Why care?

“When the spring came, the snow melted, the whales came north and the geese flew over our lands. We knew there would come a scientist or two to dig around and ask us questions. They would stay about as long as the geese did. The only difference was, we hated to see the geese leave”.  Alaska Native


This quote, originally appeared on NativeScience who deals with the impacts of eco-tourism on native communities, sums up in full concise beauty the problem with people and the traces most of them they inevitably leave. Be that in marine or terrestrial ecosystems or communities they visit. So how to have great sailing trips, get to places we always dreamt of, and leave them with the tranquil feeling that we might be welcome another time?

What is eco-friendly sailing?
Moving with a ship on the sevens seas and any river or lake in such a way that no natural ecosystem is disturbed or physically polluted beyond a certain level. Ecosystems up to a certain limit can recover. Eco-friendly or sustainable sailing means we help to maximise the recovery chances for marine life.

micro_sharkLeaving wildlife alone would be a great start.

Boats with fuel-powered engines instead of solar or wind power leave their traces. So do all possible sound/sonar equipments. As boat crew, we also leave our impact through equipment we (don’t) use, such as greywater tanks or non-biodegradable cleaning products, careless waste disposal, harmful anti-fouling paints during boat maintenance, to name a few. Sailing boats will always, in one way or another, interfere with the marine environment it passes through. And of course that goes for other water sports as well. This site concentrates on sailing.

The most sensible, intelligent way to move – smart preparation is a fine start and starts with conscious choices regarding boat fitments, equipment and handling:

Avoid to produce excessive waste in the first place.

See here (warning: Real sad images) for illustration why that matters even for smallest objects. Then, generally speaking, ask for greener (cleaning, maintenance, daily consumption) products for sailors, making active use of your power as consumer. Consider eco-friendly techniques wherever possible: This can start super-small-scale, ever thought of solar-powered little battery loaders? True is, many eco-friendly products are still expensive in 2013. But (marina) shops will get there. A matter of time. So without ruining a fine sailing trip with religious discussions – why not add a little innocent, casual question for greener products at a time, say, one per marina per trip.  You know – the story with the drop and the wave. As this site develops further you’ll find more sustainable products for sailors listed here.

The sailing industry is growing worldwide. Growing numbers of sailors also means growing numbers of consumers. This well known market mechanism still works fine and probably always will: Consumers choices on the long run will have their impact on what is offered and at which price.

Talking about best practices and orientation about ‘green’ products, there is a wealth of excellent advice offered by UK based The Green Blue. Structured by topics like cleaning, maintenance, resource efficiency, wildlife protection., they also have a free guide listing all sewage pump out stations per UK marina.  Which brings up another smart choice at everyone’s hand: Help them updating such fine useful info by giving your feedback!

Oh and by all means get this fine, free Marina Wildlife Guide published by The Green Blue. Quote from their site: “With top tips for spotting marine life and beautiful illustrations of basking sharks, dolphins, seals and jellyfish, the guide will help every boater to identify the marine mega-fauna of our seas. And more

importantly, it gives useful advice on how to act when encountering wildlife so that you can avoid disturbance and play your part in protecting marine biodiversity now and for future generations.”  Once you stroll through their site, why not grab another free copy of their awesome onboard-guides, the Green Guide to Coastal Boating.

Or for those sailors planning trips to New Zealand: While there help scientists to observe and record ocean wildlife, coast lines and offshore waters. Thus combining sailing fun and protecting the planet in a very special way! See Oceanswatch for details.

About mele

I research and write about the intersection of yachting with the environment aka 'sustainable sailing'. From sourcing planet-friendly yacht construction materials, sailors for ocean science, clean regattas, renewable energies aboard right up to yacht recycling. Academic training in environmental science, sailor, living at the shores of the Dutch IJsselmeer. Want me to write for you, too? Get in touch!