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Ocean Friendly Restaurants
Ashley Mazanec | Sustainability Advisory Board

Ashley Mazanec (right) author of this piece (herself a Millennial) stops at Beeside Balcony to spread the word about Ocean Friendly Restaurants with server Katie Varga (left).
Photo Adam Kaye.
Click to enlarge.

There’s a special kind of Millennial that googles sustainable palm oil at the grocery store while making important life or death decisions about dinner. She listens to more podcasts while catching a Lyft than your average Alberto and inserts the word “conscious” before words like consumerism for the empowerment of curious eavesdroppers. This special brand of Millennial is here in North County — maybe even living in your basement after moving back home a third time, trying out a vegetarian lifestyle.

Until now, they (please appreciate my gender-neutral pronoun) have not been particularly excited about eating in Del Mar proper. There once was nowhere that met their super-eco, local, zero waste, regenerative, grass-fed needs. That is, until the latest plastic straw ban was relished by Surfrider Foundation, policy writers, and social-media lifestylers alike. Now Del Mar, which recently followed in the footsteps of other San Diego municipalities like Encinitas, is suddenly swimming in the ethical dining waters.

New ordinances that ban polystyrene and plastic straws and stirrers at full-service restaurants go into effect June 3 and October 4, 2019, in the hopes of slowing plastic pollution. Customers that request a straw may have other options ranging from edible pasta straws to “compostable” or “biodegradable” varieties, depending on the restaurant. The ordinances represent a wave of West Coast foodie trendsetters like Portland and San Francisco toward eco-friendly dining -- now hubs for not only the beyond-organic movement, but for zero waste and composting.

More research is still needed to investigate the breakdown of some alternatives like bioplastics, which many argue cause confusion when they are placed in recycling. Given the hullabaloo over China’s rejection of US plastics, ocean lovers are especially eager to support restaurants and companies making steps to curb modernity’s addiction to plastic.

According to Surfrider, “Researchers estimate there are now over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean with the number continuing to grow every day. This pollution is impacting our marine ecosystems, wildlife such as seabirds, dolphins, fish, and turtles, and plastic fragments are even displacing plankton at the base of the food chain.” Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants (OFR) program requires that a minimum of seven requirements are met in exchange for visibility and resources for certified restaurants.

Restaurants participating must follow the first five criteria:

• No expanded polystyrene use (aka Styrofoam); • Proper recycling practices are followed; • Only reusable tableware is used for onsite dining, and disposable utensils for takeout food are provided only upon request; • No plastic bags offered for takeout or to-go orders; • Straws are provided only upon request.

And choose a minimum of two of these criteria:

• No beverages sold in plastic bottles ; • Discount is offered for customers with reusable cup, mug, bag, etc.; • Vegetarian/vegan food options are offered on a regular basis; • All seafood must be a ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ as defined by Seafood Watch or certified as sustainable; • Water conservation efforts, such as low-flow faucets and toilets, are implemented; • Energy efficiency efforts such as LED lighting and Energy Star appliances, are in place

But there is more for our food-fussy Millennial friends to rejoice in. Surfrider is adding resources for its OFRs to purchase fish and other seafood items sustainably, as the news spreads about the overwhelming impact agricultural choices have on humans’ quality of life, biodiversity, climate, and future generations. Now Surfrider’s OFR locator joins the likes of apps like Seafood Watch, Better World Shopper, and The Good Guide that have long helped consumers minimize their social and environmental footprint. And now OFR map has Del Mar’s Sbicca and L’Auberge attracting a line of Millennial foodies to the area. Now all we need are recyclable and biodegradable surfboards for the next uber-green tsunami. Oh wait, Firewire is working on that.


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