Vicki Conlon has been a tireless advocate for San Diego's coastline. Taking up the reins of the chapter's Ocean Friendly Restaurant (OFR) program, Vicki and her team have been responsible for getting hundreds of restaurants in the San Diego area to move away from single-use plastics and adopt the Ocean Friendly criteria. Her leadership shows that engaging with businesses to solve local waste and litter issues can create a groundswell of momentum and change. Because of the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, the City of San Diego now has the voice and support of the restaurant community in proposing plastic reduction ordinances such as the upcoming polystyrene foam and plastic straw ban. Click here to learn more about the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, sign here if you live in San Diego and want to support the upcoming plastic ordinance to ban straws and foam!
Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?
The ocean and beaches have always been an important part of our family’s recreational, social, and spiritual lifestyle. Over 20 years ago, my husband and I decided to support the Surfrider Foundation because of the importance of its mission and the work of the amazing volunteers that are dedicated to protecting the ocean and beaches that our family cherishes.
Q: What are some local issues that are affecting your ocean, waves and beaches?
As a longtime San Diegan, I recognize that our geographic location, our 34 million annual visitors, and our love for everything coastal make water quality issues a high priority. The San Diego Chapter’s No Border Sewage (NoBS) program is functioning in concert with Mexico to help stop hazardous waste from entering the ocean. Additionally, our Rise Above Plastics committee is working to reduce plastic waste through Surfrider's Ocean Friendly Restaurants program.
Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?
My participation in Surfrider began with beach cleanups, clean water awareness events, and other fundraisers. I became involved with the San Diego Chapter’s Rise Above Plastics initiative, and later took over for Jason Rubin as the new volunteer lead for their Ocean Friendly Restaurants program. I am honored that I was asked to fill this position since Jason was one of the founders of the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program.
Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?
Every Surfrider activity has been important, but my involvement in the rapidly growing Ocean Friendly Restaurants program has been particularly exciting. In October of last year we celebrated our first 100 Ocean Friendly Restaurants in San Diego County. We now have 118 Ocean Friendly Restaurants and are growing by the month. Last November our local OFR program transitioned to Surfrider's new national OFR program, which I see as an important advancement in the fight against plastic waste. The national program will allow the OFR program to be sustainable for years to come, and already has over 250 registered food service establishments.
On February 1st of this year, we launched our Plastic Straws Suck campaign. After only one month, we have more than 25 restaurants that have taken the pledge to switch to paper straws and implement a “straws upon request” policy. Our goal is to get this policy adopted throughout the county, and to eventually have a plastic straw “ban” implemented countywide as well.
Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?
The Surfrider Foundation is an organization dedicated to an important mission that has countless accomplished, intelligent, and supportive people who are passionate about protecting our environment. They get the job done!
Q: Why are you a Surfrider coastal defender (or why is being a Surfrider coastal defender important to you)?
I want to do everything I can to help protect our ocean. It is my way of giving back to the ocean for all the joy it has brought to our family. I want to leave the ocean cleaner than I found it.
Q: Anything else?
My dream is to see the day when I can walk beaches and surf waves around the world without seeing plastic waste.