Dive Into Dining: Why Ocean-Friendly Restaurants Matter

June 7th, 2024
Reading time: 5 minutes

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Plastics that aren’t properly recycled affect marine ecosystems and wildlife, contributing 11 million metric tons of plastic waste into the ocean annually. The impact of this goes beyond marine life—some plastics contain harmful chemicals that can transfer from containers, utensils, and straws directly into consumers’ food. A wave of change is rising to combat this pollution, starting on your plate.

Starting in 2013 with the Surfrider Foundation, the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program quickly expanded from Southern California to restaurants across the United States and is revolutionizing the dining experience. Ocean-friendly restaurants offer incredible food while championing sustainable practices that benefit and protect the ocean.

Restaurants with an Ocean-Friendly certification aim to lower their impact on the ocean. This includes sourcing sustainable seafood, minimizing single-use plastics, conserving water and energy, and reducing overall waste generation. Essentially, it’s about making conscious choices that support ocean health and biodiversity so that people can dine knowing they’re eating at an establishment focusing on more than just profits. 

This program is raising awareness and growing a community of restaurants, activists, and patrons committed to reducing single-use plastics at the source.


How to Become an Ocean-Friendly Restaurant

The Surfrider Foundation has outlined seven mandatory criteria to meet the requirements for an Ocean Friendly certification:

  1. Only reusable food ware is used for onsite dining.1
  2. Paper straws are provided only upon request.2
  3. No expanded polystyrene is used (aka Styrofoam). 
  4. No plastic bags are used for takeout or to-go orders. 
  5. Single-use utensils, straws, condiments, and other accessory items are provided only upon request.
  6. Beverages are not sold in plastic bottles.
  7. Proper recycling practices are followed.

1Foodware includes dinnerware, drinkware, silverware, and ramekins/containers.
2Exceptions may be made for naturally occurring materials (e.g., hay, bamboo) and reusables (e.g., metal, glass), not including bio-based plastic. Straws should be provided to anyone who needs one, including people with disabilities.


Ocean-Friendly Restaurants by Region

There are over 570 Ocean-Friendly restaurants in the United States and territories. Browse a few selections from the five regions and search this map to find more.



Pitango Bakery & Cafe – Baltimore, MD

Inspired by classic Italian bakeries, this waterfront shop offers locally roasted coffee, organic gelato, and a variety of food items. 

Dune – Nantucket, MA

Combining sophisticated elegance and casual comfort with a changing menu, this restaurant showcases the finest local produce, fish, and meats to provide a tasty New American menu. 

goodsugar – New York, NY

Operating on an eco-conscious and health-focused philosophy, this vegan restaurant offers a variety of plant-based food, smoothies, and fresh juices.



The Tiny Turtle – Cocoa Beach, FL 

Blending Caribbean fusion cuisine with a family-friendly atmosphere, this lively restaurant aims to set the tone for sustainability and delicious eats at the beach. 

Mad Mole Brewing – Wilmington, NC 

With a passion for beer and the environment, this solar-powered brewery features seven taps and ten different wine selections. 

Kitchen33 and Bakery – Glen Allen, VA

Focused on fresh food and environmental responsibility, this restaurant offers all the comforts of home-cooked meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.



Sunny Side Restaurant & Lodge – Tahoe City, CA

Showcasing great views and eats, this lakeside lodge and restaurant provides customers with a tasty assortment of menu options. 

Beet Box Cafe – Haleiwa, HI

Serving fresh vegetarian and vegan cuisine, this cafe offers an all-day breakfast crafted from local and organic ingredients. 

Tastee Tiki – Newport, OR

Located just outside a surf shop, this casual restaurant offers customizable Tastee bowls and other fuel for people riding the waves.



Northern Water Smokehaus – Duluth, MN

Specializing in smoked fish and meats, this eatery offers a sizable menu of gourmet sandwiches made from locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. 

Thi Ni Thai – Oberlin, OH

Immersing patrons in the flavors of North Thailand, this restaurant provides a family-style experience with fresh curries made daily and a menu that changes regularly. 

Paddle Stop – New Haven, MO

Established as a hub for paddlers, boaters, beer lovers, and many more, this brewery offers a variety of craft beers brewed onsite and a menu that’s updated weekly.



Bamboo Sushi Denver Lo-Hi – Denver, CO

Driven by a mission to consider their impact on people, place, and planet, this restaurant offers a variety of fresh, sustainable sushi. 

Jefes Tacos and Tequila – Longmont, CO

Adding a modern twist to authentic Mexican cuisine, this restaurant offers an array of local, organic seafood and meats to pair with over 100 tequilas and mezcals. 

Islander Dining Hall – Corpus Christi, TX

Situated on Texas A&M’s Corpus Christi campus, this food hall offers students meal options that best fit their schedule, budget, and lifestyle. 


Make Waves: Simple Ways to Make a Big Difference

The ocean is a vital resource. From regulating the climate to supporting millions of livelihoods, one thing is certain—the ocean provides many benefits, and supporting its health is imperative. Visit ocean-friendly restaurants, wear reef-safe sunscreens, or participate in coastal clean-ups to get involved. Remember, every action can make a meaningful impact.


Source: https://www.surfrider.org/programs/ocean-friendly-restaurants

Iyon Baker Headshot
Iyon Baker

Iyon is a curious, creative NC native and Chapel Hill alum who is always eager to embark on new adventures that provide more skills. With a background in advertising, public relations, digital marketing, and fine arts, she uses her skills for copywriting and brand storytelling. Her professional journey has led her to diverse projects that taught her to embrace challenges and adapt to any situation. In her leisure time, Iyon enjoys gardening, knitting, and traveling.

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