Imagine a coastal town where every meal, every event, and every business is a step toward sustainability. Ocean City, MD, is on a transformative journey to become just that—a beacon of environmental stewardship and the first zero-waste resort town in the U.S. This isn't just a vision; it's a community-wide movement, one plate, one event, and one aluminum can at a time. Are you ready to join us on this green journey? Dive in and discover how you can be a part of Ocean City's sustainable revolution, making a difference with every choice you make.

Ocean City's Time-Honored Tradition of Zero-Waste Cooking

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The Hobbit Restaurant Photo courtesy of The Hobbit Restaurant
The Hobbit Restaurant: Pioneering Composting in Ocean City, MD – Leading the Way to a Greener Future, One Plate at a Time

At the heart of Ocean City's vibrant dining scene, the art of minimizing waste through culinary creativity isn't a new trend—it's a long-standing tradition. For generations, local chefs have skillfully repurposed what might otherwise be seen as "leftovers," turning them into culinary delights. The practice of transforming day-old bread into sumptuous bread pudding or simmering vegetable trimmings into hearty broths is deeply ingrained in the ethos of these kitchens. This enduring commitment to using every part of the food not only speaks to a deep-seated respect for resources but also highlights the restaurants' role as pioneers in sustainable dining, long before it became a global movement.

Go Green OC: Spearheading the Zero-Waste Revolution

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Compost pile from Go Green OC Photo courtesy of Go Green OC
A Testament to Teamwork: Worcester County's Largest Compost Pile, Born from a Special Partnership Between Go Green OC and Local Restaurants.

Driving Ocean City's march towards a sustainable future is Go Green OC, a trailblazing organization that's rallying a diverse array of local businesses to embrace zero-waste practices. "Our community's enthusiastic response has turned a small initiative into a powerful movement," says Executive Director Josh Chamberlain of Go Green OC. From its modest beginnings with The Hobbit's composting efforts, Go Green OC's influence has expanded rapidly. In seven years, the initiative has grown from composting nearly 2,000 pounds of food waste at a single restaurant to a community-wide effort that diverted an impressive 353,000 pounds of waste in 2023 with the help of over 24 dedicated volunteers. "I remember when we had zero volunteers - the growth has been off the charts. Volunteers consistently state one reason for returning year after year and that's progress", Chamberlain said.

Ocean City's vibrant sustainability scene is supported by a dynamic blend of businesses, each infusing their unique character into their eco-friendly practices. Esteemed establishments like Seacrets - Jamaica USA and both locations of Higgins Crab House, alongside local favorites like Shotti’s Point, are at the forefront of this movement. The homey vibes of Mothers Cantina and Dough Roller, along with the delightful offerings of Longboard Cafe, embody the spirit of conscious dining. The initiative is further enriched by the participation of Blue Fish, Coin’s Pub, Mione’s Pizza, Innerbloom, Happy Jack Pancake House, Bonfire, Real Raw Organics, Tequila Mockingbird, Bourbon Street, Fish Tales, and Taphouse Tavern all committed to reducing waste and promoting sustainability. 

The Roland E. Powell Convention Center, a steadfast ally in environmental stewardship, has taken its commitment a step further this year by integrating composting into its operations and decisively phasing out plastic disposables. In a groundbreaking collaboration with Go Green OC, the convention center is spearheading the development of a certified zero waste event checklist, empowering event planners with the tools to orchestrate sustainable gatherings in Ocean City. This initiative defines a Zero Waste Event as one that produces 10% or less landfill waste, aiming for 90% or more of event-generated waste to be either recycled or composted.

To achieve certification, events must adhere to comprehensive criteria, from pre-event planning that includes a zero waste mission and environmentally preferred purchasing, to post-event practices like reusing materials and sharing zero waste outcomes. This ambitious program encourages the use of mobile tickets, reusable dining ware, and clear waste sorting stations, among other sustainable practices, ensuring that the Roland E. Powell Convention Center not only serves as a venue but also as a beacon of environmental responsibility in Ocean City.

Supporting these establishments means more than just enjoying a meal; it's a commitment to Ocean City's collective vision for a sustainable, zero-waste future. Through this collaborative effort, Ocean City is not just transforming its approach to waste but also setting a precedent for environmental stewardship and community engagement.

Composting Tips for Restaurants

A Community United for a Greener Tomorrow: How You Can Join

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Beach Heroes-OC Photo courtesy of Beach Heroes-OC
Beach Heroes-OC: Dedicated Volunteers Gathering Every Tuesday to Preserve the Pristine Beauty of Ocean City's Shores.

Ocean City's journey towards sustainability isn't just a mission for businesses and local government; it's a community-wide call to action, extending an invitation to every resident and visitor to play an active role in shaping a greener tomorrow. We need to think Sustainability not Disposability. The town's efforts to nurture green spaces and promote pollinator gardens are just the beginning. By engaging in local beautification projects, individuals can contribute to the environmental and aesthetic enrichment of our shared spaces.

The OC Beach Heroes' weekly cleanups present a perfect opportunity for everyone to get involved hands-on, protecting the coastal beauty that defines Ocean City. Participation not only helps keep our beaches clean but also fosters a deeper connection with our natural surroundings and community.

Local businesses like Sunrise Diner are leading by example, demonstrating innovative ways to reduce waste, such as their Bumble Soap made from upcycled kitchen lard. These initiatives open up avenues for residents and visitors to support sustainable practices, whether by choosing eco-friendly products or dining at establishments committed to reducing their environmental footprint.

Bumble Soap by Sunrise Diner

Looking Ahead: A Milestone in Sight

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Go Green OC Composting at local events Photos courtesy of Go Green OC
Go Green OC in Action: Championing Composting and Recycling at Ocean City Events, Making Every Gathering Greener.

As the summer of 2024 approaches, Go Green OC is poised for its most dynamic season to date, welcoming significant partners like the Hilton Garden Inn and the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. This collaboration marks a significant stride towards a landmark achievement—diverting 1 million pounds of food waste since the initiative began. This year, Go Green OC will also play a crucial role in the Oceans Calling Festival and the Country Calling Festival, amplifying its impact on sustainability. "We are showcasing to visitors from across the country our efforts and we are receiving a huge applause. People came up to me from Chicago and said they've never seen an event take such sustainable efforts before", said Chamberlain.

In an exciting development, Go Green OC shared Ocean City's success story on a global stage at a Worldwide Zero Waste event, showcasing the city's commitment to sustainability. Further bolstering this mission, Go Green OC has partnered with World Centric, thanks to a generous $5,000 sustainable grant, to kickstart the ambitious goal of phasing out plastics across Ocean City in favor of World Centric's compostable products. "We are putting distribution options in place not just for restaurants, but for events as well", said Chamberlain. This collaboration not only accelerates Ocean City's journey towards zero waste but also sets a precedent for sustainable practices in communities worldwide. Surrounding municipalities have taken notice and are beginning to shadow Go Green OC's compost program.

Be a Part of Ocean City's Green Transformation

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Go Green OC Photo courtesy of Go Green OC
Go Green OC Leads the Charge: Empowering Ocean City to Embrace a More Earth-Friendly Future Through Composting Initiatives

Ocean City's shift towards a greener future is a journey we all share, and every small step we take together makes a big difference. You can make a meaningful impact by choosing to patronize businesses committed to eco-friendly practices and by getting involved in local efforts like beach cleanups. It's about more than just safeguarding our cherished town; it's about leading by example for other resort communities.

Engaging in Ocean City's sustainability efforts is simple and rewarding. Whether it's joining a beach cleanup, supporting eco-conscious local businesses, or initiating a sustainability project at home, every effort counts. Your actions contribute to a collective mission to model sustainability for Ocean City and beyond. Let's work together to preserve the natural beauty and health of our community for future generations. Step forward and join us in this vital mission, embodying the change you want to see in Ocean City.

Ocean City's story is a testament to what's possible when a community comes together for the greater good. It's a story of innovation, collaboration, and unwavering commitment to the planet. So, next time you're in Ocean City, dine with purpose, celebrate sustainability, and be part of this incredible journey to a zero-waste future. "After all, we are borrowing this planet from our children. It's time to make the world a better place", said Chamberlain.