Debbie Visalli, co-owner of Bandanas Mexican Grille, along with her daughters, Sarah and Morgan, have a personal connection to the Jersey shore and its ocean and beaches. The ocean has served to fuel the economy in the small resort town of Wildwood, the home of Bandanas, and has been a source of recreation and fitness for the entire Visalli family.
A dedicated environmentalist, Visalli wants the ocean to remain a source of enjoyment for the locals and tourists. To help promote an eco-friendlier culture for her restaurant and customers, she chose a proactive approach to impact the environment both in her personal and professional life.
As a restaurant owner, Visalli knew she had the ability to impact change starting with her own restaurant. Her daughters introduced her to the Surfrider Foundation. Surfrider is a community of passionate individuals dedicated to protecting the ocean, waves and beaches. Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants program is designed to increase awareness and drive change in behavior to reduce our plastic footprint one restaurant, one customer at a time (Surfrider Foundation website).
To achieve the Ocean Friendly Restaurant designation, a restaurant must meet four criteria: no Styrofoam use; no use of plastic bags for take-out orders; follow proper recycling practices; use only reusable tableware for onsite dining and provide utensils for to-go food only upon request.
Additionally, a minimum of three of these criteria must be met: provide plastic straws only upon request; no beverages sold in plastic bottles; discounts offered for customers with reusable cups, mugs or bags; vegetarian/vegan food options offered on a regular basis; demonstrate water conversation and energy efficiency efforts.
Bandana’s is one of only three restaurants in South Jersey to receive the Ocean Friendly Restaurant certification. Beginning in 2016, Bandanas, a long-time customer of South Jersey Paper Products, began the certification process and looked to South Jersey Paper to recommend alternatives to single-use plastic products.
South Jersey Paper offered Visalli product solutions to help attain the Ocean Friendly certification. South Jersey Paper’s Kraft take-out boxes and Bio-Plus Earth take-out boxes (made from 100% recycled paperboard) allowed for the transition from Styrofoam to paper containers. To eliminate Bandanas’ use of plastic bags for take-out, South Jersey Paper recommended its line of Tuffy paper bags (available in Kraft and white and made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper). Visalli is also helping to reverse the trend of providing straws with every drink. She has transitioned from plastic to paper straws and only provides them upon request. Visalli credits South Jersey Paper Products in her efforts to reduce plastic waste in her restaurant.
“SJP has been great to us to find alternatives (to plastic products), “Visalli said.
Visalli hopes to raise the consciousness of the dangerous impact plastic pollution poses to the environment and share her knowledge and insight with fellow restaurant and business owners. Bandanas is a member of the South Jersey Chapter of Surfrider.
For more information about Bandanas Mexican Grille, visit: www.bandanasmexicangrille.com.
To learn more about the Surfrider Foundation, visit: www.surfrider.org.