As a boat owner, you should always remember to practice responsible, environmentally-friendly boating to help protect and preserve the marine life below us. It’s important to realize that what we do affects the water we love, and there are ways to minimize our “waterprints” as we hit the open water.
Keeping the environment in mind while boating takes a great deal of effort from everyone. Just by considering alternatives for how we boat, where we boat, and the products we use on our boat can have a major impact. Deciding to make the switch to go green can make boating a more enjoyable experience for everyone!
Let’s review nine green boating tips that you should always keep in mind while out on the water.
1. Avoid Oily Discharges
If you have an inboard or sterndrive boat, insert an oil-absorbent pad or pillow into your bilge and under your engine where drips can happen. Be sure to regularly check the pads so you can avoid the bilge pump from being clogged. When it’s time to replace the oil-absorbent pad, dispose of it as hazardous waste at a marina or local hazardous waste collection center.
Every power system boat requires an oil change, and here’s the environmentally-friendly way to do it:
- Use an oil change pump to transfer oil to a spill-proof container
- Take the used engine oil to a recycling facility
- Remove the oil filter
- Wrap a plastic bag or absorbent pad around the oil filter to prevent oil from spilling
2. Maintain a Well-Tuned Engine
A well-tuned engine that is regularly maintained and inspected will help amplify your fuel efficiency. Not only does this reduce your carbon footprint, but it can also save you money by going further distances on every gallon of gas.
While you’re inspecting the engine, you should also take a look at your boat’s fuel tanks and supply lines, as they tend to leak as they get older. If you notice any issues, have them fixed as soon as possible. In addition, inspect your propeller to ensure it’s in good condition because a propeller with bent blades or dents can cause your boat’s efficiency to drop.
3. Stop the Drops When Fueling!
Avoid fuel spills by filling tanks slowly and using absorbent pads or rags to catch spills. Never fill up your tank to its full capacity. Leave your tank about 10% empty to allow fuel to expand as it warms.
In the event you do accidentally spill oil into the water, never use soap to break up the oil. It’s actually illegal and adds more harm to the environment. Instead, notify the marina management for immediate assistance. They should have the proper equipment on deck to act efficiently to clean up the spill. Should you experience a major spill, contact the National Response Center (NRC).
4. Slow Down and Wake Responsibly
While cruising around the lake at fast speeds can be thrilling, you’ll drastically decrease your carbon footprint if you run your boat at its most efficient cruising speed. Save the exciting high-speeds for special occasions.
The way you can tell if your boat is reaching its most efficient cruise is when your boat hits the highest MPG (miles per gallon). This can be done by setting your throttle two-thirds wide. Today’s modern boat allows you to scroll through the engine monitor and find the MPG display. Bring your boat onto plane and slowly increase speed in small increments until MPG peaks.
Take note of how much RPM your engine is turning at that peak MPG, and you’ve cracked the code for your boat’s most efficient cruise. It’s important to note when establishing your most efficient cruise, you use measure in RPM not MPH. The wind and current can cause your boat to run at different speeds in different conditions, but you can consistently set your throttle to a specific RPM.
Slowing down your speed not only reduces your carbon footprint, but it’s also proper boat etiquette to be mindful of your speed and the wakes you can create.
5. Minimize Maintenance and Care in the Water
If you can, try to avoid maintenance projects for when your boat is on land. If you have to do work on your boat in the water here is what you should do:
- Minimize your impact by containing the waste
- Use tarps and vacuum sanders to collect all drips, dust, and debris for proper disposal
If you have an outboard-powered boat, it’s typically much easier to perform regular maintenance inspections like oil changes, fuel filter changes, and tune-ups with the boat out of the water. Even simple maintenance chores like cleaning your boat can affect the water. Be sure to always use non-toxic, phosphate-free boat cleaners to help minimize harsh chemicals in the water. Should you need to use abrasive cleaners, pull your boat to dry land where it’s much easier to contain spills and messes.
6. Reduce Toxic Discharges From Bottom Paints
The paint you use on your boat might have heavy metals and toxins that can pollute the water. Traditional antifouling paints use copper as the biocide to control fouling, but the Port of San Diego has done the research and found that the copper in this type of paint leaches into the water, causing contamination that is harmful to marine life.
When it comes to environmentally friendly bottom paints you have two options. The first is alternative biocide hull paint that uses zinc or other chemicals as the biocide instead of copper. The second is non-biocide hull paint that contains no polluting chemicals. They both protect your boat hull by creating a slick surface or hard protective layer, while still reducing water pollution.
7. Properly Dispose of Trash and Hazardous Waste
It might be obvious to some that you shouldn’t throw your trash or hazardous waste in the water, but some individuals actually do. According to the Ocean Conservancy, every year eight million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate in marine environments. That’s equivalent to dumping one garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day for an entire year.
Used brushes, paint, batteries, antifreeze, cleaning products, oil, old fuel, and other hazardous wastes need to be disposed of in local facilities, not your average trash can. If you aren’t sure where to go, ask someone at your local marina or call your local Municipality Department of Public Works.
In Texas, there are a variety of drop-off facilities for hazardous waste, but be sure to contact the facility to see what materials they accept.
8. Manage Sewage Waste Accordingly
Sewage regulations are one of the most misunderstood boating laws. To clear the air, or should I say water, it is illegal to discharge untreated sewage on inland water and three miles of shore. To legally dispose of your waste, you must either have an onboard treatment device or a holding tank to hold the waste until you can pump it out ashore. A No Discharge Zone (NDZ) further prohibits the discharge of any treated boat sewage, according to the Boat U.S. Foundation. Most marinas and harbors have pump-out stations, so do us and all the marine life down below a favor, and properly dispose of your sewage!
9. Be Mindful of the Bottom
Depending on where you do your boating, you could be harming the marine life down below without even realizing it. Boats and mostly anchors have a significant impact on damaging coral reefs and other marine habitats.
In some places, such as Florida’s coral reefs, it is actually illegal to anchor your boat because of the damage it can cause to the corals. Similarly, “prop scarring” is when your boat’s propeller churns up bottoms in shallow weed beds and disturbs shellfish beds. Be sure to do some research on the waters you explore to avoid damaging the habitats of marine life.
Having the luxury of owning a boat comes with endless amounts of fun, but you have to be considerate of the environment and sea creatures you share the water with. Once you make these minor changes, you’re not only minimizing your “waterprint” but you’re also preserving the life of your boat. Incorporating these green tips can help you and marine life coexist happily on the open waters!
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Source: Discover Boating