Going Green: How Crew Can Do Their Part

16 April 2019 By Aileen Mack

With the environment and ocean health more prominent in today’s media, it’s hard to ignore the news about the worsening state of it all. We need to make changes today — without the beauty and health of the ocean and earth, our industry would struggle to exist because there would be little pleasure to sailing in polluted waters.

“As an industry, we must preserve the local marine environments we have come to make our living in,” says Deirdre Lahoussine, marketing director for Environmental Yacht Services (EYS). “Our oceans and coastlines are suffering. Our marine life is suffering. Our own health is suffering through consuming contaminated fish, etc.”

It may be disheartening to read and see, but small efforts add up and can make a difference. Crew especially are in the unique position to help efforts toward a greener industry and habits on board.

“We as crewmembers are the majority. We are the driving force behind the industry,” says Second Stewardess/Masseuse (and self-proclaimed eco-warrior as The Green Stew) Lauren Ryburn. “If we can all adopt green practices on board the yachts we work on, we have the power to create great waves of positive change. If this change can come from the bottom up, it can inspire waves of positive change.”

Ryburn believes the most important habit crew can adopt is to view their workplace through eco-conscious lenses and question if there is a more sustainable way to do something. Also, be sure that all crew are well-educated and informed about recycling and the use of recycling bins on board. Other green habits to adopt include switching lights off in unoccupied areas, not throwing anything overboard other than biowaste scraps (that means no glass, tea bags, napkins, or fruit and vegetable stickers), and having smokers responsibly dispose of cigarette butts in the trash and not in the ocean.

Yachting has an ecological footprint, but many owners and industry professionals are making a shift toward greener technology and eco-friendly behaviors, says Chef/Mate Alyse Arehart, founder of Project Green Flag, which encourages sustainable behaviors by charter crew and management in the Virgin Islands. At the USVI Charter Yacht Show, the project enrolled 24 boats to commit to sustainable actions for the charter season and has presented their ideas to crew and local business in the Virgin Islands.

“Crews interact directly with important ecosystems. This means that our behaviors affect reefs, waters, and shorelines,” she says.

To further efforts already being made to be eco-friendlier, they have shared some of the ways that crew can become greener:

Install a water filtering system on board for potable drinking water. Have personalized crew bottles — it will drastically reduce one-use plastic water bottle consumption. “Some guests may require bottled water, but if your boat has a water filtration system, crew and many guests will be happy to drink it,” Arehart says. “Dispense from a nice container, elevate the taste with cucumber or fruit, and communicate with guests beforehand about the virtues of your premium water.”

Sourcing reusable products on board, such as water bottles, takeaway coffee cups, drinking straws, Ziploc bags, food wraps and covers, and grocery and produce bags.

Avoid harsh chemicals being discharged overboard. EYS promotes products that comply with Marpol Annex V, which don’t contain chemicals that could seriously damage aquatic life and are non-carcinogenic, non-mutagenic, and non-reprotoxic.

Switch to biodegradable, one-use toiletry products, including Q-tips, facial wipes, toothbrushes (bamboo), and tampon applicators.

Make conscious purchases when provisioning like choosing products without or with very little plastic packaging. Purchase seasonal fruit and vegetables instead of imported or high-GMO produce, ideally organic.

Use bag-free waste paper baskets and biodegradable bin liners. Refuse polystyrene packing. Insist delivery companies take back surplus packaging to reduce the quantity of waste that could accidentally enter the sea.

Adapt to your location’s waste disposal systems. If possible, keep plastic on board until you reach a large port that has the recycling facility for the plastic. Many small islands don’t have the revenue to remove or recycle waste, Lahoussine says. Even Ibiza can’t recycle all the plastic waste produced on the island during the summer season.

Educate yourself and your colleagues on what products are truly “green.” Consult an environmental third party for information, such as the Environmental Working Group or the EPA’s Safer Choice program.

Recognize and assume social responsibility. Keeping to the rules is not sufficient enough to protect the fragile coastlines and marine environment, Lahoussine says. “Damage is happening faster than rules are being made.”

Be part of the online sustainability discussion. “We may not have all the answers yet, but we can ask questions, voice concerns, and brainstorm solutions,” Arehart says. You can join the Project Green Flag Facebook group, or follow other eco-minded organizations, including Sailors for the Sea, Captains for Clean Water, or Chef’s Collaborative. It can be a great resource for regional information (like which ports have good waste disposal and recycling facilities), discussions about eco-friendly products and practices, and connecting with local experts about environmental issues. You can also follow Ryburn on Instagram for tips and information on being green on board.