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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Make Your Boat Eco-Friendly

Five tips to help the environment
There are more than 250,000 species of plant and animal life living in marine and freshwater regions of the Earth's aquatic biome. These aquatic regions are delicate ecosystems, vital to our world. The "going green" experts at say the volume of hydrocarbon and oil polluting bodies of water in North America from recreational boating each year is more than 15 times the amount of the Exxon Valdez spill. As responsible boaters, it is our job to be as respectful and nondisruptive as possible when hitting the water. Use these tips to keep your boat eco-friendly and water safe.

Non-Toxic Cleaners

Stay away from cleaning supplies with phosphates and other chemicals that can be toxic to water ecosystems. You can use natural cleaners on almost any part of your boat and you won't have to worry about harsh polluting chemicals. For example, vinegar is a power cleaning agent that can be used on almost any surface. For windows and mirrors, mix white vinegar with lemon and warm water. White vinegar is also effective on plastic, stainless steel and your deck, while apple cider vinegar works on chrome. For interior wood fixtures, use olive or almond oil for natural moisture and shine. If you need a more abrasive cleaner for fiber glass and shower heads, use baking soda and lemon juice.

Proper Trash and Waste Disposal

Always dispose of trash and sewage properly at pump-out stations and shore-side facilities. Never let any garbage, no matter how small, fall overboard. Even the smallest piece of plastic can take hundreds of years to decompose and is a serious threat to aquatic life. Keep spill-proof trash bins on board and always separate liquid waste. Most boating facilities offer recycling services for hazardous oil, batteries, antifreeze and cleaning solutions. You can also recycle plastics and monofilament fishing lines. Monofilament lines left in the environment pose a serious threat to aquatic wildlife. If you are unsure of where to dispose of your recyclables and hazardous waste, call 1-800-CleanUp or go to

Eco-Friendly Boat Maintenance

You don't have to tell a boater how important proper maintenance is, but there are more eco-friendly ways to keep your boat in top shape without risking water pollution. Simply keeping your hull waxed can prevent dirt from getting ingrained which will lessen the need for using harmful detergents when washing your boat. Only wash the hull when your boat is out of the water.
Prevent fuel and oil spills by keeping rags on board for accidental spills. Always fill your portable fuel tanks on shore and leave 10 percent empty to prevent spills and waste.
Barnacles can be a major problem when they grow on the hull of your boat. According to, barnacles can reduce the fuel economy of a vessel by up to 40 percent, which increases CO2 emissions. About 90 percent of boaters use paints based with copper oxide to reduce barnacle growth, but anti-fouling and copper-based paint are harmful to the ecosystem. The European FP7 Collaborative created a project called LEAF that is developing a sustainable anti-fouling solution that is neither based on biocide emission or low adhesion (4). Non-biocide paint creates a surface that is more difficult for marine organisms to stick to. Solutions such as these can protect your boat without polluting the waters.

Know the Laws of Your State

Many states and regions have their own boating laws and environmental policies. For example, in Wisconsin you must have a boating safety certificate to operate any watercraft if you were born after 1988. Wisconsin also has a law requiring boaters on the Great Lakes to have a type III Marine Sanitation Device, or "holding tanks" to store waste for disposal in a sewage system, according to Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine. Laws and policies like these keep natural water sources safe and clean for boaters and wildlife. (Rhode Island information here.)

Ocean-Friendly Upgrades

Even if it's not in your budget right now, upgrading some of your boat's main features can make it a more earth-friendly vessel. There are alternative energy sources you can use to power your boat. Wind turbines are a way to create an alternative energy source. Vertical-axis turbines are designed for lower altitudes to account for frequent wind changes. Turbines can lower the electricity used on a boat and may even completely offset the energy needs. Solar panels can also be installed on boats or you can buy portable solar-powered devices.
Even upgrading the light bulbs on your vessel can make a difference. In the late 90s, the Environmental Protection Agency found that 800 million fluorescent lights were being thrown away every year. These lights produce enough mercury to pollute 20 million acres of water and cause significant ecological damage. Although consumers are more aware today, the damage from these lamps are difficult to reverse. LED lights contain no mercury or toxins, consume less energy than traditional bulbs and last at least 20 years, saving money in the long run.