12 Tips for Eco-friendly Boating

By April 24, 2023July 28th, 2023Captain's Tips

“Green”, “sustainable”, “eco-friendly” – no matter what you call it, the push is on for boating that’s cleaner and more environmentally conscientious. Despite some marketing hype and “greenwashing”, there are real ways in which boaters can help the marine ecosystems where they recreate. Here are twelve tips for how to make a difference:

  1. Slow down. Boat at a responsible “no wake” speed to protect shorelines from erosion. Slowing down also helps aquatic species (like manatees and sea lions) have a fighting chance of getting out of the way.
  2. Stop the spread. If you boat on multiple bodies of water, drain your bilge and clean your bottom and running gear to stop the spread of invasive species from one area to another.
  3. Stow trash for proper disposal. This includes securing loose items so they don’t go overboard in a breeze or as you motor along. Never toss anything overboard including cigarette butts, plastic bottles and caps, Styrofoam containers, etc.
  4. Clean responsibly. Many eco-friendly boat cleaning materials are available including soap, polishes and waxes. Read labels and make informed decisions.
  5. Use pump-out stations on inland and near shore waters. Black and grey water dumping is illegal in most areas so obey laws and keep the water quality good at the same time.
  6. Clean your bottom. Marine growth and fouling slows hulls down so boats have to use more fuel to push through the water. Keep your boat’s bottom clean to reduce pollution and save at the pump as well. 
  7. Consider switching to a nontoxic antifouling paint when commissioning this spring.
  8. Clean the bilge. Wash the bilge with biodegradable soap and use oil-absorbing pads if necessary to catch oil leaks from your engine. Then dispose of them in hazardous waste bins at the marina. 
  9. Fuel responsibly. Use rags to catch any drops when fueling, add fuel slowly, and don’t top off so there’s no chance of blow back from the tank or its vent. 
  10. Explore electrification. If you’re buying a new boat, consider electric propulsion. If you already have a combustion engine yacht, maybe add a tender with an electric outboard.
  11. Add solar. Skip putting hours on the genset and add a solar array to help with your yacht’s energy needs. Solar is cleaner and free.
  12. Join a boat club. Boats are taxing on the environment right from the time they’re in the build process and the worst kind of waste is not using a boat that has taken so much energy and material to simply exist. The more use a boat has, the more it’s “environmentally amortized”. Join a club or fractional ownership organization and put that asset to work more often. 

Be a part of the solution

April 22 is Earth Day in 2023 and it’s also prime spring commissioning time to make your boat greener for summer. Become a part of the solution by creating a smaller carbon footprint and championing boating best practices this season.

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Author Zuzana Prochazka

Zuzana is a freelance writer and photographer with regular contributions to over a dozen sailing and power boating publications. A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana is the founder of a flotilla charter company called Zescapes that takes guests adventure sailing at destinations around the world. Zuzana serves as an international presenter on charter destinations, safety issues and technical topics. She’s also the Chair of the NMMA Innovation Awards, a member of the American Society of Authors and Journalists, and the Executive Director of the Board of Boating Writers International.

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