green boating

Green Boating with Sailors for the Sea

By: Environmental, The Oceans

If you are a part of the ASA sailor network, you probably already know about Sailors for the Sea. If you are new here, it’s my honor to introduce you to the single best resource for ocean-friendly sailing there is.

No sailor’s education is complete without an understanding of our impact on the oceans. On land, we consider our effect on the ocean in the abstract. But when we’re sailing, the ocean is directly impacted by the choices we make.

Sailors for the Sea provides important ocean conservation education to sailors and young people all over the world. They set up the first and only sustainability certification for regattas that has provided tools to over 2,000 regattas and a half-million sailors. They distribute ocean education lesson plans for kids, and provide tools for boaters to properly use and care for their vessels with respect for the environment with their Green Boating Guide.

I’ll admit that I’m a bit obsessed with this guide. I read through it and thought, Wow, they thought of everything. It’s so visual, fact-checked, and simply stated. Every boat should have a copy. I caught up with Sailors for the Sea to learn more about the Green Boating Guide and what the crew is up to.

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ASA: So what exactly is in the Green Boating Guide? Is it just for boat owners and ASA instructors?

SFTS:The Green Boating Guide is for all boaters, both recreational and competitive. The guide touches on six main topics, covering 26 subtopics in total, ranging from pollution prevention to wildlife and habitat protection. It is a great resource for anyone who enjoys time on the water and cares about sustainable boating practices.

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ASA:What do you think are the most common environmental oversights in the sailing world?
SFTS: When we are on the water, we don’t have access to all the amenities that we have when we’re on land. This forces us to think creatively about how we address these questions. When you’re on a sailboat, there is no “away”, so captains and crew need to consider everything, whether it be “how should we go to the bathroom?”, to “where should we dispose of our trash and recyclables?” If we spill a little oil, which is inevitable if proper precautions aren’t taken, how do we clean it up? The answer is very different on the water where one pint of oil will turn into a slick the size of a football field, compared to a cleanup on land which is almost always a more contained operation.
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ASA:What do the Clean Regatta standards do to help regattas be more ocean-friendly? Are there any Clean Regattas coming up this summer?
SFTS: Clean Regatta standards provide a list of some of the most impactful ways regattas can align their practices to reduce their overall environmental impact. Event organizers are provided with a toolkit of 25 best practices which outline the information they need to run a water-based event in the most sustainable way possible. The topics include everything from paperless regatta management to water bottle reduction. There are hundreds of Clean Regattas happening all over the world with thousands of sailors and boaters participating in the program. Clean Regattas is growing in popularity every year and has an increasing number of regattas aiming for higher levels of certification.
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ASA: Young sailors seem to really take these issues to heart and I see a lot of energy from them to get involved and make a difference. Do you have any advice or tools for them?
SFTS: Youth sailors are a powerful factor in generating momentum for this movement of green boating. The Green Boating guide is a great resource to share with adults in their clubs that might be unfamiliar with the practices. In addition, a lot of the practices in this guide overlap with the best practices for Clean Regattas, so they could encourage their clubs to become certified for their next event. We would love to hear about the creative ways the youth are making a difference in their own communities and encourage them to continue to be the wavemakers of the future.
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ASA:Is there a way for sailors to get involved with your initiatives in their own communities?
SFTS: Yes, that’s the driving force behind Sailors for the Sea’s mission. Our Green Boating Initiative mobilizes boaters to take steps to address pressing ocean health issues. By signing up to become a Green Boater, sailors will be provided with the latest information on sustainable boating practices and opportunities to act on critical policy issues that affect our marine environments. For regatta organizers who want to start implementing the Clean Regatta program, it only takes the completion of one out of the 25 best practices to be recognized as a “participant” in the Clean Regatta certification. The next level of certification, Bronze, requires a total of just seven Best Practices and is easily attainable with focused efforts and participation from the community.
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ASA:What’s coming up next for Sailors of the Sea?
SFTS: Sailors for the Sea launched our new Green Boating Initiative on World Ocean’s Day which turns our engaged sailing community into ocean champions who take direct action to protect our oceans. This movement empowers the boating and sailing community to protect our oceans from marine pollution, habitat destruction and overfishing. Green Boaters are provided with eco-friendly boating advice and opportunities to have their voices heard on issues that affect your waterways. You can join this leading community of Green Boaters who are taking action to protect our seas by signing up here.
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ASA: I see a lot of ocean lovers out there who are hearing all the environmental news and feeling a little overwhelmed. What helps you feel hopeful?
SFTS: Yes, the environmental news is often scary and overwhelming, but raising the level of awareness of the issue is the first step in igniting change. However, there is a fine balance between overwhelming readers and empowering ocean-lovers. We find hope in seeing people take steps, small or large, towards changing their habits and encouraging others to do the same.