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Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants

Stop Plastic Pollution At The Source

Plastic is a problem before it reaches the beach. Extraction, production, consumption, and disposal all carry series 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.

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 lakes and waterways. The larger we grow our network of Ocean Friendly leaders, the more mainstream the concept of plastic-free becomes.

friends dining at a sustainable restaurant

About The Program

The Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants program is a regional spin off Surfrider's Ocean Friendly Restaurants program. We're building a community of like-minded restaurants we can promote, support, and lift up as examples of success to influence plastic reduction legislation. Interested in becoming a member of Surfrider's Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants? Sign up below! It is completely free to join!

To learn more about the national Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, including plastic pollution facts and restaurant registration benefits, click here.

How To Participate

Mandatory Criteria (All 7 Required):

  1. Only reusable foodware is used for onsite dining.*
  2. Paper straws are provided only upon request.** 
  3. No expanded polystyrene use (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.

* 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.

Optional Criteria (Choose At Least 3):

  1. A discount is offered for customers with a reusable item (e.g. cup, container, bag).
  2. Vegetarian and vegan food options are offered on a regular basis.
  3. All seafood is ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ as defined by Seafood Watch, or no seafood is served.*
  4. Water conservation and pollution mitigation efforts are implemented.**
  5. Energy efficiency efforts are in place.***
  6. Concessions and pre-packaged food items are not sold in plastic packaging.
  7. Composting efforts are in place for food waste.
  8. 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.

Restaurant Benefits

  • 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 Ocean / 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!


Restaurants who meet all of the criteria are recognized as a Platinum Level Great Lakes Friendly Restaurant.