Bamboo Sushi is the world's first certified sustainable sushi restaurant. Sourcing the highest quality and the most sustainable ingredients available, this Ocean Friendly Restaurant is loved by patrons for their unique flavors, colorful dishes, and dedication to making more sustainable choices for the ocean. The Surfrider Foundation Portland Chapter connected with Bamboo Sushi’s Vice President of Culinary, Elijah Lehrer to learn about the restaurant and what it takes to be Ocean Friendly. Here’s what they learned:
Photo credit: Meg Nanna
1. Tell us about Bamboo Sushi.
Bamboo Sushi is based in Portland, OR where we currently operate 6 out of our 10 locations, with the remaining being in Seattle, Denver, and the Bay Area. Our flavor-forward fare elevates clean flavors, bright colors, and refined simplicity. Hospitality and sustainability are ongoing conversations that connect our guests, purveyors, and our teams to create extraordinary dining experiences. We believe that small, good decisions made in service to people, place, and planet add up to large, great outcomes for us all.
From transparency in our sourcing practices, to supporting our employees and enriching the communities we live in, our mission is to be a restaurant of purpose. In 2008, Bamboo Sushi became the world’s first certified sustainable sushi restaurant. Today, we proudly contribute 1% of our restaurants’ annual sales to environmental nonprofits who are leading the way in preserving and restoring critical fisheries, watersheds, and ecosystems.
2. Why did you join the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program?
Given our purpose and values are so aligned, we have worked with the Surfrider Foundation on many projects over the years. We are always looking for ways to partner with organizations that offer insight and exposure to best practices around our environmental impact. After joining the OFR program, we made the switch to reducing single use plastics by only offering them upon request, resulting in a measurable decrease in our usage. These decisions are as much about the planet as they are about what we consider best practices for our businesses, and the communities we serve. Our customers have come to expect that we put people and planet first, and we use this as our north star when making any decision for our business.
Photo credit: Meg Nanna
3. What sustainability efforts do you have in place?
We partner with MSC, ASC and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood watch ratings to help us navigate what products best fit our customers and our model of sustainability. We strive to be better than just following the lead of others, we are constantly searching for fishers and communities such as (Bristol Bay in Alaska) whose entire existence is rooted in the necessity of sustainability of their resources. Sustainability is a moving target that requires our team of experts to continually search the globe searching for seafood and products we can stand behind.
4. Have you seen any cost savings associated with reducing single-use plastic? Are customers excited and receptive to your mission?
We have seen a 50% decrease in single use plastics since we made the switch to “upon request only”. Our customers have come to expect that we make decisions based on environmental impact.
Photo credit: Meg Nanna
5. Do you have any advice for restaurants looking to make more sustainable choices?
Do your research and partner with as many like-minded organizations as possible. The information and knowledge around sustainability and environmental impact is coming at us from a million different directions and can be really difficult to disseminate on your own. Lean in on the experts as there are great humans out there who have dedicated their entire lives to these issues. While there are always challenges when making large changes to a business of our size, every challenge is worth its weight in gold if it helps us grow in the right direction.
6. What does the ocean mean to you?
Personally I have always had a deep connection with the ocean, growing up surfing in a coastal town in San Diego and fishing Mexico regularly. I wholeheartedly connect with the fact that humans have used the oceans as a place of play, sustenance, work, and a source of relaxation since the beginning of time. And so it really resonates with me that the ocean is a home and way of life for so many people that I know and support as our fishers and partners livelihood relies on its overall wellbeing.
7. Anything else you want to share?
We encourage everyone to research new and exciting ways to participate in grassroot level ways to support the environment, sustainability and the communities they live in! As a sushi business, the health of our oceans means everything to us. It is critical that we do every single thing possible to ensure its safety and wellbeing for generations to come.