Five Ways to Start Being a Green Boater Today - Sailors for the Sea

Five Ways to Start Being a Green Boater Today

 August 18, 2023  | By: Jennifer Brett

So you want to be a Green Boater, but you’re not sure where to start? As sailors and boaters, we see firsthand many of the problems facing our oceans, from habitat destruction to plastic pollution, and want to do something about it. To help you get started, we’ve highlighted five seemingly small, but high-impact things that you can do on your boat to make a difference. Remember – every little bit helps. Click on the links for more details and tips for each topic.

Ditch Single-Use Plastic – If you’re bringing cases of single-use plastic water bottles with you every time you go out for a weekend on the boat, finding ways to eliminate them would be a great place to start your Green Boater journey. If the boat has fresh-water tanks, consider installing a water filter and use the tanks to refill your reusable bottles. If the boat does not have fresh-water tanks, consider refillable jugs or a 5-gallon bottle fitted with a Dolphin Pump.   

Don’t Throw Anything Overboard – We are asked all the time if certain things can be “safely” thrown overboard, and the short answer is no. Just don’t. Cans and glass from decades ago can be seen littering the sea floor, and most cans (including soda cans) have plastic liners. Instead, focus on minimizing what you bring aboard in the first place, and stow any trash and recyclables aboard to be properly dealt with once you’re back ashore.

Mind Your Black and Graywater – Use your boat’s holding tank and be mindful of No Discharge Zones. Under federal law, it is illegal to dump raw, untreated sewage into navigable U.S. waters, including coastal waters within 3 miles of shore and inland waters (lakes, reservoirs, rivers, etc.). A No Discharge Zone (NDZ) takes this law a step further and prohibits the discharge of both treated and untreated sewage into a designated body of water. 

Graywater is the untreated water from your onboard sinks, showers, washing machine, dishwasher and the wastewater from cleaning your boat with detergents, soaps and bleaches. Not many boats are equipped with gray water tanks, but if yours is, and you have a place to pump it out, use it. If not, be mindful of all the soaps and cleansers that you use aboard and choose ones that are gentle on the marine environment.

Keep Your Bilge Clean – While it goes without saying that the clean bilge is more pleasant to work in and be around, did you know that it’s also better for the environment? Bilge water gets pumped directly overboard, so it’s important (and also good seamanship) to keep the bilge clean and free of oil and fuel residues.

Anchor Carefully – Anchors can cause massive damage to marine habitats. If you plan to anchor, use your charts to assess bottom conditions and avoid areas that are home to sensitive or slow-growing species, such as shellfish beds, coral reefs and seagrass beds. Poor anchoring techniques can disturb or damage animals and plants on the seafloor. 

Bonus: Be an advocate for our oceans! One of the biggest, high-impact things you can do is support ocean-friendly policies in your community, city, state and beyond. Learn more about actions you can take today on our Campaigns page.

Want more ideas? Sign up to be a Sailors for the Sea Green Boater today and receive a free download of our complete Green Boating Guide!