How a surfer built an eco-friendly restaurant…

Phil Sciortino, Jr. has been surfing most of his life (that’s him in the pic), and during a vacation to Hawaii in 2006 he noticed that the north shore of Oahu has its fair share of “shave ice” places, and thought the concept may work well at the surfing beach in Long Branch, N.J. He recruited his best friend, Lance Redaelli, and they opened a battery-operated, shaved ice push cart on the beach in front of Long Branch Pier in May, 2007. They rolled their cart up and down the beach every day that summer. Their business, SHAKA (“shaka” is the familiar “hang loose” hand gesture Hawaiians give when paddling out on their surf boards), was born.

He realized early on he didn’t want to get out of the water from surfing and see his business’s cups and spoons littering the beach. And if there were litter, he wanted to make sure it was eco-friendly, so he and Lance used only cups, spoons and straws that were made from corn and were biodegradable. “They would sometimes melt away in the hot sun, so we knew it was the right thing to do. Our costs were higher because of that, but we said we cared about the environment and we were proving it! In fact, many of our customers tell us that is exactly why they first visited us, and they came back for the same reason, as well as our great service and food. They care that we care!”

In fact, those customers came back in droves, and when a well-known local restaurateur saw Phil and Lance with their Hawaiian flag flying and their SHAKA banner waving and the line down the street, he suggested they start a restaurant around their eco-friendly, “aloha” theme. They agreed.

SHAKA Big Island Burrito & Hawaiian Shaved Ice opened at Pier Village on the beach in Long Branch in 2009. Here are a few of the creative products Phil and Lance use to live up to their eco-friendly theme:

– Shaka’s interior is mostly Bamboo. Phil says, “Chop down a tree and it takes 50 years to regenerate. Bamboo grows back in 6 months.” Bamboo plywood, paneling, poles, etc. from Cali Bamboo (

– Outdoor dining tables and chairs all made from recycled plastic bottles, from Seaside Casual (

– Web-based staff scheduling & communication – no paper schedules, memos, etc. Schedulefly ( would argue this is the coolest thing on the list, but I’m biased).

– Take Out Boxes – 100% recycled, unbleached paper board lined with PLA Biopolymer. Biodegradable. Bio-Pak (

– Salad Boxes – Unbleached pulp. No trees. Compostable. Be Green Packaging (

– Rice Bowls & Shaved Ice cups – Made from renewable resources. Compostable. International Paper “ECOTAINER” (

– Portion cups for Salsa and sides & cold drink cups for fountain service – Made entirely from plants. No petroleum. 100% compostable. Fabri-Kal “Greenware” (

– Forks, Knives, and Spoons- Biodegradable. WNA Comet “EcoSense” (

And when they can’t find an eco-friendly product to buy, they Phil and Lance come up with their own creative solutions, such as:

– Reclaimed Church pews as bench seats. A local church was getting new pews and throwing the old ones out.

– Recycled Washers and dryers for trash cans and recyclables. These were taking up “loads” of cubic feet in a landfill.

– Recycled stainless table tops. Recycled ash, glass and seashell counter tops. (The ash is a waste product from steel manufacturing.)

– Reclaimed wood from local construction sites for surfboard bar tables.

– Solar powered faucets, water saving toilets, waterless urinals, no paper towels, energy saving lighting.

– No dishwasher. Re-usable trays are wiped down.

When Hurricane Irene made her way up the Atlantic coast this summer, I worried about Phil and SHAKA. Would bamboo hold up to hurricane force winds? But not long after I emailed him to ask if he and SHAKA were o.k., I received this note:

“All is good! No problems…I am surfing Hurricane swell in Nantucket right now!”

Turns out the restaurant was fine, and while Mother Nature may have damaged herself with a destructive storm, Phil and Lance and their eco-friendly restaurant are taking great care of the world around them, and making lots of customers proud to eat at their establishment along the way.


P.S. I’m interviewing Phil on Thursday for our Restaurant Owners Uncorked podcast series. Can’t wait! I’ll post the interview to the blog next week. If you have any questions you want me to ask Phil, send ’em on over to me at wbrawley [at] Schedulefly [dot] com.