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The OFR Designation Makes it Easier to Support Ocean-Friendly Restaurants in San Diego County

Imagine a San Diego where every restaurant, cafe, and fast food joint was working towards reducing their impacts on the ocean.


The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world's ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.

Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 500,000 supporters, activists and members, with more than 80 volunteer-led chapters and 70 clubs in the U.S., and more than 500 victories protecting our coasts.

Surfrider fights for clean water, beach access, coastal preservation, ocean protection and to reduce plastic pollution.

San Diego County boasts the largest and most active of Surfrider's 80+ chapters, and is responsible for protecting San Diego's 72 miles of coastline.

According to data collected from our volunteers, 80% of the trash collected at Surfrider beach cleanups consists of single-use plastic, much of it originating from restaurants. We collect over 20,000 pieces of styrofoam each year, the majority originating from takeout containers.

In 2015, the San Diego Chapter activists launched the Ocean Friendly Restaurant program to encourage local restaurants to stop plastic pollution at its source.

Dining establishments that institute self-regulated ocean-friendly policies that reduce disposable plastic waste and minimize their impact on San Diego’s ocean, beaches and landfills, are easier to find and patronize since the program started designating them as Ocean Friendly Restaurants (OFR).  

Participating restaurants must institute specific mandatory practices such as no EPS (a.k.a. Styrofoam) use, providing onsite reusable tableware, implementing proper recycling practices, not utilizing plastic bags for take out and offering straws only upon request.  

Restaurants must also adhere to two additional criteria, including: No beverages sold in plastic bottles; offering discounts for customers who bring in reusable items like cups, mugs, or bags; offering vegetarian or vegan food options on a regular basis; serving only ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ seafood as defined by Seafood Watch or certified as sustainable; and making water conservation efforts, such as low-flow faucets and toilets and energy efficient efforts like LED lighting and Energy Star appliances.

If a restaurant meets all 11 criteria, they are registered as a Platinum Level OFR.

Currently, there are about 450 OFRs nationwide.

Surfrider supports and recognizes restaurants that take it upon themselves to be ocean friendly by promoting OFRs to more than 45,000 San Diego County consumers and over a million Surfrider supporters, through various media, monthly OFR newsletters, OFR Mobile App, emails, community events and beach cleanups.

Ocean Friendly Restaurants also receive guidance for improving their environmentally friendly practices, as well as products such as Ocean Friendly window stickers, table-toppers, diner brochures, bill stuffers,  posters, alternative product information and vendor discounts.

How Can You Help?

Bringing your own reusable items to restaurants is the single best way to support ocean health.

Bring your own reusable cup or mug for to-go coffee and ask for a reusable mug when dining-in.

Bring a reusable water bottle to avoid purchasing plastic bottles of water.

If you think you may have leftovers, bring your own reusable food storage container.

Take the “Plastic Straws Suck” pledge.”

And always bring your own bag when picking up takeout food.

Show your support by frequenting registered OFRs and let them know that you appreciate their commitment to the environment. Just look for the OFR logo.

If your favorite restaurants are not already OFR registered, be sure to tell them about the OFR program and direct them to the San Diego Chapter Surfrider OFR website for more information.

Find a full list of local OFRs in San Diego at

Blind Lady Ale House is an OFR. Photo: Felicia Campbell
Vicki Conlon
Vicki Conlon has been a Surfrider Foundation member and volunteer for over 20 years. In 2016, Vicki became the lead for Surfrider's Ocean Friendly...
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