By Christina Mohrman

Whether you are grabbing a quick cup of coffee in the morning, eating a shrimp po’boy for lunch in a local restaurant, or picking up barbeque for dinner on the way home, the Mississippi coast has plenty of delicious opportunities for dining out. Single-use plastic items like cups, straws, take-out containers, and bags are often used in serving your meal.

Unfortunately, these single-use plastic products often end up in our waterways and make up half of all the trash in our oceans. These items also eventually break down into tiny pieces called microplastics. Fish and other animals can starve when they eat these microplastics instead of their typical food.

The good news is, you can easily do your part to make a difference for a cleaner Gulf Coast by reducing the amount of plastic you use when dining out. These small steps make a big difference when it comes to reducing the amount of plastic trash that ends up in the Gulf, protecting the habitats and animals we care about.

Here are a few ideas to reduce your plastic use:

  • Bring your own coffee cup or look for a place that has fully biodegradable ones. While it may seem like cups for hot coffee are just paper, they are usually coated in plastic, which makes them hard to recycle.
  • Let your server know you don’t need a single-use plastic straw during your meal. You can skip a straw altogether or pick a reusable option that you can bring with you and use again.
  • Mention that you don’t need plastic utensils when ordering your take out and bring your own reusable bag.

You can also support local restaurants working to go plastic-free. The Plastic Free Gulf Coast program helps restaurants stop using single-use plastics and supports their switch to more eco-friendly and sustainable products. With initial funding from the Gulf of Mexico Alliance’s Gulf Star Program and continued support from other grants, Plastic Free Gulf Coast has grown to include restaurants in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. You can find a map of participating restaurants here:

Check out these Mississippi Coast restaurants currently participating in Plastic Free Gulf Coast:

  • Savage Skillet, Bay St. Louis
  • Mockingbird Café, Bay St. Louis
  • Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar and Restaurant, Biloxi
  • The Greenhouse, Biloxi
  • Makin’ Groceries, Biloxi