6 Steps to Improve Your Yacht’s Environmental Footprint

8 July 2021 By Lauren Beck
The Green Stewardess Kiyra Rathbone and her team on Plastic Patrol.

Lauren Beck is the former editor of Dockwalk and was with the publication from 2006 to 2023. At 13, she left South Africa aboard a 34-foot sailing boat with her family and ended up in St. Maarten for six years. Before college, she worked as crew for a year, and then cut her journalistic teeth at Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies’ Home Journal online. She loves traveling, reading, tennis, and rooting for the Boston Red Sox.

There’s endless talk these days about the environment, for good reason. While you may think it’s tough to make changes on board, these two stewardesses offer some good tips to get you started.

As Chief Stewardess Gemma Harris of Seastainable Yachting says, it comes down to changing your mindset. Designate a sustainability ambassador for the yacht and talk about sustainability and what possible changes could work on your vessel during crew meetings. “Start simple and be consistent,” Harris says. “Look at things on board you can do without costing time/money first, e.g. very simply turning off lights/AC in cabins that aren’t being used — then continue to do these things all the time, [and] add [them] in to onboard routine manuals.” And as always, “Implement the Rs on board in every consumption decision: refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle.”

You could also look outside the vessel to support initiatives ashore. “A captain can influence where a yacht is having a yard period,” Harris says. “Look at the sustainability of the yard and how they do things, a stew can switch out unsustainable products for sustainable ones and share in their on- and offline communities, etc.” As Harris notes, it’s up to us to advocate for the oceans. “The industry relies on the oceans and needs to give back more — donating to marine conservation charities, taking part in clean ups, generally spreading the awareness of ocean preservation, etc.” Harris says.

Maybe you can’t re-build the engine room with better technology, but you can make some tweaks with the everyday things you do on board. Chief Stewardess Kiyra Rathbone, otherwise known as The Green Stewardess, shares her best tips for crew who are looking to start making some changes on board.

Courtesy of The Green Stewardess

1. Bottled water

It’s not the first time you’ve heard it, but plastic bottles are one of the worst offenders when it comes to the environment. “Saying ‘no’ to plastic bottled water as much as possible is a big way that we can cut down our single-use plastic waste generated on board yachts and in companies,” says Rathbone. Even if you simply cut out all bottled water for crew only, this can result in 75 percent less plastic bottle waste each month, Rathbone says. Her advice is to make sure everyone has an eco-water bottle, which can be refilled and reused.

2. Coffee pods/capsules

Ahh, nothing beats that first cup of morning coffee. What isn’t so great about it is the waste that comes if you use coffee pods or capsules. Rathbone endorses the “bean to cup” coffee machine. (This is a machine with a built-in grinder.) “The coffee is plastic free (other than the bulk bags packaging the fresh beans), it’s better tasting, pure, and fresh — and 100 percent pod/capsule-waste free,” she says. Then you can relax and sip with a clear conscience.

iStock: Natalia Lavrenkova

3. Straws

Is there anything better than a delicious cocktail on the aft deck? (For your guests, of course…although in your downtime, who’s to say you can’t sit and sip on the beach?) But do everyone a favor — start carrying stainless streel straws. “Trendy and chic, they look great in cocktails and your guests will be impressed that your yacht is eco-conscious,” Rathbone says. Also, they’re dishwasher friendly and 100 percent reusable. “And often the guests like to keep them,” Rathbones says, so it could be a new guest souvenir. “With the yacht’s name branded onto the straw, it’s a cool way to cut out plastic,” Rathbone says. And remember, even if you don’t think your one straw could make a difference, it all adds up — consider if 20,000 people (or more) thought the same thing.

4. Organic/ethical products

While your guests may be accustomed to the best products from the top brands, you can still try to incorporate more organic and ethical products on board, even if only within the crew. Rathbone suggests checking out bamboo toothbrushes, bamboo fiber makeup remover pads, bamboo Q-Tips, and even bamboo polarized sunglasses. It might also be time to reconsider your linens — options these days include organic silk linen, Rathbone suggests, plus there are more options to make your crew uniforms more ethical. “These solutions are easy and accessible and [are] a great way to have less of a negative footprint on the earth,” she says.


5. Guest and crew amenities

“These products are eco-friendly, great smelling, great quality, and have less impact on the marine environment,” says Rathbone, so really, what else could you possibly need? When it comes to your crew products, she suggests buying bulk, for example, five-liter quantities, and then refilling. “Refilling bottles reduces a large amount of store-bought plastic,” Rathbone says. “[With] 250 ml individual products and with the high numbers of crew, this results in a huge reduction in the amount of single-use plastics being purchased.”

6. Cleaning products

“From the laundry to on deck and in the engine room, there are great products that do not harm our marine ecosystem,” Rathbone says. “We can’t physically see the damage these chemicals are doing as we discharge or wash them into the seas, but that means we should know better and take extra eco-conscious steps to buy the correct brands.” Rathbone has researched and collected a variety of eco-friendly, non-toxic, and biodegradable brands she feels works well on board, so there are options out there. The products usually come in larger quantities, so that helps eliminate the extra plastic, too.

“It’s important to emphasize that ‘going greener’ is not an extreme movement and shouldn’t be associated with negative stereotyping and judgmental finger pointing,” Rathbone advises. “However great or small, every bit counts! And the more you do and practice, the easier it will become for each individual to do more.”

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