Written by Katie Bloxham

Cruisers like us see firsthand many of the issues that our oceans face, from pollution which fouls our playground, to overfishing and habitat destruction, which threaten marine life and the source of food for billions of people around the world.  Green boaters promote sustainable boating practices and protection of marine environments through their personal actions, community involvement and advocacy.

Salty Dawg sailors already do many things to support Green Boating.  Some of these are out of respect for the waters we live on and around, and others are just plain common sense.  So here’s a celebration of Salty Dawgs being Green Boaters!

First, however, a few facts:

Plastics:  Plastics never go away.  Instead they break into smaller and smaller pieces.  Recycling is often presented as a solution to our plastics crisis, but it falls short.  Only 9% of all the plastic waste ever created has been recycled. 

Harmful chemicals:  Many boat cleaning products are harmful to aquatic life, water quality and the overall ecosystem.  Manufacturers of chemical products are not required to list ingredients on their containers, so it’s important to take the time to do your research before you purchase a cleaning product.

Grey Water:  Grey water from onboard sinks, showers and bilge pumps allows chemical nutrients to decompose in the water, and promotes rapid algae growth, leading to less available oxygen for aquatic life.

Sea Grass:  Seagrasses store carbon, release oxygen and provide habitats for sea creatures.  A single acre of sea grass may support as many as 40,000 fish and 50 million small invertebrates like crabs, mussels and oysters.  Sea grass ecosystems are being lost at the rate of one soccer field every 20 minutes!  However, sea grass is one of the most resilient plants on the planet and should be able to bounce back rapidly with enough support.


So are you a Green Boater?  See how many of these you do:

  • I use reusable water bottles or jugs instead of buying water in single-use bottles
  • I always ask for my drink without a plastic straw
  • I take my own shopping bags to the grocery store
  • I buy and eat local as much as possible
  • I hold onto my trash until I am somewhere I know it will be disposed of properly
  • I make a point to pick up at least a few pieces of trash whenever I go to the beach
  • I look out for local beach clean-up days and get involved - or start my own
  • I find out what local recycling programs there are, and use them, being sure to follow local rules
  • I keep my bilges clean to avoid oil and other waste overboard
  • I use galley and head-cleaning products that are eco-friendly
  • Much of my cleaning is done with natural products such as vinegar, lemon juice or baking soda
  • I use a strainer in the sink to catch small waste particles and dispose of them in the garbage
  • I buy reef-friendly sunscreens and insect repellants
  • I research hull and deck cleaning products that don’t contain harmful chemicals
  • I send my old sails to be used as boat covers, tarps or turned into bags and other products
  • I avoid anchoring in seagrass
  • I avoid “prop scarring” by pulling up the dinghy outboard in shallow seagrass areas
  • I use oil-absorbent pads to reduct the chance of oil entering the water
  • I run my fridge and freezer efficiently by keeping them full
  • I use wind and solar power when possible to reduce my consumption of diesel and gasoline

If you said YES to 12 or more, then congratulations!  You are well on your way to being a Green Boater!

For lots more ideas, check out the Green Boating program at Sailors for the Sea.