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Boaters Going Green: Things You Can Do

Everybody wants to protect the environment and operate a boat in the most environmentally responsible way. Nobody sets out to deliberately foul the waters in which they enjoy boating.

Most boat owners strive to do the right thing, the green thing, whenever possible. Here are some helpful tips on areas to think about for the upcoming boating season.

  1. Oil and Gas.  Obviously, petroleum products don’t mix with water. And since most boats operate with some degree of gas and oil, this is a major problem for boat owners … how to keep oil discharges and gasoline drips out of the water.

Responsible captains keep oil-discharge pads under the engine or in the bilge area. These absorbent pads, available everywhere, soak up spills and drips in your engine compartment. Periodically, you can dispose of the pads–carefully! They should be bagged and placed in a hazardous waste container, which can be found in most marinas.

The US Coast Guard recommends that boat owners fill their gas tanks only to 90 percent levels. This allows the gas to expand in hot conditions and also helps prevent drips and overflows when filling the tank. We suggest using gas overflow absorbent pads at the fuel fill in case you do over fill.

  1. Regular Maintenance.  Keeping your boat’s engines in tune improves fuel economy, which is good for the environment. Regular maintenance also allows certified mechanics to check fuel lines and tanks for leaks. 
  2. Obey Slow Wake Rules.  Our waterways, whether on the ocean, in lakes or rivers, are bounded by beaches, banks and shallow waters, all of which are habitat to various creatures. The main reason we have wake restrictions is to prevent erosion which can harm those habitats. It is important that you do not run in shallow areas where you may rip out sea grasses that are critical to that habitat. So wake responsibly. It’s good for all of us.
  3. Bottom Paint.  Until recently, most anti-fouling bottom paints contained copper or some other toxic metal. These worked great to prevent algae or tiny critters from adhering to your hull, but they also exuded toxic wash that have been shown to harm marine life.  Luckily, there are good alternatives to these metallic based anti-fouling paints.  Paints with zinc base are green friendly, as are non-biocide paints. 
  4. Pump Out Sewage.  Responsible boat owners know not to discharge sewage tanks into the water. Almost all marinas have pump-out services to safely dispose of the contents of those tanks.  Pay attention as well to greywater waste: water used in showers or in the galley for washing dishes. Even if using biodegradable soaps, these wastes should be disposed of properly and not dumped. 
  5. Mind the Bottom.  Anchoring offshore to enjoy a picnic, some swimming or an hour or two of fishing is a great part of the boating experience.  Before tossing the hook out, however, be mindful of where the anchor is going. What might look like just a bed of weeds might be an important habitat for some creatures. If you can find a good sandy bottom instead, that would be better for secure anchoring and better for the underwater world as well.

There are many other steps you can take to ensure your boating practices are green and environmentally beneficial. Sailors for the Sea is one organization which is attempting to engage, educate and activate the world’s boaters into helping save the marine environment.  To see their comprehensive list of ways to keep the ocean blue by going green, visit their list of ideas for green boating here.

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