What’s An Ocean Friendly Restaurant?


By Sarah C. Brady

This is a big week for the ocean. The U.N. will be holding its first-ever Ocean Conference, which will overlap with World Oceans Day on Thursday. San Francisco’s Surfrider chapter will hold it’s own celebration this Thursday, when it officially launches its Ocean Friendly Restaurants program with a Happy Hour that all are welcome to attend (see event info here).

Those not familiar with the Ocean Friendly Restaurant (OFR) program may wonder what dining out has to do with the coastline. One of the OFR co-leads for San Francisco, Corinne Gentile, offers up some insight.

“In 2016 Surfrider volunteers removed nearly 7,000 pounds of trash from beaches in SF. Sadly, a good part of that waste comes from takeout containers which are provided by local restaurants. People take to-go food down to the beach and, particularly at Ocean Beach, tend to leave it piled next to overflowing trash cans. Then it blows into the sand and water.”

“We focus on things like plastic straws. They’re one of the main items we find in the sand, and can end up in animals’ throats and noses. The crazy part is that straws are so unnecessary but they never biodegrade.”

In a statement released for this week’s Ocean Conference, the U.N. echoed the sentiment, reporting that 80% of the ocean’s pollution comes from activities on land. “Plastic waste alone kills up to one million sea birds, a hundred thousand sea mammals and countless fish each year.”

The OFR program will work with restaurants to help them cut back on products that plague the ocean and it’s inhabitants. Volunteers will offer pro bono consultations to any restaurant that wants to become OFR certified.

Gentile says that the program aims to make the process simple and cost-effective. “We take a look at what distributor the restaurant is using and recommend products that their distributor carries. This makes the switch easy because next time they need to place an order they can just choose different products.”


Each OFR receives a decal they can proudly display in their storefront.


Participating restaurants should expect to see a variety of benefits, including a positive financial impact. Diverting waste away from landfill to compost bins means cutting down on waste-management costs. Gentile offers the example of Pagan Idol, a local tiki bar. “They recently made the switch to compostable straws. They’re now able to dispose of the full contents of used cocktail glasses, including the fruit garnishes, directly into their compost. For them it has meant saving $675/month on their Recology bill.”

Although the launch of the OFR program is not yet official, there are four local restaurants already certified: Blue Plate, The Boardroom (which will host Thursday’s launch party), The Taco Shop @ Underdogs, and Piperade.

Want to help additional restaurants join their ranks? Check out this one page breakdown of the program, which Surfrider encourages you to share. You can also reach out to the OFR team at ofr@sf.surfrider.org.

Be sure to follow Surfrider SF’s website and social media over the coming months and watch for an interactive map of local Ocean Friendly Restaurants.