Ginger Taylor started "Wrightsville Beach Keep It Clean" in 2009 as an effort to organize sea turtle volunteers to pick up litter on the beach. Taylor noticed the huge amount of straws she found on just one stretch of beach. “Straws have been a huge concern for me ever since, because we find so many and because it seems like such an easy item to eliminate from the ever growing plastic pollution problem,” says Taylor. With support from the community, the NC Marine Debris Symposium, and non-profits like Plastic Ocean Project, Ocean Friendly Establishments (OFE) grew from an idea to a grassroots organization.
In 2015, the Blockade Runner Resort in Wrightsville Beach was officially recognized as the first certified Ocean Friendly Establishment, and they have been a forerunner in sustainable business practices ever since. Currently, there are over 100 certified OFEs in our Cape Fear Region alone, and there are chapters and OFEs present from the East coast all the way to Oregon and even efforts taking place in Alaska. An international chapter works to bring this conversation and community-led resource to countries around the world. Locally, Cape Fear’s chapter of the OFE is proudly sponsored by Plastic Ocean Project and has partnered with the North Carolina Aquariums, Keep Brunswick County Beautiful, Coastal Water Watch, and Crystal Coast WaterKeeper.
We look forward to seeing how the OFE efforts continue to develop both locally and nationally, and we are thankful for the efforts of our partners, OFE-certified businesses, and all the volunteers who have offered a loving hand in growing and nurturing this campaign. We also continue to be thankful for the positive media support. It takes a team, and this initiative is an example of how local organizations and individuals can work together to make change in their community. As the program grows and changes, Taylor and the OFE team hope the history, along with the heart and soul of the program, will remain intact.
Ocean Friendly Establishments was launched out of concern about the overwhelming amount of plastics polluting the Earth. Researchers have predicted there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by the year 2050. In an effort to reduce plastic pollution around the nation, owners and managers of certified OFEs have agreed to reduce plastic waste in their businesses by only serving straws upon request. As an individual, a small way to make a big impact is to skip the straw when ordering a beverage.
Not only does the OFE campaign include restaurants that make changes to avoid plastic waste and become more sustainable (such as choosing compostable materials and avoiding plastic straws, styrofoam, and plastic bags), but it also advocates for sustainability and ocean friendly practices in non-restaurant establishments (such as providing recycling or composting containers for employees and encouraging electronic documentation). Many of the OFEs incorporate additional methods of protecting our environment and have earned a higher status for their efforts, with a 5-star rating being the top-level certification.