A Decade of Change

What a difference ten years has made to the relationsip between sailors and the environment. Making the environment second nature has not been a quick fix but rather a voyage of small but meaningful transformations. 

It only seems like yesterday that global yachtsman Mike Golding and artist Pippa Blake were launching The Green Blue – the joint environment project from the British Marine Federation (BMF) and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) – at the Southampton Boat Show, but time has flown and in 2015 it’s amazing to think that the project will be celebrating its tenth anniversary.

As with all projects designed to change attitudes and behaviours, it is always useful to get the early adopters onside as soon as possible, and the project has been lucky to have the support of so many key names in the industry who could see the benefits of moving to a more sustainable way of working.

Of course, general attitudes and awareness of all things environmental have increased as well, so to some extent The Green Blue has been able to capitalise on new generations of boaters who have grown up with more understanding and acceptance of how important simple changes are, from turning off taps and switching appliances off standby to recycling and upcycling.

Looking back to 2005 it’s amazing to think that today’s ever-present technology (the iPhone and Kindle to name just two) did not even exist. George W Bush and Tony Blair were in power and Ellen MacArthur had just completed her single-handed round-the-world 27,000 mile voyage in a record-breaking 71 days 14hrs 18mins and 33secs. A lot has changed in the boating world since then.


Take a look around most clubs and marinas and it is clear that the boating sector has really taken to environmental change. LED lighting along pontoons, smart meters, waste management facilities with different receptacles for every type of boat waste, solar panels visible on many marina office roofs and yacht decks, on board wind turbines, hybrid engines, inline bilge filters and even electric car charging points in marina car parks. Plus there are chairs, bags, tablet covers and crabbing kits made from recycled sails and chandleries stocking several types of environmentally friendly cleaning products.

Boating behaviours have changed too. Tossing an apple core or cigarette butt overboard is no longer acceptable, and the vast majority of marinas and clubs now recycle waste instead of sending it to landfill. Keeping an eye out for invasive species on hulls and anchors is very much on the radar.

Many boaters may not realise that when they see The Yacht Harbour Association’s Gold Anchor flags flying at a marina, it means that key environmental standards have been achieved.

Major events, campaigns and regattas have also recognised the importance of being environmentally sustainable in that time. Sir Keith Mills’ America’s Cup Challenge ‘Race for Change’ was supported by The Carbon Trust, Powerboat P1 created its P1 Marine Foundation, and in 2014 the Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week designated the first Saturday of the regatta as ‘Green Blue Day’ to raise awareness of the event’s on-going commitment to sustainability.

The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy and Sunsail have both achieved ISO20121, an international standard for sustainable event management with a helping hand from The Green Blue. You don’t have to look too far to spot sustainability high on the agenda of Ben Ainslie Racing’s America’s Cup campaign.

A decade on and it’s exciting to think how much has been achieved and what further changes might be possible by 2025!

Want to know more about the work of The Green Blue?  Visit www.thegreenblue.org.uk


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