Environmentally-Friendly Boating Practices for the New Year

There’s nothing quite like a day out on the water, basking in the sun, without a care in the world. Recreational boating is undoubtedly one of life’s greatest pleasures – and it’s also an honor to observe the life that exists below the water firsthand. 

Aquatic life requires a delicate balance of oxygen, nutrients, and clean water in order to survive in their environment. The smallest amount of toxic waste or byproducts can disrupt their thriving ecosystem and have harmful, lasting effects for years. 

Did you know that 30% of all fuel and oil used in two-stroke engines typically ends up in the water? In fact, the amount of hydrocarbon and oil pollution getting into North American waters just from recreational boating alone is already estimated to be more than fifteen times the amount of oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez catastrophe – up to a billion liters each year!

Boating enthusiasts must collectively work together to implement simple yet effective eco-friendly solutions to make sure future generations will also have the ability to enjoy time out on the open water. 

sailboat and marsh at southport

Here are a few ways you can start to follow this year to reduce your environmental impact while boating. 

Always Plan Ahead

As always, preparation is the first step towards preventing something monumental from happening while you’re out on the water. 

Conduct a comprehensive check on your vessel to make sure there’s no visible damage to the hull or bottom of the boat. Double check the tank, fuel lines, and carburetor for potential leaks or disconnected lines. Maintain the boat’s engine, bilge pumps, and propellers regularly to make sure they are always clean and working properly. And be sure to avoid using copper bottom-paint when reapplying a protective coat to the bottom of your boat because it can be especially destructive – and even deadly – for many species. 

If you’ll be spending a large part of the day on the boat, refuel at the dock so you don’t spill anything into the water. Be careful not to overfill the tank!

Use Eco-Friendly Marine Products

With a little research, you can also upgrade the types of cleaning products you’re using onboard to make sure they’re non-toxic and environmentally friendly. 

You may not be aware, but sodium lauryl sulfate and phthalates are highly toxic to aquatic life – both of which are also common ingredients in cleaning chemicals. Instead, opt for biodegradable and toxic-free cleaning solutions to keep waters clear of additional harmful substances. 

If you plan to shower onboard, you may want to consider the types of soaps, shampoos, and body wash you use to make sure they are non-toxic. Untreated water from sinks, showers, dishwashers, and washing machines can result in greywater leakage into the open waters. Use those facilities onshore when possible, but be sure to use safe products on your boat. 

Another thing you may not have considered is whether your sunscreen selection is harmful to the environment. If you use a type of sun protectant that contains oxybenzone, it will destroy coral reefs and other ecosystems below the water over time.  

Proper Disposal of All Waste

Ever heard the phrase, “Pack in, pack out”? That means what you bring out on the water comes back into shore with you at the end of your trip. That means all waste, litter, and even sewage needs to come back to be properly disposed of. 

Sewage discharge, or blackwater, from marine heads cause significant damage to the surrounding waters. Invest in a marine sanitation device (MSD) to properly treat and dispose of sewage in the right facilities. For example, all of Morningstar Marinas’ coastal locations offer this helpful amenity, making it that much easier to be environmentally conscientious while you’re enjoying the water. Another option is to consider using a composting toilet!

Never, ever throw trash or waste overboard. Things like fishing line or plastic pieces will take hundreds of years to decompose and pose deadly risks for fish and marine wildlife who accidentally get tangled in it. 

The top items that currently pose the biggest risk for coastal pollution according to the Ocean Conservancy include: cigarette butts, aluminum cans, pieces of paper, plastic and glass, styrofoam, plastic food bags, soda can tabs, plastic caps and lids, glass and plastic bottles, plastic straws, and styrofoam cups. Aluminum cans alone can take anywhere from 200 to 500 years to fully decompose! 

If you take it out on the water, just be sure to bring it in and recycle what you can once you’re back on dry land. 

Slow Down & Think About What’s Below

Just because your boat can go top speed, doesn’t mean it always needs to be going as fast as it can! You can significantly reduce your carbon footprint if you opt to run your boat at its most efficient cruising speed (which will also allow you to get the highest miles per gallon) a majority of the time.

life below the water 

There’s a reason for wake zones: land erosion is a serious concern in tighter areas, and reduced speed can help to keep things intact for a longer period of time. 

Beyond taking care of the quality of water itself, it’s just as important to think about the marine ecosystems that dwell below the surface. Boat anchors severely impact coral reefs, destroy shallow weed beds, churn muddy bottoms and disturb shellfish beds. 

At the end of the day, it’s just important to be a conscientious boater. It’s important to think about your environment and how your actions impact it – and then find new ways to do better. 

About Morningstar Marinas

At Morningstar Marinas, we pride ourselves on the community of boaters we’ve created across the Southeast’s top boating destinations. Our facilities and services paired with our friendly and knowledgeable team members will help you quickly and efficiently get out there on the water, so you can start having fun! Morningstar Marinas is more than just a place to store your boat — we’re here to offer you an unforgettable boating experience, everytime.