Plastic is a problem before it reaches the beach. Extraction, production, consumption, and disposal all carry serious environmental and humanitarian consequences. Single-use plastic is particularly detrimental as bags, bottles, straws, expanded polystyrene foam, and food wrappers consistently top the list of items our volunteers collect at cleanups. Researchers estimate up to 11 million metric tons of plastic waste is entering the ocean every year and that by 2025, 11 billion metric tons will have accumulated in the environment.* This pollution is impacting our marine ecosystems and wildlife including seabirds, dolphins, fish, turtles, and whales. Plastic fragments are even displacing plankton as the base of the food chain. It’s not just ocean life at stake – plastic contains toxic chemicals that can transfer from containers, cups, cutlery, and straws directly into the food we eat. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of microplastics we’re exposed to on a daily basis through our food, water, and air.* *sources can be found on Beachapedia
While the problem may be complex, the solution is simple – we need to stop plastic at the source! The Surfrider Foundation’s Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants program does just that. We recognize restaurants that are committed to cutting out wasteful single-use plastic and offer a simple, straightforward framework to help them make sustainable choices for our ocean. The result is a community of like-minded restaurants we can promote, support, and lift up as examples of success to influence plastic reduction legislation. The larger we grow our network of Great Lakes Friendly leaders, the more mainstream the concept of plastic-free becomes.
The program began as Ocean Friendly Restaurants in California in 2013. The program quickly expanded becoming a nationally recognized program in 2018. For our chapter, we started Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants to reduce plastic waste for our lakeshores. We're building an inclusive community of eco-conscious restaurants, activists, and patrons. We support a healthy lifestyle for ourselves and our planet in order to find more joy and peace in our everyday lives. We hope you will join us!
Interested in becoming a Great Lakes Friendly Restaurant?
Mandatory Criteria (All 7 Required):
* Foodware includes dinnerware, drinkware, silverware, and ramekins/containers.
** Exceptions 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. Read more here.
Check out our Quick Guide for more tips to meet each of the criteria.
Review our Great Lakes/Ocean Friendly Foodware Guide to learn about greenwashing, product alternatives, and creative ways to implement more reusables.
Optional Criteria (Choose At Least 3):
* Locally sourced, sustainable seafood/meat is preferred.
** Examples include installing low-flow faucets and toilets, offering drinking water upon request only, no hosing down outside to reduce urban runoff, proper disposal of FOG, and up-to-date septic or sewage to prevent wastewater pollution.
*** Examples include switching to LED lighting, installing solar panels, using Energy Star certified appliances and/or other efforts to use less energy.