The vegan movement is happening globally, and more people are embracing a plant-based lifestyle, including here in South East Asia. Thanks to social media, people now can access this information on the tip of their fingers, increasing the awareness of health benefits and sustainable impact of a plant-based lifestyle. And that's how we stumbled upon Root The Future, a Bangkok based media platform who are focusing on educating people about a plant-based and sustainable lifestyle.
Founded in 2020 in the middle of the pandemic, Root The Future is riding the wave of the plant-based and sustainable movement in Thailand, a country that is famous for its incredible food and culture. In this Interview, Joanna and Max, the founders of Root The Future share their story on how they both started Root The Future, their plan to continue inspiring people in Thailand for a more sustainable future to their favourites vegan restaurants are worth visiting in Bangkok.
1. We've been following "Root The Future" for a couple of months, and we're so amazed by the plant-based movement in Thailand. Thanks to you guys! Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how did it start?
Thank you for following us! You guys are absolutely brilliant and from what we can see, a true game-changer for the vegan scene in Jakarta.
Our journey really started about 8 years ago when we met in London. I (Joanna) had already been vegan for a couple of years, and managed to win Max over with some food and facts! A few months later, we moved to Dubai and continued our prospective careers. Max in video and photo and Joanna in music and modelling with a side of vegan vlogging.
When we visited Thailand in 2016 for our honeymoon, we basically never left. We fell in love with the food, the people and the country. Our careers slowly melded into one, and we actually started developing a luxury vegan hotel sanctuary concept that we were two years into the planning stages when COVID happened. Although we were sad to have to let go of that project (for the meantime at least), this time gave us the opportunity to start Root The Future, and we are so so excited about it.
We live Root The Future 24/7 and could not imagine doing anything else. We are so passionate and excited about the plant-based and sustainability movement here, and we have too many project ideas for our own good!
2. "Root The Future" is such a fantastic name for the movement. Who came up with the name, and what is the philosophy behind it?
Thank you so much! Actually, the name took us quite a while to decide on! We spent a few solid weeks non-stop searching through domain name searchers, brainstorming during quarantine workouts and searched through thesauruses for hours upon hours only to come up with names that were already taken on social media or domain sites.
Out of pure frustration, we landed on a name before Root The Future and even bought the domain names, only to realise we hated it a few days later! Haha! Then, finally, we came up with Root The Future, which we both loved. For us, Root The Future has two meanings. 1. We want to put down roots for a more sustainable future. 2. We are rooting for (cheering on) the future!
3. Thailand is known for its vibrant food that has become part of their culture; with that being said, how do you change people's mindset to accept the plant-based and more sustainable lifestyle?
Thailand has a reputation of being rather difficult to find plant-based food, but this is far from the truth - In fact, the culture of food here revolves around local ingredients, mostly soy and coconut.
This means that to the unknown eye, the early morning breakfast pancakes (Kanom Khrok) and doughnuts (Pa Thong Ko) with a side of milk (soy milk!) may not seem veganů but on closer inspection,
these popular grab and go breakfast snacks are in fact vegan!
Most restaurants have tofu on their menu because soy has been a staple ingredient for Thai locals for centuries - it's not purely used as an alternative, it's used because it's loved, and understandably they make it so well! About 12-15% of the Thai population are of Chinese descent, so the introduction of Jai Buddism and vegetarianism is a popular movement. Every year, there is a 10-day festival to celebrate vegan food, it starts on October the 17th this year - A day after we release the winners of the Plant-Based Food Awards!
That being said, it's tough for us to break down the misconception that the term 'Plant-Based' is synonymous with 'Vegetarian'. We want to change the term to be more akin to the global use of 'Plant-Based', which is essentially Veganism. We find that the drive towards sustainability, plastic-free, zero waste, and health-related topics is a more effective way to attract and educate people into understanding that the most significant factor of environmental pollution is animal agriculture.
4. Did you both find any challenges so far in changing people's mindset into a plant-based and sustainable lifestyle?
Here in Thailand, there doesn't seem to be any reluctance to try plant-based food. A lot of people like plant-based meats and alternatives but then say 'but I do need to make sure I get my real protein in once a day'. I think the main challenge is convincing people that they don't need meat and eggs for health.
A lot of people don't view plant-based protein as 'real protein', and many people think eggs are health food that cannot be replaced by anything. So we are trying to combat that by providing information about the benefits of eating a completely plant-based diet and that we do not need meat, eggs and dairy to be healthy.
5. What do you think about the current plant-based scene and sustainable movement in Thailand?
Since we moved to Thailand in 2016, the plant-based and sustainability scenes have both grown massively.
When we first arrived here, there were only really a handful of vegan restaurants. Vegan snacks and cakes, for example, were pretty hard to come by. In the last year/year and a half, plant-based food has started to come into the limelight, and we are finding it difficult to keep up!
Restaurants, cafes, delivery services, ice creams, desserts, cheeses and even vegan options on non-vegan menus are popping up everywhere! I think its partly due to growing awareness around the environmental and health benefits of eating plant-based food, but it also seems to have become quite a trendy way to eat! Which is awesome! People here seem to be very open and curious about plant-based food, more so than a lot of other countries around the world. The sustainability movement has been the same.
In the last two years, education and awareness around plastic pollution, climate change and sustainable living have grown. The plastic bag ban which happened in most major supermarkets at the beginning of this year was a great step to raise awareness and curb a lot of plastic pollution.
But sadly it seems that plastic pollution has made a serious come back here since COVID-19. I think it's going to be quite a task to try and shift people's attention back to this problem, but there are a lot of people and organisations working towards that. Sustainability and environmental exhibitions, workshops and events are always happening, and zero-waste shops and products are starting to pop up everywhere. It's also another one of those things that seem to have become quite trendy to do- which again, is awesome.
6. We love Bangkok and wish to go there soon after the pandemic over. Can you share with us some of your most favourite places that are worth visiting?
Oh yes! You should tell us when you come over, and we'll give you a vegan tour of the city! In terms of food, we have quite a long list! Haha! We love going to Yaowarat Road in China town and snacking on some jay food or accidentally vegan ice desserts. There are also a few great street food vendors like 'Lee Jay Vegetarian' that have amazing and insanely cheap vegan eats! Another one of our favourite things to do is grab some vegan fruit and steamed buns and go to Lumphini Park, or Benjasiri Park and watch the huge monitor lizards and play with all the park cats!
Our top restaurant/cafe picks would be Bonita Social Club and QQ Dessert (a Taiwanese dessert place with great vegan options). And actually, today we are off to try a vegan, almond milk bingsu dessert house that just opened!
7. We are currently living in an unprecedented time, with COVID-19 and other issues like climate change; what do you think we can do collectively to avoid the next pandemic and climate change?
We really think that Covid-19 has allowed us to step back and look at how we are living our lives and treating our planet. We can wipe the slate clean and start again, and that's what we are trying to encourage with Root The Future! We can use this time to shift our thinking and begin handling the world with a little more care.
It is clear that removing animal agriculture from the equation would not only seriously minimise the risk of another pandemic, but would also significantly reduce our impact on the planet. And although Covid-19 has had an enormous impact on our lives, the climate crisis is the tidal wave that will wipe us out. So we need to take significant action, and we need to act now.
8. What are your current projects and next plans for "Root The Future"?
Well, we have quite a few projects up our sleeve, but you will have to wait because they are all Top Secret! Between now and the end of 2021, we have a lot planned! But we can tell you that we will be hosting a big event on 17th and 18th of October which we will be announcing next week in a live video! So, stay tuned for that!
Photo Source: Root The Future