AH Juice Organics Cafe
Deb Monroe and Alfred Pomerleau of AH Juice Organics Café have been recognized for sustainability practices by the Surfrider Foundation Santa Barbara Chapter. (Surfrider Foundation Santa Barbara Chapter photo)

Local businesses are working to reduce plastic pollution and 32 have been recognized by the Surfrider Foundation’s ocean-friendly restaurants program.

The program launched locally through a partnership between the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara and the Surfrider Foundation Santa Barbara Chapter.

“Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats facing our ocean,” said Morgan Visalli, a UCSB marine scientist who serves on the Surfrider Foundation board’s executive committee.

“It’s something that we can all easily have a part in reducing by cutting back on our own single-use plastic and supporting businesses that are doing the same.”

Restaurants meet mandatory criteria set by the Surfrider Foundation, such as reducing single-use plastics, prohibiting expanded polystyrene, recycling, only providing paper straws and utensils when requested, and carrying certified sustainable seafood.

The program is a natural fit for Rincon Brewery, which has locations in Carpinteria and Ventura, said Luisa Hyatt, one of the owners.

“For many of the owners and the employees, the happiest place is the ocean,” she told Noozhawk. “(The program) goes right along with who we are as owners and what we want the brand to stand for.”

AH Juice Organics Café in Santa Barbara is another restaurant recognized through the program for its practices like sourcing organic produce grown on local, sustainable farms.

Rincon Brewery

Rincon Brewery is one of 32 local businesses the Surfrider Foundation recognizes as an ocean-friendly restaurant. (Surfrider Foundation Santa Barbara Chapter photo)

AH Juice does not use plastic bottles or utensils, and produce grinds are composted every day.

“We all have to contribute to be part of the solution and not the problem,” said Alfred Pomerleau, one of the owners of AH Juice.

Rewarding that recognition is what’s behind the program.

“In Santa Barbara, we are lucky we have an amazing natural environment around us, a beautiful coastline and ocean environment,” Visalli said. “A lot of people feel connected to our local coastline and ocean, and do care about protecting it and taking care of it … supporting businesses that also share those values and share our passion for protecting the coast is huge.”

According to the Surfrider Foundation, researchers estimate there are more than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean and the number is growing every day.

Most plastics in coastal waters break up into microplastics, and the pollution affects all levels of marine ecosystems, the foundation says.

The designations come at a time the City of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara County are rethinking recycling programs for plastics. The City of Santa Barbara already has banned plastic straws and expanded polystyrene foam products (which MarBorg Industries can recycle now).

In addition to AH Juice and Rincon Brewery, other listed restaurants are Bettina Pizzeria; Bibi Ji; Bluewater Grill; Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach; Bossie’s Kitchen; Bouchon; Brasil Arts Café; Casa Blanca Restaurant & Cantina; Cava; Embermill; Green Table; Jane; Jane at the Marketplace; Java Del Mar, The Roundhouse and The Set at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort; The Lark; Lilac Patisserie; Mesa Burger in Goleta and Santa Barbara; Mesa Verde; Oppi’z Bistro and Natural Pizza; Ritz-Carlton Bacara Club Lounge; Santa Barbara Craft Ramen; Santa Barbara FisHouse; Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.; Satellite; Shoreline Beach Café; Teddy’s by the Sea; and Yellow Belly.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.