Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants
Stop Pollution At The Source
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 Great Lakes. 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.
Find an Great Lakes Friendly Restaurant Near You
Quickly browse the list for Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants in your neighborhood:
About The Program
Ocean Friendly Restaurants first launched in 2013 with Surfrider's Huntington Beach chapter. The program quickly expanded throughout Southern California and Hawaii, becoming a nationally recognized program in 2018. Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants is a regional rebrand to facilitate participation and realize benefits in plastic pollution source reduction in our Great Lakes region.
We're building an inclusive community of eco-conscious restaurants, activists, and patrons that 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?
The Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants program recognizes restaurants that are committed to making sustainable choices for our ocean so that people can dine with peace of mind.
How To Participate
Mandatory Criteria (All 7 Required):
- Only reusable foodware is used for onsite dining.*
- Paper straws are provided only upon request.**
- No expanded polystyrene use (aka Styrofoam).
- No plastic bags are used for takeout or to-go orders.
- Single-use utensils, straws, condiments, and other accessory items are provided only upon request.
- Beverages are not sold in plastic bottles.
- Proper recycling practices are followed.
* 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 Ocean Friendly Foodware Guide to learn about greenwashing, product alternatives, and creative ways to implement more reusables.
Optional Criteria (Choose At Least 3):
- A discount is offered for customers with a reusable item (e.g. cup, container, bag).
- Vegetarian and vegan food options are offered on a regular basis.
- All seafood is ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ as defined by Seafood Watch, or no seafood is served.*
- Water conservation and pollution mitigation efforts are implemented.**
- Energy efficiency efforts are in place.***
- Concessions and pre-packaged food items are not sold in plastic packaging.
- Composting efforts are in place for food waste.
- Neither single-use plastic nor bio-based plastic containers are used for takeout or to-go orders, reusable containers are preferred.
* Locally sourced, sustainable seafood is preferred and should be prioritized when Seafood Watch recommendations do not apply.
** 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.
- Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants marketing collateral including window stickers, brochures, and bill inserts to promote your membership to customers.
- Use of Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants logos for restaurant menu, website and other restaurant marketing materials.
- Restaurant listed on Surfrider national and chapter websites.
- Restaurant included in Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants national map on Surfrider national and chapter websites.
- Launch parties and collaborative promotions with your nearest Surfrider chapter.
- Access to national vendor discounts on sustainable restaurant and to-go products.
- Tax-deductible donation opportunity.
- Association with a nationally recognized nonprofit with thousands of members and supporters working hard to keep our ocean healthy and protected!