Many businesses are currently facing significant challenges and hardships due to the pandemic. For restaurants, more takeout and delivery options keep operations going but may result in more single-use plastic finding its way from consumers to the ocean with long-term negative impacts on animals and the environment. Ocean Friendly Establishments is working to reestablish a community commitment to reduce single-use plastics in business operations through a new grant program.

“With the advent of Covid-19 and the increased quantities of single use plastics for takeout, now, more than ever, our Ocean Friendly Establishments (OFE) need help in purchasing more sustainable packaging, “ said Bonnie Monteleone, executive director, Plastic Ocean Project.

The Ocean Friendly Establishments (OFEs) Give Back program will award seven mini-grants of $1,000 to North Carolina businesses to implement or revive one ocean-friendly practice in their operations in 2021. These changes could be as simple as providing paper or non-plastic straws, eliminate beverages sold in plastic bottles, choosing non-plastic packaging for to-go containers and much more.

“Since the pandemic, these businesses, and others, have struggled, and have had to make fast-paced changes just to keep their doors open,” said Ginger Taylor, chair, Ocean Friendly Establishments. “This grant opportunity not only helps OFEs in their recovery, it also helps the people of the community, and of course the environment.”

Funding for the Give Back was provided in part with the assistance of community partner, North Carolina Aquariums through a $5,000 grant awarded by the Aquariums’ Sustainability Team from private funds and donations to the North Carolina Aquarium Society. Additional funds were provided through the Plastic Ocean Project.

“The North Carolina Aquariums are proud to be a part of a community that values the health of our ocean,” said Andy Gould, education curator, N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. “It is our hope the OFE Give Back grants will kick-start our communities return to reducing single use plastics, energy use and overall waste.”

Businesses interested in applying for one of the seven OFEs Give Back grants may do so through Oct. 31. For more information and to apply visit: https://www.plasticoceanproject.org/ocean-friendly-establishments.html