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Guide on How to Reduce Single-Use Plastic on Your Sailing Vacation

Guide on How to Reduce Single-Use Plastic on Your Sailing Vacation

In my sailing career, I have seen first-hand the impact waste plastic has on wildlife and oceans across the globe. It is clear that we are now at a critical point where not only plastic but also microplastic, has been identified in the most remote oceans on our planet. We need to act—and act fast—if we are to reverse the damage already done. My involvement with the Turn the Tide on Plastic campaign in the Volvo Ocean Race forced me to look even more closely at how I could personally avoid single-use plastic in everyday life.

The great news is, for the vast majority of single-use plastic, there are alternative products that are as good (if not better) than the default option. The hard part is breaking existing habits or challenging common assumptions such as the ‘one cup won’t make any difference.’ I have heard this cry many times from serial single-use plastic consumers. Let us remember, we are 7.9 billion people on the planet. If we all just make one change collectively, that makes a massive impact.

Plastic polluted waters in Sicily

My advice is to initially start with a simple change—something that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine. Once you get this new practice underway, you will be surprised at how easy these motivated changes are to sustain. You will also become much more aware of your own single-use plastic usage and how to reduce or eliminate it completely.

Here are my top 11 pieces of advice to jump-start your plastic-free journey…

1. Be mindful of your plastic usage.

Take stock of how much plastic you encounter or use on a daily basis and look at how you might achieve a reduction. It follows that a reduction in use will automatically contribute to a reduction in demand. The less we as a society demand it, the more it will cease being economically viable to produce.

2. Opt for ‘unbagged’ items, and bring your own carrier!

Supermarkets are a critical place to start thinking sustainably. Avoid pre-packaged goods, when possible. Buy loose fruit and vegetables, and take your own reusable bag! Opt for fresh bread at the bakery instead of pre-packaged loaves and, when possible, specifically ask for your items NOT to be wrapped or bagged in plastic.

Recycling sign and fresh fruits

3. Use a refillable drink bottle.

Some coffee shop chains even give a customer discount if you bring your own reusable cup for your hot or cold drink orders.

Mariner Yacht Club Hotel harbour

4. Avoid disposable cutlery or plastic straws.

Where possible, select cardboard or paper-based products that can be recycled or composted.

5. Seek more sustainable alternatives!

For example, buy cotton buds with card-based stems—not plastic! These are one of the main single-use plastics found on our treasured beaches.

6. Ditch the sandwich bags.

For packed meals, use Tupperware containers as much as possible. Even yogurt can be decanted each day from a large pot into small reusable pots to avoid plastic multi-packs.

7. Opt for alternatives to cling film and plastic wrap.

We have become heavily reliant on this ‘go-to’ kitchen staple to keep our food fresh. Many people cannot comprehend life without it. Rest easy, there are options available! Try beeswax wraps as a sustainable alternative.

Loblolly Bay bumpersticker

8. Get informed about your products.

Lead by example and check that the products you use within a marine environment meet Marpol standards. On the ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’ campaign, our crew used EcoWorks products to clean the boat. They have a complete range of products that are biorenewable, biodegradable and sustainably formulated to minimize the stress, acidity, and impact on the marine environment.

There is an increasing number of environmentally friendly products available to consumers. Ecover is another excellent ecologically sound company that produces a great range of high-quality environmentally conscious cleaning products (washing liquid, toilet cleaner, etc.).

9. Invest in some reusable bags—for life!

Thankfully, the general public is now accustomed to taking their own bags to the supermarket. The next step is to expand that behavior to include every retail outlet. While indulging in a bit of retail therapy, if we all take our own reusable bag with us, single-use plastic bags could become a thing of the past.

Cooper Island Beach Club cocktail

10. Challenge yourself to a plastic-free week.

At some stage, everyone should challenge themselves to a plastic-free week! It takes a little preparation but, believe me, it’s worth it. You will gain a real sense of achievement. Like any bad habit, the goal becomes keeping the momentum going and prioritizing sustainability as much as possible. 

11. Be an advocate.

Spread the word and for every change you make, challenge and encourage someone else to do the same!

Having spent a week chartering with Sunsail amongst the jaw-dropping islands of Croatia, I was blown away by the beautiful, crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic. Croatia’s seas were wonderfully inviting if a little cold on my visit! However, I was concerned to see that even these gorgeous islands are not immune to rubbish collecting at the shorelines.

As is typical, single-use plastic appears to be the main culprit to most tourist destinations. As ocean lovers, there are a number of actions that both individuals and organizations can take that will help support ocean health and reduce our impact on the ecosystem. Specifically, if recycling opportunities are available at your sailing destination, aim to operate a refuse system onboard, separating recyclable items from non-recyclable refuse to capitalize on this service.

For sailors, the sea is our playground and our office, and we need to take accountability for it. If we are to encourage people to enjoy this fabulous marine environment, it is vital that we do so responsibly so that it continues to be extraordinary for the next generation and beyond.

The key thing to always bear in mind is simple and sweet. No matter how small or large your single-use plastic reduction effort or environmental stewardship is, it can—and will—make a difference. I urge everyone to give it a try. Our planet will undoubtedly thank you!

Photo Credit:
Brian Yurasits
Author Name: 
Dee Caffari


Ian Pedersen

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