Clean green boating:10 years of The Green Blue
This month - September 2015 - will see The Green Blue celebrating its tenth birthday. Launched as a joint environment project at the Southampton Boat Show in 2005 by the Royal Yachting Association and British Marine, The Green Blue was created to give information and practical help to boat users, boating businesses, sailing clubs and training centres reduce their impact on coastal and inland waters.
Much has changed in the world of green boating in the last decade with recycling, LED lighting, smart meters, solar panels, on board wind turbines, hybrid engines, inline bilge filters and electric car charging points all a much more common sight in marinas and clubs. There are apps and e-books on every topic from marine wildlife to invasive species. And there are chairs, bags and tablet covers made from recycled sails, and chandleries stocking not just one but several ranges of environmentally friendly cleaning products. The one area that hasn’t changed however is the best practice advice from The Green Blue – and many of the key messages are as relevant and important today as they were in 2005.
Splashes and Spills
Did you know a litre of oil or fuel can contaminate a million litres of water? When pollutants enter the water they can have a variety of impacts on us and our environment. Not only is a film of oil unsightly, but amongst many other impacts it can be ingested by wildlife, cover birds feathers which can restrict flight movement and can cover fish gills preventing oxygen exchange.
So what’s the best way to do this? First use a bilge sock to absorb oil and fuel in the bilge water before you pump it out. Maintain fuel lines, connections and seals to avoid leaks; and use a SuperSpout nozzle or fuel collar when filling up to stop overflow and catch drips and blowback. And of course, reducing your spills and leaks means you are also saving money!
Untreated sewage from your boat can contain E.coli and cause gastroenteritis amongst water users – including beach goers or other boaters especially in immersion sports and youngsters in dinghies who don’t fear an occasional capsize. It can also contaminate shell fish beds and mussel ropes and use up vital oxygen from the water.
The best way to dispose of sewage is using a pump out station. If your boat doesn’t have a holding tank or deck fittings, try to only empty the heads when you’re at least three miles offshore where you will be away from busy areas and stronger currents can diffuse the waste more quickly.
Go green on board
Many cleaning products contain chemicals which can be toxic to marine life or cause a chemical imbalance in an ecosystem. Many cleaning products still contain phosphates, ammonia and bleach and so if you use them on board – whether on deck, in the galley or heads, the chances are that they will be discharged into the sea as grey wastewater. Instead, look out in the supermarket or your local chandlery for products that don’t contain these chemicals. And take a look at The Green Blue’s Green Directory for alternatives http://www.sailingnetworks.com/green
Watch your Waste
It is estimated that more than a million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles die every year worldwide from entanglement or ingestion of marine litter, especially plastics such as balloons and plastic bags. Although research tells us that boating is not one of the main contributors to marine litter, it is still incumbent on boaters to ensure a ‘nothing overboard’ policy. Ensure all items on board are secure so they cannot fall or blow into the water by accident. For all waste on board, recycle as much as possible and take it all ashore at the end of the day. Don’t allow anyone on board to throw waste overboard, not even food waste such as an apple core or orange peel as even this is unsightly and can take months to break down in the water.
Enjoy the natural world but keep your distance
We all want to get up close to wildlife and appreciate the natural world whilst sailing. And why not when the UK’s waters are home to a diverse array of species including the second largest fish in the world, the Basking Shark, and host 6 million migratory birds annually. Disturbing wildlife is not only detrimental to their breeding and feeding, it is also prohibited by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Amended, and boaters have been and can be prosecuted for harassment and disturbance whether intentional or not.
To stay on the right side of the law just follow a few basic rules. Never chase or harass wildlife or call other boats over to join you if you see something of interest. Leave at least a 50 metre distance (preferably 100m if possible) between your boat and wildlife, use binoculars to view them instead. If they join you on the bow wave, slow down and keep a steady course – let them decide when it’s time to leave. And keep noise (both noise on board and engine revs) and wash to a minimum so you can see more by disturbing less.
For more information on the wonderful species you might encounter around the UK and for more advice look at The Green Blue’s Green Marine Wildlife Guide – available in hard copy for free or by downloading a digital copy with beautiful illustrations and footage from the ‘RYA Books’ app www.rya.org.uk/go/ebooks
Watch out for Alien Invaders
Alien species, also known as invasive non-native species are plants and animals that have been introduced to our waters outside their natural range and have a negative environmental, economic or social impact. There are currently 140 aquatic non-native species in Britain that survive in coastal and inland waters and one of the ways they move around is by attaching to boat hulls, propellers and on equipment.
Boating therefore has to take responsibility for a few simple actions to stop the spread. Ensure your hull is regularly cleaned (including an annual lift, scrub and antifoul renewal); paying particular attention to the propeller, bottom of the keel, anchor chains as well as water inlets and outlets. Always remove any visible plant, fish, animal matter and mud and put it in the bin not back in the water. And try not to run through water plants and weed as this can chop up the plants and can spread invasive species further.
The Green Blue
To find out more information or details on how you can make your boating more sustainable visit The Green Blue website at www.thegreenblue.org.uk
The Green Blue is the joint environment initiative created by the Royal Yachting Association and British Marine to encourage a more sustainable recreational boating sector. Launched in 2005 at the PSP Southampton Boat Show, the project enjoys the support of The Crown Estate’s Marine Stewardship Programme and the Environment Agency.
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Photos: Courtesy of The Green Blue