine at restaurants that are truly aware of the seasons (and don’t just say they are!), like ZFPA restaurant partners.
Source: Janice Leung-Hayes

8. What shade of green are you and why? 

I’m in pretty deep, so I’d say a dark dried-kombu level of green! I’m at the point where I don’t understand how anyone can ignore sustainability in their daily lives or see it as “charity”. With typhoons in winter and summers that are getting hotter and longer, not to mention floods that follow droughts, it’s pretty clear that the climate crisis is here and affects us directly.

Follow Janice on Instagram @e_ting

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