The environment and us
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[R] Evolution begins in the heart
And we have a lot of heart! But it’s now common knowledge that the mere mention of their carbon footprint makes some people roll their eyes, at least when it comes to being greener and more sustainable. I’m already supposed to eat, shop and drive sustainably – do I now also have to travel sustainably as well? Isn’t it okay to switch off, let go and throw my worries overboard – including all ecological concerns – when on holiday, at least? Yes, definitely! You should, you’re allowed to, and you can! Especially during a sailing holiday. Aside from the fact that the environmental impact of a sailing holiday is considerably lower
than a standard package holiday, anyone who knows sailing also knows that one can only sail with nature, never against her. It’s as simple as it is true. With nature means not only careful cruise planning based around the natural conditions of wind and waves in order to sail in harmony with the elements as much as possible, but also respecting protected habitats and wildlife, and to live the same way that we sail: in harmony with nature. Being a friend to the environment and a travel junkie needn’t be a contradiction – it can be achieved from A for arrival through to Z for zero waste.
Little by little, a little becomes a lot
“We don’t need a handful of people who perfectly implement zero waste – we need millions of people who implement it imperfectly”, as an American blogger aptly put it.* This is exactly the point, and not just when it comes to waste. Even though we’re surrounded by Atlantic blue, we want to share some thoughts with you so we can collectively become a little ‘greener’. We can’t be 100 per cent green, but we do want to implement the many small steps that we can easily incorporate into everyday life while sailing. We want to preserve the nature that gifts us so many great sailing days and inspires us afresh each day with so many different and unforgettable panoramas.
When we can sail, we do sail and use our engine as little as possible. It’s not only more fun that way but also spares the environment. We make sure that there aren’t any oil drips or fuel leaks – when refuelling, for example. And for the energy management on board, we use alternative energy sources, such as wind energy. Because water is a scare resource on board in any case, we use it sparingly, which is a skill one can definitely also apply once back home – on board the ship, everyone soon learns that it isn’t a good idea to use seven litres of water just because you left the tap running while while washing your hands. As is so often the case, it’s the little things that make the difference for us, and we are open to your ideas that you might bring on board with you.
(*The Zero-Waste Chef, Anne Marie Bonneau)
Life in plastic, it’s not fantastic
If a plastic bottle takes 450 years to degrade and if 22 kilos of plastic can be extracted from the belly of a dead whale, it doesn’t take much brain power to realise that it is high time for us all to reflect on our individual habits and make our own small contribution to improving the situation. Here, we endorse the familiar triad of the three “Rs”: Reduce – Reuse – Recycle. These are a great guide, and not just on board.
The best waste is the waste we don’t produce in the first place – that’s obvious. So, we try to reduce, reuse and dispose of waste responsibly. It goes without saying that not even the smallest bit of plastic goes over the side of the boat. Plastic is so omnipresent and so practical at times that we sometimes don’t know where to begin. We would like to share seven points to ponder as a means of making our own small contribution.
- No plastic eating utensils or straws
- Wonderfully simple, something you can endorse everywhere, and there are now countless alternatives available for e.g. plastic straws in case your cocktail just doesn’t taste the same without a straw. On board, we use porcelain eating utensils and glasses.
- Wooden clothes pegs instead of plastic ones
- To prevent your swimming trunks from going overboard, we recommend using wooden clothes pegs, even if your first thought on waking up in the morning only to find that the wind has carried off your washing is not about how long it takes plastic clothes pegs to degrade. You do, of course, have the option of grabbing pegs from your peg bag at home to bring along with you, even if it contains fewer wooden ones – this way, you don’t need to buy any new pegs, which also helps the environment.
- Reuse plastic bags
- When buying large quantities of fruit and vegetables on our cruise, we have got used to everything being weighed in plastic bags. This isn’t necessary at all and works perfectly well without a bag. And if a bag does happen to be required: don’t tie it shut and instead reuse it as a small rubbish bag in the cockpit or in the toilet – great.
- Share tubes
- A yacht is the ideal place to share toiletries such as sun cream – if we buy a large tube for six people, we save on five empty containers in the bin and our wallets will also be grateful, as large tubes are generally cheaper.
- Jute bags instead of plastic ones
- Simply use a fabric bag instead of a plastic one for shoes and dirty laundry.
- Shower gel, detergent, etc.
- Microplastics are the thing to beware of here. These are not just an issue when washing sports and functional clothing (special laundry bags are now available for these). Minuscule plastic particles are found in more products than you might think (shower gel, shampoo, sun cream, detergent, etc.). There is a growing awareness of the problem among ever more manufacturers. This makes it easy to find plastic-free shower gels and biodegradable shampoos in shops. To save on packaging, one can also buy all-in-one products – there are soaps that can also be used as a shower gel and shampoo, for example, and which will also serve as washing-up liquid in a pinch. By the same token, you can also decide to buy everything locally once here, saving on air miles and on luggage weight when flying.
- Don’t ignore it, bin it
- An experiment: what would happen if every day, each person – in the harbour, say, or on the way to the toilet, or in the harbour bar – were to pick up a piece of plastic lying at their feet that they would have tripped over anyway, or which catches their eye because it is drifting past them at the jetty or is caught up in the stones of the quay wall? This hasn’t become a sport or a fad yet, but it makes us feel good, removes plastic from the Atlantic, helps the port guards, and can have positively catching effect. It’s worth a try, in our opinion.
Is it possible to travel more sustainably?
Footprint aside, it’s impossible to walk, swim or take the bus to the Canaries or the Azores – that’s a fact! And one can certainly give oneself a pat on the back for deciding on a greener form of holiday transportation in the form of a sailing ship. However, the fact is that your travel to the port of departure makes up a not inconsiderable portion of the environmental impact of the trip, which is why we don’t want to ignore this topic. Of course, the means of your arrival and departure depends greatly on your individual situation, but it is worthwhile to engage with this matter more consciously and thus perhaps a little more intensively.
If possible, you might, for example, choose a direct flight over a flight with a stopover when making your booking. If you delve more deeply, you will find that some (flight) search sites now highlight flights with a comparatively better carbon footprint, e.g. ueberflieger.de or skyscanner.de. Anyone interested in the carbon footprint of airlines can find the annually updated ranking of each airline by visiting atmosfair.de. The idea of people compensating for the flights they take is criticised, not entirely without justification, and is often quickly dismissed as “greenwashing” – isn’t it odd to want to neutralise one’s environmentally harmful choices by making a donation?
This can serve as the source of endless debate, but the fact is that flying is simply a part of our lived reality when it comes to our worlds of work and holidaying. So, what is so awful about some healthy pragmatism and a beneficial compensation? Deciding on a positive effect is better than no positive effect at all. In this instance, one can choose a donation that is specifically used for climate protection. If you are interested in compensating for your flight in future, it’s worth taking a look at the sites of the test winners in this area, www.atmosfair.de and www.myclimate.org.
The fact that we also contribute to helping the environment when choosing our mode of transport is obvious. Not every choice is available to us, and not everyone can or wants to choose the most environmentally friendly option. But sometimes it’s already a step in the right direction simply to include the most environmentally friendly options in one’s deliberations, e.g. car shares for the last leg from the airport to the port when several people arrive at the same time. And those travelling light might take the bus instead of a hire car.