KALAHEO, KAUAI — Kris Ferguson, owner of the Kalaheo Cafe, said it is a challenge incorporating ocean-friendly practices into her restaurant, but she thinks it’s worth it. In fact, the restaurant hasn’t been using polystyrene take-out containers for nearly a decade.
“We feel like it’s important to do our part and take care of the environment,” Ferguson said. “It’s a work in progress.”
Though the Kauai Surfrider Chapter is officially kicking off its Ocean Friendly Restaurants campaign in celebration of World Ocean Day, the cafe is one of three that has already been certified. Lava Lava Beach Club in Kapaa and Merriman’s Poipu have also jumped on board.
Restaurants that are certified get a sticker in the window, declaring their dedication to green practices.
“Really, you can’t go wrong with this,” said Yuri Cardenas, of Kalaheo, who is heading up the effort. “It’s great publicity, and it’s great for the environment. There isn’t a downside, except maybe that compostable containers cost a bit more.”
The point of the Ocean Friendly Restaurants campaign is to draw positive attention to those eateries on the island that don’t use polystyrene, only provide reusable tableware for onsite dining, and follow proper recycling practices.
Additional optional practices that qualify a restaurant as Ocean Friendly are only providing plastic straws upon request, offering recyclable takeout containers, only providing takeout bags upon request, and nixing any beverages sold in plastic bottles.
“I walk around this beautiful garden island and I see Styrofoam to-go containers in all my favorite restaurants,” Cardenas said. “I want people to be educated on what Styrofoam is — it doesn’t organically break down and go back into the natural cycle. It stays in tiny pieces and ends up in our bloodstreams, in our environment, and in the animals.”
The campaign has its roots in the San Diego Surfrider Chapter, and Cardenas said Kauai’s chapter picked it up, hoping to spread the practice throughout Hawaii.
“If it starts on one island, maybe it’ll continue through the rest,” Cardenas said.
Robert Zelkovsky, media coordinator for Surfrider Kauai, said the organization is also hoping to see a measure in the county council banning single-use polystyrene on the island.
Friday, the Big Island’s county council squashed a measure that would do just that. Big Island bill died in a 4-4 tie that failed to advance the bill to the second and final reading. If passed, it would have prohibited food vendors from using polystyrene food containers effective July 1, 2018.
Cardenas said, instead of being disappointed by the failure of the measure, she’s taking it as a sign of forward movement for the effort to ban polystyrene.
“I’m actually super inspired that it was a tie on the council for Bill 140,” she said.
Zelkovsky said, though the focus is on single-use polystyrene, but he thinks the bigger picture needs to be taken into account, as well. He said there needs to be a global, cultural shift away from plastic.
“Plastic itself is a byproduct of the oil industry that was forced upon us and was accepted into our culture, but it’s highly unsustainable,” he said. “You have a colorful laundry basket now, but when it cracks and breaks apart in a few years, it’ll go into the trash, and to the landfill and it’ll never go away.”
Now that the campaign has officially kicked off, Cardenas said she needs a small army of volunteers to help certify restaurants as Ocean Friendly.
Update in 2019: Surfrider Kauai has now certified a wide variety of restaurants on Kauai! Check out their website for a list of certified Ocean Friendly Restaurants on Kauai.
Written for The Garden Island Newspaper, published June 7, 2016. Photo taken by Jessica Else for The Garden Island Newspaper.