Liu Jichen, an undergraduate at Tsinghua’s Department of Construction Management, has been passionate about environmental protection since his childhood days.
When Liu became the president of the Student Vegetarian Association of Tsinghua University in 2016, he decided to organize a “leftover party,” where people could bring their leftovers, or, as he likes to put it, “ugly food” and eat together. The one-of-a-kind party became an instant success, emboldening him to take his drive to reduce food waste onto a larger audience.
The UN says cutting food waste is one of the most effective ways to reduce climate impact.
Liu then teamed up with some of his friends and founded a startup, developing a WeChat mini-app program called “Clear Plate,” which would reward users for reducing food waste.
After a meal, users take photos of their plate through the app, collect points once the image is recognized by the AI, and redeem gifts or donate charity meals with the points that they accumulate.
More and more restaurants gradually endorsed the mini-program, encouraging their customers to save food, and at one point, the hashtag #ClearPlate became a trending topic on Weibo. Right now, the user base has reached 4 million in China.
Impressed by his perseverance and endeavor, the UN nominated Liu as China’s first Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals.
In his two-year tenure, he plans to take his food waste reduction drive further in China, starting a new trend among the younger generation wherein people cherish food and develop the habit of having a low-carbon lifestyle. Internationally, he is planning on collaborating with the UN World Food Program to raise awareness about food waste reduction in different countries.
In November 2020, he also briefed on his recent work and objectives to Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, who acclaimed the great difference Liu had made, and encouraged him to keep going.
Liu took a big decision in 2018, taking a gap year to focus on his startup. As the founder, Liu says he felt obliged. Now that his company has grown, with twenty full-time members, he has returned to Tsinghua to resume his study.
His story reminds us that there are multiple ways to realize our dreams. Also, he has set himself as a good example to university students, steering us to view the issue of sustainability from a global perspective.
Writer: Meng Yu
Editors: Sangeet Sangroula, Liu Shutian