Cover Bobsy Gaia (Photo: Nic and Bex Gaunt for Hong Kong Tatler)

As part of our Eco Heroes series for our Sustainability issue, we talk to five of the city’s most innovative eco-warriors saving Mother Earth, one impactful idea at a time. Here, Mana! founder Bobsy Gaia shares his story

In the past 30 years, Mana! founder Bobsy Gaia has reinvented himself multiple times, spreading awareness about the environment each step of the way. Beirut-born Bobsy moved to Bangkok in 1989 to pursue fashion design at a time when world events, such as the collapse of the Berlin Wall, were sparking his spiritual awakening.

“I was feeling this tremendous wave of positivity and awareness of the world and environment,” recalls Bobsy, who around that time launched an eco-friendly fashion line that used organic fibres.

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Bobsy moved to Hong Kong in 1992, where he has launched various sustainability initiatives, including Able Charity, which has planted more than 30,000 trees on Lamma Island over two decades to help rejuvenate its forest cover. Along the way, he shifted his focus from fashion to food, opening a series of green restaurants. In 1998, he co-founded Bookworm Cafe on Lamma, one of Hong Kong’s first vegetarian cafes.

Six years later he co-founded Life Cafe, a vegan restaurant in Soho. “There’s nothing like changing people through their stomachs,” Bobsy says. The green-thinking entrepreneur launched eco-friendly Wellington Street eatery Mana! in 2012 with the motto “Diet change, not climate change.” It uses biodegradable packaging and features plant-based dishes like falafel flats, portobello burgers and acai bowls.

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“[People] are shifting bias towards plant-based diets, and that has a tremendous impact on our natural resources,” he says. “The amount of water we can save is massive, and there are so many things we can do individually… without waiting for the law [to change].”

Building on Mana!’s success, Bobsy opened a larger location on Star Street in July. He’s taking advantage of the space by hosting sustainability-focused lectures and meetups there. “Raising awareness has been the best thing I’ve given to Hong Kong,” Bobsy says. “Awareness is the most sustainable resource. Once you’re aware, that’s it; your mind can’t shrink back.”

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