Category: Climate Change

Surfrider Platinum Ocean Friendly Restaurant Opens in Newport, Taking Steps to Saving Our Ocean

This week, I am continuing to take a break from my traumatic brain injury series to focus on the environment and what everyday citizens can do to make a difference.  Last week, I had the opportunity to attend an entertaining event put on by the Surfrider Foundation of Newport.  If you aren’t aware of Surfrider Foundation their mission is protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. If you are passionate about our oceans, please join or donate today!

The event was a poetry reading from our new Newport Surfrider Foundation Chair, Scott Rosin, “Tell ‘Em We’re Surfing.”  Before the poetry reading began our local Oregon Field Manager, Bri Goodman talked about the location of our event, Bosque Café. (Bosque is Spanish for forest and Bosque Café is nestled in a forest near Oregon Coast Community College).   I was not aware Newport, Oregon had a restaurant that met the Platinum requirements of the Surfrider Foundation Ocean Friendly Restaurant program and a restaurant that is almost certified as zero-waste!  To be a Platinum Ocean Friendly Restaurant you have to meet the requirements below and Bosque Café goes above and beyond these requirements!

  • No expanded polystyrene use (aka Styrofoam).
  • Proper recycling practices are followed.
  • Only reusable tableware is used for onsite dining, and disposable utensils for takeout food are provided only upon request.
  • No plastic bags offered for takeout or to-go orders.
  • Straws are provided only upon request.
  • No beverages sold in plastic bottles.
  • Discount is offered for customers with reusable cup, mug, bag, etc.
  • Vegetarian/vegan food options are offered on a regular basis
  • All seafood must be a ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ as defined by Seafood Watch or certified as sustainable.
  • Water conservation efforts, such as low-flow faucets and toilets, are implemented.
  • Energy efficiency efforts such as LED lighting and Energy Star appliances, are in place.

After hearing this, I had to meet the owners and understand why take this huge risk in starting a brand-new business and in such a small community, (there are only 10,000 residents in Newport.)  When I met Ed and Hidi Cortes, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Hidi is Vietnamese and grew up in California in Orange County (just like me) and Ed is Mexican with an IT background (also like me).  I felt I had met my long-lost sister and brother.  They have lived in Newport for thirteen years and explained to me it has always been important to them to live a sustainable life, trying to buy local or grow local vegetables, fruits, meats and fish. Reducing their footprint on this earth and ensuring they had as little waste as possible.

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Cortes Family at the new Bosque Café

Let’s spend a little time understanding why zero waste is so important and how cool it is that Ed and Hidi are trying to execute this concept here in Newport.  According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, households and businesses threw away 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. A 2014 study by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance found that 84.3% of unused food in American restaurants ends up being disposed of; 14.3% is recycled, and only 1.4% is donated.  Landfilled food provides ready fuel for methane gas production — the most environmentally destructive greenhouse gas linked to global warming.  In addition to food wastes, there is plastic and inedible items that don’t biodegrade and wash into our ocean and beach shores.  There has been so much discussion on what do we do about the 1.2 trillion tons of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean and most scientist say the best thing is how do we reduce our dependence on plastic and stop throwing plastics away.

This is what Ed and Hidi are trying to do!  At Bosque there will be the right size of consumable portions, so you don’t have left overs you throw away.  There will not be take away drink or food containers that will be thrown away at home.  They ask you consider bringing your own if you are in a hurry and can’t enjoy their relaxing atmosphere.  In the future they will have reusable non-plastic containers for purchase.

Hidi grew up in a family that owned multiple restaurants, eating eclectic foods and combining different ethnic foods to create a new culinary fare.  For example, blending foods and spices from Mexico and Vietnam like creating an Asian version of the tortilla.   It really resonated with me, as I do this all the time and my husband looks at me with a particular look when he sees Soy Sauce going into the Bolognese Sunday Gravy Sauce.

Hidi loves to cook, has always wanted to open her own restaurant and there are zero Vietnamese Restaurants in Newport.  The Cortes family thought this was the perfect time.  In wanting to be sustainable and fresh, Vietnamese was a perfect choice since it is known for its healthy cuisine and it works well to make vegetarian and vegan options out of traditional Vietnamese favorites.  What is really exciting is Hidi wants to push her culinary creativity so each month you will see specials in other global traditions that may have a little Vietnamese influence.  I’m dying to try her take on curry that she has transformed from all the different countries that create curries, she described to me during our interview.

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The yummy menu.

I asked Ed why he chose his location adjacent to Oregon Coast Community College.  A restaurant like this would get a lot more traffic and be more successful in Nye Beach or on the Bay Front.  Ed is an ultra-runner and runs in the woods near Oregon Coast Community College and when he saw the opportunity to launch a restaurant and café in his favorite running area they decided to take the plunge! Also, he wants to help support the students (OCCC students get 10% discount) and bring more options to the growing community in South Beach.  Everyone will be pleasantly surprised on the nice size portions for the price!  They are in process of getting their liquor license so currently you will need to go upstairs to the Wolf Tree Brewery Taproom for those options.

They are excited to open their café and restaurant to organizations for events, like the one we just had with Surfrider.  The space is clean, bright and inviting.  Ed has lots of ideas and plans you will see in the future to bring some exciting local art and technology to the forefront, be sure to keep coming by often!  As I discussed earlier growing their own local vegetables is important to the Cortes Family; therefore, you will see a full hydroponics system in the restaurant in the near future.   They also make their own fresh soy and almond milk.   For those of you in town October 14th at 2pm, is the official Grand Opening, make sure you come by and support an amazing family, restaurant and try the scrumptious Vietnamese food!

Being Good Stewards of Our Ocean

This week I will be taking a break from my blog series on traumatic brain injury to discuss possible climate change effects on our Oregon Coast and the entire West Coast.  I had the opportunity to join my friend, Dr. Lindsay Aylesworth, on a volunteer surveying activity with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Reserves and Oregon State University at Otter Rock Marine Reserve, Oregon.

It was the first time I woke up at 4:55AM in morning in the last four years since my brain injury.  We headed out to the Otter Rock Marine Reserve on a super low negative tide day.  It was amazing, I had never been out that far or in the marine reserve before.

First off, Doctor Sarah Gravem gave an overview of the intertidal area.  Oregon’s intertidal zone hosts 116 species of invertebrates, 71 species of algae, and 3 species of seagrass. She then explained how sea stars are the ‘great white shark’ of the intertidal zone.  They serve as the apex predator helping to maintain a balanced ecosystem.  I couldn’t believe these beautiful calm creatures were veracious eaters.

Sarah then explained the reason we were out surveying was due to a massive virus that almost made the sea stars extinct a couple years ago down the west coast and they are trying to determine how it effects the intertidal zone now.  For example, what happens to the intertidal zone if there are too many mussels because there are fewer sea stars to eat them?

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The team on Otter Rock Marine Reserve surveying intertidal zone.

Not many people realize back in 2013-2014 there was a massive virus epidemic that nearly wiped out the entire sea star population from Baja Mexico to Alaska.  This wasting disease infects the sea star and causes it to develop lesions that dissolve their tissue and spread throughout their bodies.  It often kills the invertebrates within a couple of weeks or even a matter of days. When lesions appear on the sea stars’ rays (the arms of the star fish), a resilient few sea stars may shed the limb before the disease reaches their vital organs and later regrow it, but unfortunately most ended up dying. More often, the sea stars’ extremities become gnarled and deformed as the wasting syndrome takes hold, and the organisms quickly disintegrate into a white mush.

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Example of sea stars with wasting disease.

No one really knows why the wasting disease occurs but some scientists hypothesize climate change had something to do with it.  From studies done in Oregon, it does not appear that the disease was triggered by climate change since it began when waters were colder than normal. However this is only for Oregon, as for Washington, California, Mexico and Alaska waters were warming. Other scientists still believe that climate change triggered the disease in those places. Additionally, after the outbreak climate change definitely played a role in the severity of the disease in Oregon.  As this warming in our oceans continue to occur we are seeing changes in marine life and their ecosystem.

Additionally, we have the huge blob of trash floating out in the Pacific Ocean that may be wreaking some type of havoc on our marine habitat.  Scientists are studying this to better determine what all this trash means to our marine habitat.  We as citizens need to do a better job of ensuring we keep trash, sewage, chemicals and plastic out of our oceans.

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Haley and Greg counting mussels, snails and starfish.

But I digress, now back to the surveying.  Our goal was to count all the new mussels forming, the various snails and starfish that were in the intertidal zone.  We then spent the next four hours counting, photographing and documenting what we could find in one meter and ½ meter quadrants.

For those of you living near Newport or in any Oregon Coast community you can be part of citizen science.  One of ODFW’s collaborators, MARINe, uses citizen science to report where healthy and afflicted sea stars are being found. Anyone can download their datasheets, collect data, and then submit it online . If this sounds interesting, there are a few things to note before heading out to become doctors of the intertidal zone (check out full methods here).

Species identification is necessary so be familiar with the local species of sea stars. Size needs to be recorded so bring a ruler or something of known length as a reference. Review this post to familiarize with the types of sea star wasting symptoms. If you find there are diseased individuals remember to take a picture and send it to seastarwasting@googlegroups.com.

There is some good news though.  Several baby sea stars have survived the wasting disease and are beginning to reproduce.  Our hope is the population will come back.  Oregon Public Broadcasting published a good story discussing the new baby boom.

We can all be better stewards of the intertidal zone.  First, don’t pick up any creatures-feel free to touch but don’t move or remove. Second, follow the guidelines in the image below. Third, join the Newport Surfrider Chapter that does beach clean-ups, water quality checks and projects to save our ocean.  Lastly, if you want to learn more about sea stars I have listed some great resources below that were shared with me by Taylor Ely a Sea Grant Scholar.

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