Every establishment has a designated OFE chapter head based on their location. Chapter heads are there to help answer any and all questions you may have about the certification process, what sustainable actions might work best for your establishment, etc. To locate your local chapter head or to even start your own chapter, click here!
If you are an establishment looking to become more ocean-friendly but do not know where to start, this section is for you. Based on interviews with certified OFEs and from our experience, here are the most basic steps that can put you on the right path to becoming OFE certified and upgrading your sustainability practices:
Build a team of staff with like-minded goals
A good way to ensure your establishment will remain true to sustainable practices is making sure your staff has a shared belief in environmental advocacy.
Creating a culture of sustainability within your staff through education and clear protocols will help to ensure that the sustainability measures you put in place remain successful.
A common goal will make the application of ocean-friendly practices more achievable, and hopefully, staff will begin to do these actions (and even mentor new staff) without thought after time within your establishment.
Do not hand out straws unless specifically asked
Straws are one of the most common single-use plastics in our world, and millions end up in our water every year.
A simple action to take in your restaurant is not to hand out straws with a drink unless specifically requested by the customer.
This action will not only rescue straw waste but also reduce the quantity ordered for your restaurant.
Waste less and reuse more
Does your establishment currently use paper plates, plastic cups, plastic utensils, etc.?
Consider making the switch to dining wear that can be washed and reused between guests
This action can reduce the amount of waste in your dumpster and also save money on reordering throw-away products
FUN FACT: Wondering which will cost more over time?
A year’s worth of disposable dinnerware can cost up to three times the amount it would cost to buy the appropriate stock of reusable dinnerware; however, we understand there are other costs related to reusable dinnerware, such as a dishwashing solution. Ultimately, over time, it will be more cost-effective to choose reusable dinnerware, and that change can have the added benefit of positively impacting customer perception of your brand.
Get involved in local environmental campaigns, movements, or organizations
Getting comfortable with your local environmental advocacy groups can expand your connections and help you gain insight into making your business more sustainable.
Collaboration within your community can help you gather ideas from like-minded peers as well as create a positive community image.
It has been seen that businesses publicly connected to local environmental organizations see more foot traffic based on their initiatives to become more sustainable and better the community.
Finding a recycling route that works with your commercial establishment can be difficult, especially when contacting a recycling service can vary based on location and county. The OFE team has tried to make this search a little less of a hassle by providing some resources and guidelines for you:
Establishments in North Carolina To find your recycle rights, updated guidelines, and what is okay to recycle in your area of North Carolina, follow this link.
On the home page, click on the “find your guidelines” button.
This will take you to an interactive map of North Carolina with regions divided based on recycling companies, private or public.
Follow the steps on the page to find your specific location.
Note: Guidelines may differ based on local location.
This website will provide a link to your local government's recycling page (also offered in multiple languages).
When in doubt about your route, call! From information found on your local government's recycling website, representatives should be able to point you in the right direction of who to contact to set up your commercial recycling route partnership.
Your local representative/website will also be able to tell you how and where to properly dispose of hazardous items, clothing, appliances, decomposing material, etc.
Establishments Outside of North Carolina If you're an establishment within a different part of the United States or outside of the country, your best resource tool will be the internet. Here are some steps you can take in locating your appropriate recycling route and the guidelines for your area.
Go into our preferred search engine and search:
** your location ** commercial recycling route
This search should bring up links to local websites and resources.
Make sure to follow the links not associated with ads because they may lead to false information.
Please know that recycling guidelines and rights vary by location, so it is crucial to find rules for your specific area.
You can also search the following:
What am I allowed to recycle in ** your location **
What am I not allowed to recycle in **your location**
Request a recycling container in **your location**
Recycling in a given location can be privatized or run by the local government. However, any local government website relating to waste disposal should have a contact to point you in the right direction of who to contact to set up your recycling partnership.
When in doubt about your route, call!
Your local representative/website should also be able to tell you how and where to properly dispose of waste such as hazardous items, clothing, appliances, decomposing material, etc.
General Recycling Information and Proper Waste Disposal There are lists and lists of what can and can not be recycled or what cannot be sent to the landfill. Items such as hazardous waste, appliances, batteries, decomposition materials, cars, tires, etc., have unique means of disposal. Find your local or state government's waste management website to find out what these guidelines might be.
If you are ever in doubt about where to dispose of a certain item or what is allowed to be recycled and thrown out in your area, call your local representatives in the waste management department! Contacts and helplines should be found on your local or state waste management website.
Have you ever noticed those little numbers on the bottom of plastic materials? Those numbers signify what that plastic is made of and if it is eligible for recycling or not! Some locations can recycle certain numbered plastics, while others can not. To learn more about what the plastic numbers signify, please take a moment to read ‘“Plastics Recycling by the Numbers”.
If a certain item is not accepted by your local recycling facility, it may still be accepted by another location in town. For example, plastic bags are often not accepted at local recycling facilities, but there are other locations, such as grocery stores, that may accept these items. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like support finding a community resource in your area.
Composting and compostable materials
Composting is a natural process where organic material is broken down and can be reused as rich soil in gardens, farms, etc. Composting can be done in someone's backyard or small business, but what many do not know is that composting is just as accessible to large operations!
What Are Compostable Materials? As a restaurant, any dining wear that is not considered reusable, such as to-go packaging or any dishware that does not go in the dishwasher (ex: if you use plastic cups instead of glass cups), can be replaced with compostable products! Private eco-friendly companies produce compostable products ranging from containers to utensils to even deli wrapping. These compostable materials are made from renewable resources, such as plant-based plastics, sugarcane, and bamboo blends, wheat straw, etc. All these natural materials allow the product to be recollected after use, broken down, and repurposed into nutrient-filled soil. Other compostable materials include food scraps, yard trimmings, and other organic compounds like old wine.
When you switch your restaurant to using these compostable products and compost old food scraps, you can significantly reduce your business's environmental impact. However, compostable products can only make a positive impact if disposed of in the right way.
Properly Disposing of Compostable Products Compostable products DO NOT GO IN THE RECYCLING! This is a massive misconception when involving compostable materials. Compostable products are made from materials that the majority of facilities in the United States can not recycle. Compostable materials also do not bode well in the landfill either. This is because the natural process of composting requires oxygen, and most landfills are sealed, oxygen-free spaces.
So what do you do with your composting? As a commercial establishment, compostable materials and products should be collected and taken to the nearest composting facility, whether this location is run privately or publicly. This facility will be able to dispose of your compostable materials properly and transform them into usable soil.
The Difference Between Compostable and Biodegradable Biodegradable products and compostable products are not the same thing, nor are the words interchangeable. Although they both break down over time, they have different results and different compounds. In short, compostable products are a mix of biomass, carbon dioxide, and water that break down in a commercial process to produce nontoxic components. Biodegradable products include plastics and other additives that will break down the plastic over time, but these tiny pieces can take years to disappear completely!
For a more detailed look into compostables vs. biodegradable products and the composition of these items, follow this link.
Other FAQs For additional information about compostable products or unanswered questions about the difference between recycling and composting, please refer to these websites:
Finding Your Compost Partner If you do not know whether your location has a composting facility, these links below can help you get started. Keep in mind that composting services are dependent on location. A composting facility may be public, but pick-up services may be privatized or vice versa.
Find your region and read about the municipal or private services/locations offered for composting in your area.
Notice some offer only drop off services while others have curbside pick up.
ATTENTION: If you are an establishment in the Wilmington or Cape Fear Region, the Ocean Friendly Establishments team closely partners with Wilmington Compost Company. This company provides curbside residential and commercial composting pickup, as well as compostable product quotes through ECO products, as well as free estimates on the best composting practices for your establishment
After being redirected to your region’s page, look through the list for your closest composting location and the services that they offer.
Notice that you can click on the names of each facility or location, and you will be redirected to that business’s website.
Where To Get Compostable Products There are a few national distributors of compostable products, and some of them also operate on an international scale. Distributors can vary upon location, but here are a few eco-friendly distributors to get started.
When ordering compostable products for your restaurant, always call your location's local representative when in doubt. As you are ordering, know what questions to ask your representative, such as:
Are your products compostable?
Are your compostable products or biodegradable products eligible to be taken care of at our local facility?
Do you have a local distributor representing your company who I could order through instead of ordering online?
Final Say About Composting We understand that all this information can be overwhelming, but there are people there to help. Contact your local OFE coordinator if you have any questions, and they can help you in the best way they know-how. There are also other contacts and websites available to help you figure out all of your establishment's composting needs. At the end of the day, there are more than likely other establishments around you who have gone through the same start-up process as yourself. Reach out to your neighbor and see how they got started in composting.
If you are in the Wilmington area and have any questions about composting or compostable products, call Wilmington Compost Company or contact them through their website.
Both associations have contacts and representatives willing to help you through this process!
Going above and beyond
Every step toward sustainability is a step in the direction of helping out not only the environment but your surrounding community! There is no end to how ocean-friendly a business can become, and many of our OFEs strive to find out what is the best that they can be. When you feel like you have checked all the boxes in your establishment, here are steps that could take you above and beyond!
Locally sourcing your ingredients and carrying local products
Support your local economy, farmers, neighbors, and friends
Locally sourced ingredients and products require fewer greenhouse gas emissions to arrive at your door
Sometimes local food is more affordable!
Creating a seasonal menu
Seasonal foods require less energy, including artificial climate mitigation and lighting
Seasonal foods go hand in hand with the benefits of eating local and create fewer greenhouse gas emissions
Using seasonal foods forces you to be creative and expand your palate
Seasonal foods could be a nice change for customers and attract new business each change in season
Promote your sustainable & ocean-friendly actions to the public
Businesses that advertise their sustainability tend to see more foot traffic from customers.
Promoting sustainable actions that help your environment shows your customers that you care about your community
Earn rewards and grants for your ocean-friendly actions and be a leader to other businesses looking to take the same journey
Educate your guests
Please take what you've learned from this page and what you have experienced on your journey and share it with your customers and/or community.
Do your customers know how to dispose of compostable materials properly and why they should not go in the recycling?
Post an infographic in your restaurant that explains it!
Share to social media the benefits of your actions and why you take the steps you do to strive for a cleaner world.
Stay in contact with your local OFE representative
The OFE team loves to promote our certified OFEs!
The more you stay in touch with your representative, the more we can share about what's going on at your establishment!
We would not be here if it were not for our OFEs. Check out our website and look through all of our certified establishments to see how they got to where they are today. Remember that the higher the star rating, the more ocean-friendly actions have been implemented in that business! We are constantly learning new sustainable techniques from our OFEs, and you can too. Contact your local OFE representative if you're interested in learning more about what our five-star OFEs are doing to revolutionize commercial sustainability. Learn by example and then lead by example. Best of luck!