It's Not Easy Being Green

6 August 2008 By Rubi McGrory

In the yachting industry, we tend to be isolated from the rest of civilization.

For days, sometimes weeks, we go without any news from the outside world, aside from the vapid celebrity shenanigans of Paris, Lindsay, or Brangelina. That’s not necessarily a bad thing…

One thing we cannot avoid, however, is our environment. We are literally surrounded by it, living and working in the sun and at sea for the majority of our careers.

It’s a familiar refrain, but it bears repeating: What are you doing to help make the environment better for you and your lifestyle?

Sure, many yachties don’t own cars or commute to work, but that isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card. A 140-foot motor yacht can burn between 75 to 150 gallons of fuel per hour (essentially getting .08 to .13 miles per gallon), compared to 10 mpg in a Hummer or 35 mpg in a VW Golf.

Okay, smug sailors, are your sails organic Fair Trade hemp? I didn’t think so.

Regardless of the size or style of yacht on which you work, we are all responsible as individuals to help make our world cleaner, brighter and healthier for future generations to enjoy.

But it takes a heck of a lot of white vinegar to erase a large carbon footprint.

The most environmentally devastating impacts of a yacht are outside of the crews’ jurisdiction. The owner/charterer chooses the boat, as well as its destination, itinerary, etc.

Let’s face it; our livelihood in the superyacht industry depends on the conspicuous consumption of an elite community – the people who sign our paychecks. That is a boat we don’t want to rock.

Our jobs as crew require us to do laundry, wash down the boat, do dishes, get from point A to B, be prepared for extra guests and provide for guests' needs. It isn’t logical to hang sheets to dry on the foredeck during a trip from Monaco to St. Tropez, any more than it is to paddle your guests ashore to dinner in Gustavia.

So, is it really possible to be “green” in the yachting industry? Or is it sheer hypocrisy?

This has been the topic of debate in the blogs at and it remains a hot topic of conversation among crew worldwide.

It would be very difficult to bring about broad-reaching environmental change in an industry built upon over-consumption of luxury goods, but it doesn’t mean captains and crew should stop trying to take small measures to face larger environmental challenges. Fortunately, most haven’t.

“When guests aren't on board we turn any unnecessary lights off and air handlers,” says Reagan Quigley of S/Y Keewaydin. “At night, washer and dryer are turned off, same with the computer screen. We have banned disposable water bottles for crew and replaced them with Nalgene bottles.”

Robin Koskey of S/Y Coro Coro insists the small things add up. “If you are doing your job right, you don’t ever actually have to ‘clean’ anything,” she says. “I am usually wiping something that is already clean, so I don’t need to use any chemical harsher than vinegar and water.”

Don’t confuse “green” with “sustainable.” The term green generally implies environmentally sound practices, while sustainable has stronger implications. Sustainable refers to a way of operating in which you are not just looking at an environmental level, but a social and cultural level as well.

This may mean eschewing the organic milk (produced in California, trucked to New Bedford and shipped to Nantucket) for the conventional milk from a dairy 10 miles away.

Freelance chef Suzi Fraser recommends buying locally, which can be a challenge as well as a pleasure.

We have the ability to carry our own stores around the globe, to stock up with Annie’s hot sauce in Antigua and cheese from Horta. However, fresh lemons, lettuce or other dietary staples can be difficult to find off the beaten path.

Unless we regress to the days of Kon-Tiki, the yachting industry will never reach carbon neutrality. But as crewmembers and individuals, we need to come up with creative solutions to reduce our carbon footprint.

Wouldn’t we all like to visit a living reef while it is still alive?

So, what are you doing as an individual to help clean up the yachting industry? What steps do you take each day to help save fuel, clean the air and keep the waters around you safe for future generations?

Share your tips in the comment section below and be sure to participate in our interactive poll.