KINGSTON, ONT. -- Zachary Fang, of Miss Bāo Restaurant and Cocktail Bar, says he and his wife wanted to open a zero-waste Asian-Fusion restaurant after seeing the waste that happens in the industry.

“When we were discussing the concept of the restaurant, we thought just using cuisine to attract people is not enough,” he explained. “We need to do something better in terms of operation, so the first thing that came to our minds was waste reduction. How do we reduce the waste, or the things we toss out in the garbage bag? So, that’s the primary goal.”

It's not an easy thing to do when you’re opening your doors for the first time during a pandemic.

The restaurant at 286 Princess St., in downtown Kingston, was originally meant to open in March as a sit down restaurant.

To adjust to the pandemic, they quickly had to switch to take-away meals to survive.

The food is locally sourced and Fang has a motto of reducing, reusing and recycling. They even have a composter on site for things like paper towels and extra food.

So, Fang turned to compostable take-away containers and cups.

“We still wanted to stay true to our fundamental, I guess, dream we have as a restaurant,” he explained. “We don’t want to start using single-use plastics all of a sudden because of COVID.

The compostable containers are also locally sourced, but they're not cheap.

“The challenge is that they’re not vastly available, they’re always running shortages, and you can imagine the price is a lot more expensive,” he said, “like, a lot more.”

Despite the difficulties, Fang went even further, by challenging employees to sign up to Sustainable Kingston’s plastic-free summer challenge.

The staff of nine has been participating for the past two weeks. The challenge goes until the end of August.

Those who sign up aim to reduce, or even eliminate, their use of single-use plastics throughout the summer.

Joshua Mercieca, who works in the kitchen, says it has been an eye-opener.

“I really like my coffees—my ice coffees—and that's a no-no,” he laughed. “So, I’ve been a little bit more tired, you could say.”

Charlotte Madison, who is a server, agrees.

“It’s so many little different things,” she said. “Now that farmer's markets are opening back up, I'm trying to stay away from big box chains where you know you can get all of these plastic, unnecessary things,” she says.

Fang says, even though it is a difficult time, this is the best opportunity to take on a sustainable lifestyle, and he encourages others to do the same.

“The smallest things always make the biggest steps if you’re being persistent,” he said.