OCEAN CITY – A local organization is trying to recruit restaurants to join an ocean-friendly program ahead of the summer season.
For the coming summer season, the Ocean City chapter of the Surfrider Foundation – a national nonprofit whose mission is to protect the beaches and ocean – will focus its efforts on recruiting local establishments for a program that offers restaurants an easy way to show their commitment to making sustainable choices.
The Ocean Friendly Restaurants program features more than 400 participating establishments across the country. In Maryland, two of the three participating Ocean Friendly Restaurants – Mother’s Cantina and Pickles Pub – are located in Ocean City.
While the program is not new, Jane Robinson, chair of the Ocean City chapter, said the group was doubling down on its efforts this year to recruit local restaurants.
“It’s about increasing awareness and getting people to change their behaviors,” she said.
The Ocean Friendly Restaurants program requires restaurants to take proactive steps in eliminating single-use plastics, according to the foundation’s website. Participating establishments must follow five criteria – no expanded polystyrene use, proper recycling practices, the use of reusable foodware for onsite dining, no plastic bag use for take-out orders, and paper straws provided only upon request – and choose at least two additional criteria from a pre-determined list.
Robinson said the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program builds off its “Strawless Summer” campaign, during which more than 70 local establishments committed to reducing plastic straw consumption.
“It’s a great program,” she said. “It takes the Strawless Summer campaign a step further.”
Since the Ocean City chapter is the only Surfrider Foundation chapter in Maryland, Robinson said three Ocean Friendly Restaurants – two in Ocean City and one in Baltimore – fall under its purview. But with the help of chapter members and the local Surfrider Foundation Club at Stephen Decatur High School, she said she is hoping more establishments will participate in the program.
“There’s a whole checklist, and it’s quite involved,” she said. “But there are some options that restaurants can choose from.”
Robinson said the program not only focuses on reducing plastic waste, but recognizes the restaurants that lead by example.
“The national Surfrider Foundation organization will promote these restaurants,” she said. “and people want to go to these restaurants when they are traveling … They seek out Ocean Friendly Restaurants.”
Robinson said local restaurants must register to join the program. To that end, students in Stephen Decatur’s Surfrider Foundation Club will be visiting local businesses in Worcester County to hand out information and promote the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program.
“They offered to have students do this as a project,” she said. “This will be a great learning experience for them.”
Club Co-Advisor Mandi Wells said she is hoping students can recruit more restaurants, particularly those located in Berlin and northern Worcester County.
“They will be pounding the pavement and going around to some of the restaurants in the area,” she said. “Our goal is to get three new restaurants. It sounds like a low number, but there are only two in Ocean City right now.”
Wells said many restaurants incorporate most of the criteria required to become an Ocean Friendly Restaurant. She said the recent polystyrene ban in Maryland could incentivize more establishments to participate.
“That probably was the number one holdup because restaurants didn’t want to get rid of their Styrofoam containers,” she said. “But now that they have to, I think we’ll see a lot more restaurants coming on board.”
Wells said this is not the first project in which her students have participated. To date, students have participated in beach cleanups, sent emails to the Worcester County Commissioners urging for a balloon release ban, and helped Buckingham Elementary School become a Maryland Green School. They also helped the local Surfrider chapter in its Strawless Summer campaign.
“Any of the groups around the area, if they have things they need help with we try to be there,” she said.
For more information on the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, or to register, visit www.surfrider.org/programs/ocean-friendly-restaurants.
“It takes the restaurants that are already doing some of these great environmentally friendly practices and taking it a step further …,” Robinson said. “As the Surfrider Foundation says, ‘The Ocean Friendly Restaurants program is tackling one restaurant at a time, one customer at a time, increases awareness, changes behavior, and creates a scalable impact to reduce our plastic footprint.’”