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Seven tips to reduce your personal environmental impact as a sailor

A Guest Blog, by Gemma Harris

No matter who you are, what you do or where you are in the world, ocean conservation issues are facing us all. The big picture is clear, our oceans are under threat, mainly from pollution, climate change and over-exploitation. Across the world there are many different efforts being made by institutions and organisations working hard on these issues – Sea-Changers included - but what about us as individuals, are we doing enough?

To make change work, everyone needs to be part of it, changing our individual attitudes and actions for the better. The oceans are a sailor’s playground, our passion is reliant on the health of the oceans, so how can we reduce our impact?


1. The plastic problem

Plastic. Thanks to recent attention this is at the forefront of lots of people’s minds. From plastic bags, straws, water bottles, packaging etc. it is having a serious detrimental effect on our oceans. There are many ways you can reduce your personal impact, using reusable food and shopping bags, using filter taps with reusable water bottles, consider the packaging something has before buying it and try and buy in bulk to reduce packaging when you can. These small individual efforts would make a huge overall reduction in these single use plastics ending up in our oceans, if every one of us did them. Greenpeace offers some thoughts here.

2. Be protective

When you are sailing around the oceans it is important to be mindful of the wildlife and environment you are impacting. Take care when anchoring, ensure that you aren’t ruining coral reefs and seagrass. If you find yourself sailing near marine life, be sure to be cautious and minimise the impact you are having by not disturbing them. Here is some useful guidance from The Green Blue.

3. Influence and support

There is a huge, global community within sailing, so why not become an advocate for change? Influencing other sailors about the environmental issues that the oceans face. Whether you volunteer in beach clean ups, take part in ocean research or simply do your own bit and tell others about it, words spread quickly and turn into actions. You could also donate to Sea-Changers of course!

4. Switch to eco-friendly

Take a look at the products that you use onboard, do they end up in the ocean? From your cleaning products to your sun-cream, they could have detrimental effects. Today, there are lots of companies out there producing natural, biodegradable, eco-friendly solutions to everyday products. There is a directory of them here. A few minor switches on your part can make a difference.

5. Prevent pollution

Be mindful with what is going overboard, from oil spillages, waste tanks and general rubbish, make sure you have thought about waste management. Use spill proof fueling systems, have systems for potential oil spills to prevent spreading, manage your black and grey water tanks and ensure that you recycle all your rubbish on shore in the correct bins.

6. Stay maintained

If you keep on top of scheduled maintenance, then the yacht will be much more efficient and you will get the optimal lifespan out of things. This means less energy wastage and a longer product lifespan.

7. Reduce your consumption

Being conscious of fuel and energy use can also make a difference - again The Green Blue has some good tips on this. You can also be sustainable in your food choices, for example by becoming aware of the over-exploitation and unsustainable fishing practices – The Marine Conservation's Society’s Good Fish Guide is the best place to find out more about fish to avoid. Shopping locally and keeping an eye on your food miles can also make a difference, so choose wisely when provisioning.

In all, it is easy to feel powerless in the face of the ocean’s problems, but as sailors we have more reason than most to want to play our part and small changes could make a big difference if the whole sailing community gets on board!


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