4 Green Boating Resolutions for 2022

By Jennifer Brett

Happy New Year! Many new-year goals focus on ways that we can make ourselves healthier—lose weight, eat more vegetables, work less—but what about making the ocean healthier? If reducing your environmental impact is something that you would like to accomplish in 2022, a great way to start is aboard your boat: it’s a place where even small changes can have a big impact.

Here are four suggestions with tips to get you started. Whether you make several small changes or a big one, every little bit matters.

Go Plastic Free

We’ve all seen the devastating effects that plastic pollution is having on our oceans and coastal regions. Going single-use plastic free, and reducing plastic packaging aboard your boat is a small gesture that can have a big impact. By eliminating items such as plastic water and soda bottles, cutlery, and bags, you can keep these items from potentially ending up in the ocean.

How to do it: Use durable, reusable cups and glasses, dishes and cutlery aboard, and keep a stash of reusable bags for provisioning runs. Grabbing takeout ashore? Have a “to-go” pack ready with a water bottle, bamboo cutlery and even a small container for leftovers. Hosting cockpit sundowners? Skip the Solo cups and ask your guests to bring their own beverage containers. Going shopping? Try to choose items with minimal plastic packaging, and then remove and properly dispose of the unavoidable packaging before heading back to the boat.

Explore Alternative Energy

Whether you have a long-distance cruising sailboat or a small runabout, there are ways to have greener, more efficient electricity aboard. Taking into consideration the type of boat you have, your boating plans, and your budget, there are many things you can do that will reduce your boat’s need for fossil fuels.

How to do it: If you have a boat with complex electrical needs, like a trawler or cruising boat, start with doing a basic energy audit to figure out just what your electrical needs are and if you can supplement with solar or wind (here is some additional reading on that topic). Other things to consider that will improve your boat’s electrical efficiency include adding insulation to the fridge (refrigeration is typically the largest power draw on a boat), installing a high-output alternator on the engine, upgrading the battery bank, replacing interior, exterior and navigation lights with LED, and if your budget allows, replacing old electronics with modern systems (new radar and autopilot systems use a fraction of the juice of older systems).

Electric propulsion has also come a long way in recent years. If repowering your boat is in your near future, consider going electric. At the boat shows last fall, we saw a number of cool, fully electric and hybrid boats, both power and sail. Several years ago, they would have been outliers. For smaller boats and tenders, there are several choices for electric outboards from Torqeedo, ePropulsion and new-to-the-market Flux Marine.

Watch your Runoff

As sailors and boaters, we need to really pay attention to what we put in the water. Even small amounts of common chemicals found in cleaners, boat maintenance products, and even sunscreen entering the marine environment can have damaging effects.

How to do it: Washdown your boat with just water as often as possible. If your boat is on a trailer, try to use a designated washdown area at your marina or club, or a grassy area. Whether your boat is in the water or out, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for how much cleaning product to use, and try to keep any runoff to a minimum.

Research the cleaners and maintenance products that you need ahead of time for safety and suitability in the marine environment (and don’t forget about personal items such as shampoos and sunscreens!).

Keep your boat’s bilge clean. This ensures that you’re not releasing toxins such as fuel or oil into the water when you pump the bilge. Also, maintaining a clean, dry bilge makes problems such as fuel or water leaks much easier to spot early.

Consider keeping an oil absorbing pad underneath the engine, especially when doing an oil change, and holding one under the fuel pump nozzle during fill ups.

Take a Stand

As a Green Boater, it’s important to use your voice to support campaigns that benefit the oceans, and to call out the policies that are doing harm.

How to do it: Visit Sailors for the Sea’s campaign page to learn about a few of the issues that are affecting our oceans and waterways and how to take action, and stay involved with marine conservation efforts in your community.

What green resolutions would you add to this list? Drop me a line at jbrett@oceana.org and share your Green Boating tips! And if you haven’t already, sign up to be a Sailors for the Sea Green Boater and receive a copy of our Green Boating Guide.