Green sailing: 11 tips for eco-friendly yachting

Green sailing: 11 tips for eco-friendly yachting

Check out our top tips and let's work together to reduce our ecological footprint at sea.

Protecting biodiversity, nature, the air and the seas should be a priority for all of us. To help preserve the health of our coastlines, water, fauna and flora, we've compiled some tips to inspire you during your sailing trip. 

1. Sail as much as you can

Logically, the most environmentally friendly activity when you are at sea is sailing itself, so don't hesitate to hoist the sails and turn off the engine when the wind is favourable. Aside from feeling good, you'll save money on fuel, you won't be disturbed by the drone of the engine, and you can simply listen to the healing sound of the wind and the sea.

Of course, if the wind speed is 3 knots, there's no point in hoisting the sails because you'd either be sailing extremely slowly or not at all. It's only worth setting the sails at a wind speed of around 6-7 knots, depending on the type of sailboat and its sails. If you find even that tedious, remember that "the journey is the destination" and that sailing is truly magical.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Have you looked at the forecast and it is not expected to be windy? Consider renting a gennaker. This lightweight sail is designed for lighter winds and makes for some fabulous sailing. Find out why exactly it's worth renting one from the charter company in our article — 5 reasons to rent a gennaker.

2. Use alternative energy sources at sea

If you are an environmentalist at heart, make sure your boat has some alternative sources of electricity. Most often this is solar panels on the bimini or foredeck, or a small wind turbine on the stern.

Solar panels are very common on catamarans such as the Bali 4.0, Lagoon 42 or Fountaine Pajot Lucia 40. It is very likely that newer boats with the production year of 2022 or 2023, will be equipped with solar panels, such as the Bavaria C38 or the Dufour 470.

Solar panel on a sailboat in the sea, alternative source of electricity on the boat.

If your favourite boat doesn't have solar panels or anything similar, you still have the option of bringing your own power sources on board. Power banks, flashlights or headlamps with solar charging are very popular items. Outdoor stores also sell dedicated travel solar panels that can be used to charge electronics. After all, there's plenty of sun on the boat, so why not use it for other things besides sunbathing?

A smartphone is charged by a solar battery at summer camp.

3. Save drinking water

Is it really necessary to take a freshwater shower after every dip in the sea? Isn't an hour in the shower in the marina too long? Ask yourself the questions that concern the use of this life-giving liquid. Think about how you use the water and whether you can reduce your consumption of fresh water. This is especially true on smaller islands where fresh water is scarce.

YACHTING.COM TIP: If your boat has a saltwater pump at the sink, use it to wash dishes. You won't know the difference and you won't be wasting fresh water — especially handy as the boat's water tank is limited so you won't need to fill up on water at the pier as often.

4. Prefer mooring at a buoy

Even if you know how to drop anchor correctly, set it without dragging it unnecessarily on the seabed as this can cause unnatural erosion. So if you can and are sailing in a country with good yachting infrastructure, prefer mooring to a buoy instead of at anchor. But if you want to moor at anchor, at least check out the seabed to make sure there is no coral reef or other underwater life below you.

5. Use environmentally friendly cosmetics and drugstores

Look in the store for eco-friendly alternatives to dishwashing detergents, and even sunscreen, which you'll use plenty of on the boat. Cosmetics and creams washed off your skin contribute to the demise of coral reefs abundant in the Seychelles, Thailand and the British Virgin Islands.

The same goes for the use of shampoos, foams, conditioners, soaps and other products. Everything you dump into the sink and shower on the boat goes straight into the sea. Therefore, choose biodegradable cosmetics that do not harm the fauna and flora of marine waters. After all, you want your children and future generations to be able to enjoy the ocean.

YACHTING.COM TIP: It's definitely not necessary to apply sunscreen several times a day from head to toe. Special clothing with UV protection will help your skin and the environment.

6. Have the waste tank pumped out or discharge it further offshore

In each country, there are different rules for discharging your waste tank. In Turkey, for example, it is forbidden to discharge a waste tank into the sea and has to be pumped out of the boat at a pumping station. Every skipper here is even given a card at the beginning of their stay, which they must present at the pumping station to prove to the charter company that they have discharged the tank at a designated place. Violation of this procedure will result in hefty fines.

If you are sailing in a country where such strict rules do not apply, at least try to discharge your tank further offshore and nowhere near bays. Nature will have more time to dilute the contents of your tank, and other boaters will thank you for not dumping your sewage where they enjoy the water.

Eco-friendly cotton bags with food on the table.

7. Reduce waste, sort and use eco-bags

Even on a boat, less is more. So try not to waste anything and reduce the amount of packaging you use. What do you actually use to put waste into when you are on a boat? There are bags available made of starch that decompose over time in a landfill. Another option is to use the old bags you were given at the shop. But be sure to try and separate your waste. While some marinas don't have separate recycling containers, they are being gradually introduced.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Croatians are trying to be eco-friendly too! On the island of Šćedro in Croatia, a boat with a national park official circles the boats at buoys. On request, they will hand out bags for sorted waste and offer to collect it in the evening. Not only will you get rid of your rubbish but you can be sure that it will be sorted according to the recycling regulations. A small brochure about the local National Park is also included in the bag pack.

Recycling bags on the island of Šćedro

Recycling bags on the island of Šćedro

8. Clean the beaches and the sea

Did you come across a beach with a lot of trash? Did you sail past a PET bottle or a plastic bag? Don't be shy about picking up other people's rubbish. Sure, it's not fair, because somebody's throwing garbage where it shouldn't go, and you're supposed to clean it up... But you'll be making it easier on nature and one extra bag won't do you any harm.

A man picks up a plastic bottle on the beach. Sea and sunset in the background.

There are a lot of young people cleaning beaches these days, as an investment in their future.

9. What (not) to throw into the sea?

There are many opinions on what to throw or not to throw into the sea. Some extremists forbid throwing anything organic or inorganic into the sea. We are of the opinion that feeding the occasional fish is not a bad thing.

So, you can throw these into the sea (further from the coast):

  • Cucumber, potato or carrot peelings
  • Old bread - better to cut or tear it up, not throw half a loaf into the water
  • Meat scraps
  • Leftovers from soup, stew and other foods you won't eat

But by no means throw these into the sea:

  • Plastics
  • Paper (even toilet paper)
  • Do not pour petrol or oil

YACHTING.COM TIP: Is it just a matter of years before our boats will be accompanied by plastic bottles instead of cute dolphins? What can we, as sailors, do to prevent being part of the problem? Read our article — Sailing in an ocean of plastic: the facts about plastic waste in the seas.

10. Don't waste food

Often, sailors tend to fill the boat's fridge to bursting point at the beginning of their sailing holiday and throw food away by the kilo at the end of the trip. Try not to waste it. Don't go shopping hungry and make a precise plan of what you'll be cooking and when.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Wondering how you’re going to eat on your boating holiday? Find out our recommendations on provisioning for a sailing trip — how best to cater for the crew, where to shop, what to cook and how to account for the costs at the end. Check out our guide — Food for sailing: how to manage meals on board.

11. On a trip by alternative transport

Taking a taxi to dinner or into town from the marina? How about trying bikes or scooters from time to time? Some marinas rent these. Ask the front desk at check-in what your options are. Or you could always walk into town. It's good for the environment and for your health.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Sailing is a great sport that's a lot of fun, but did you know it's great for your body and mind too? Find out why in our article — 7 reasons to fall in love with sailing.

On which boat will you try out some of our eco tips?

Not sure which boat or destination is right for you? We'll work it out together, just get in touch.

FAQs about eco-friendly sailing