Boating and the environment go hand-in-hand; so as you explore the waterways of the world, it’s important to think about how your actions can have a negative impact on them. If you’ve spent any time at all at sea, you’ll have seen some of the devastating effects of human negligence for yourself, from plastic bags floating past to oil spills that turn once-blue waters murky. Here are our top ways to make sure your next boat trip is as environmentally friendly as possible!
- Choose eco-friendly cleaning products. Every product you use can end up in the water, from onboard sinks, showers, dishwashers and washing machines. This waste is known as ‘greywater’ and is often considered sewage due to the amount of pollutants and harmful chemicals in it. Try to use environmentally friendly products that contain less toxins and make the most of on-shore marina facilities to do domestic tasks.
- Reduce, reuse and recycle. Wherever possible, these three golden rules are just as important on the water as when on land. Never throw waste overboard - 20% of marine debris come from water-based vessels and the impacts on fish, seabirds and marine mammals are fatal due to ingestion, entanglement and suffocation. An aluminium drinks can can take up to 500 years to degrade, while plastic bags never disintegrate.
Cut down on unnecessary packaging or dispose of any wrapping whilst still on land. Use re-usable containers and refillable water bottles to avoid piling up rubbish on-board your boat and dispose of it properly once back on shore. Careful planning of meals can help make sure you only take what you need and cut down on waste.
- Think before you flush! Ideally, use toilets on land. But should nature call whilst you’re at sea, make sure that sewage is disposed of carefully. The best option is to use a toilet with a marine sanitation device installed, which is attached to the holding tank. Small vessels usually have a Type III edition that is emptied at a pump-out facility, while larger offshore boats frequently have a Type I that can pump treated sewage overboard. If you have to discharge sewage into the water, make sure you’re at least three miles from shore, as it can have a negative impact on marine life.
- Avoid oil and petrol spills. In the North American ocean, 85% of the 29 million gallons of petrol in the water is from human activities and negligence. Always refuel at the dock and not in the water and avoid overfilling the tank so as not to cause leakage. Use absorbent pads to soak up any oil around your bilage and keep the engine well-maintained to stop leaks from happening. If you see a spillage - identifiable by a sheen on the water - report it immediately to the local coastguard who will be able to deal with it safely and effectively.
- Keep up with boat maintenance. Prevention is key to making sure your boat is running at the optimum performance, which in turn will help improve fuel efficiency. Check for any damage and repair it before your trip, from the electrical systems to the propeller, as they all have an impact on fuel economy.
For cleaning the exterior of your vessel, a hard brush and water-jet should be sufficient, rather than chemical cleaners. It’s also important to check that your antifouling paint relies on a natural substance and not copper oxide, as this causes substantial pollution to the environment.
It can be difficult to remember when different elements of your boat need maintenance: a digital organiser such as MyBoat can give you helpful reminders on essential boating checks.