Finding Answers to Clean Regatta Challenges During COVID

By Paige Myatt

With the vaccine becoming more readily available, and a year’s worth of masking, social distancing and sanitizing under our belts, the world is ready to return to some sense of normalcy. In the northern hemisphere, many of us are gearing up for summer sailing events. We know these regattas will look different than before the pandemic, but the hope is that unlike last year, many will at least be able to take place. We have received lots of questions around how organizers can still implement sustainable practices during these continually challenging times. Here are our responses to some common concerns:

Q: Can I still host a Clean Regatta during COVID?

A: Yes! We’ve had lots of events continue and even step up their environmental efforts during this time. There are many opportunities to do so. For example, a typical staple of a Clean Regatta is having a green team member stand by the waste bins to help attendees sort their trash, recycling and compost. While people may be understandably hesitant to take on this high-exposure role now, consider upgrading your signage to clearly display what items are accepted where, and make these signs permanent or reusable. Additionally, there are many best practices that are not impacted by COVID, such as choosing local, organic, vegetarian or vegan food options, increasing awareness of wildlife and habitat protection, and preventing toxins from entering the water. We’ve also learned of some great contingency plans, such as not putting the date on items such as trophies until the last minute. If you are unsure if your event will take place, there is no downside to registering the event and exploring what efforts you may be able to implement. There are many levels of Clean Regatta status, and we encourage you to participate to whatever degree you can.

Q: I am concerned about reusable food ware and water refill stations. What can I do to make sure people stay safe and we do our best to limit our impact on the environment?

A: Early on in the pandemic, not much was known about how the virus spreads. We now know that it is a respiratory illness primarily spread from inhaling aerosolized droplets, not through contact with surfaces. The FDA has recently announced that there is no evidence to suggest transmission through food or food packaging. Additionally, over 125 scientists have signed a letter stating reusables are safe during the pandemic and that single-use items are not inherently more hygienic. As long as the appropriate sanitizing and safety precautions are in place, you should feel good about opting for reusable items. In terms of water refill stations, consider reminding participants to not touch the mouth of their water bottle to the dispenser with a simple sign. If you are looking for more information on this topic, UPSTREAM Solutions has a complete guide to single-use vs. reuse safety during the pandemic, which can be found here.

Q: With health and safety becoming a priority, I don’t have as much time or resources to commit to sustainability initiatives. How can I continue these efforts in an effective way?

A: With the rise in single-use plastics since the pandemic began, including PPE finding its way into the marine environment, it is arguably more important now than ever to consider our impact and do our part to protect the waters we all love. Know that all efforts, big or small, can make a difference. We encourage you to do your best during these times and to not get caught up on things out of your control. Don’t feel pressured to check off every box on the Best Practice Checklist. Ask for help when you need it, from your fellow green team members, or from us. We are happy to support you in any way we can!

If you’d like to join the Clean Regattas community, you can learn more about the program and register your event here.