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Published on May 8th, 2015 | by Scott Cooney

A Responsible Boater’s Guide to Being Green

green boating & yachtingMost of us have seen the images of the scarred manatees and the oil-covered sea birds, but in truth, regular boating as a hobby usually does more damage to an entire ecosystem than it does to individual wildlife. Everything from boats’ carbon emissions to chemical cleaners can irreparably harm the surrounding environment, killing precious flora and fauna and endangering the Earth as a whole.

However, most boaters are reluctant to abandon boating altogether, considering the exciting challenge and soothing tranquility of the hobby. Fortunately, there are a handful of ways responsible boaters can diminish their ecological impact while continuing to enjoy this fun, rewarding activity.

Paying Attention to the Engine

Novice or unenlightened boaters may believe that as long as an engine is powerful enough to move a certain vessel, it is appropriate for use. However, when an engine is too small for its craft, it may not be easy to see, hear, and feel, but it will underperform in a variety of minor (and disastrous) ways.

The fact is that many engines may perform “well enough” while they are in fact overconsuming fuel and leaking hazardous materials into the water. Boaters who lack the experience to detect the competency of their engines should seek the advice of a trustworthy boat mechanic.

Of course, the speed and power boaters desire in their engines depends entirely on the type of boating they hope to enjoy, and obtaining an engine with the right horsepower capabilities is key. The best option for any boat is a variable-pitch propeller, with which boaters can adjust the pitch of their props’ blades for full efficiency at any speed.

Cleaning Without Environmental Impact

Most people should know that not all cleaning agents are appropriate for all situations; for example, bleach is inappropriate around the kitchen because it can poison foods and hurt people. Similarly, boaters should avoid coating the exterior of their vessels with certain chemical cleaners because of the harm they can do to delicate underwater environments.

For ultimate friendliness to the environment, boaters can brew and bottle their own cleaning agents from household ingredients. Here are a few simple recipes essential to clean boats:

  • Hard water stain remover. Mix 1 tablespoon baking soda with 1 tablespoon toothpaste.
  • Heavy-duty hull cleaner. Mix 1.5 cups baking soda with a gallon of warm water.
  • Chrome cleaner. Rub apple cider vinegar on chrome fixtures and wipe off with dry cloth.
  • Brass cleaner. Mix water, white vinegar, and salt together in equal parts.
  • Fuel oil stain remover. Pour baking soda directly on stain and wait 20 minutes to remove.

Additionally, there are several green boat cleaning agents available for purchase. Responsible boaters should look for the EPA’s stamp “Design for the Environment” on various boat cleaners to be sure their products will not cause untold damage. Cleaners as well as paints and sealers should all be biodegradable, so if they do leech into the water, they won’t hurt the plant and animal life below.

Knowing When to Recycle and When to Discard

It takes all sorts of materials to build a boat, and many of them pose more danger in a landfill than they do when they are part of a moving vessel. Used materials, like sewage, antifreeze, and oil, should only be disposed of at qualified facilities, so their toxic contents will not jeopardize the environment.

However, plenty of boat parts are recyclable; monofilament fishing line can be melted down and reformed into other plastic items, and dead batteries can be recharged and run good as new. Reusing such materials keeps them out of nature and conserves valuable resources.

Boat owners no longer entranced by the hobby should be wary of how they get rid of their old vessels. Many times, selling seems too laborious or unprofitable a venture, so boat owners choose to tear apart and discard their craft or scuttle it illegally offshore. Instead of these wasteful and destructive routes, boat owners should consider donating their vessels to charity, for which they will receive tax deductions and a boost to their local communities.

Using Green Accessories

holy crow so many boatsIn general, the more boaters can cut down on the disposable waste in and around their vessels, the healthier boating waterways will become. Instead of carrying food, equipment in waste in plastic bags, boaters should consider loading up on Earth-friendly canvas containers. Instead of synthetic fiber rope, boaters can use strong, natural hemp.

There are plenty of simple ways boaters can diminish their carbon footprint by maintaining proper care of their vessels and substituting organic for artificial. If more boaters choose to enjoy the green boating lifestyle, our waterways will stay clean and clear for years to come, which means we’ll have much more time to enjoy the sun, sand, and surf on our beautiful boats.

Photos from Shutterstock. Angelo Giampiccolo / Shutterstock.comThis post generously sponsored by Trixio, to help boaters boat responsibly.





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About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai’i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai’i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott’s current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world’s biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride.

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