Sailing on the Breeze

Green boating: tips for living sustainably at sea

6 min Read
Two white sailboats side by side on a calm blue sea

At the end of 2019 myself and Callum bought our sailing boat Ethos, a Bavaria 38. We were set to spend 6 months sailing around the Med (Coronavirus delayed us a bit, but we eventually got out here).

Green boating was very important to us both; we wanted to ensure our adventure didn’t hurt the planet. A few months in and our approach to living sustainably at sea has come from watching and learning from others, a bit of trial and error, and considering what changes were relevant to us and our boat.

Green boating is possible for any boat owner - especially a sailboat. It’s easier than ever to do and even making a few changes will help. Here are some of the ways we do it.

Sailing over motoring

Callum has been dinghy sailing and teaching since he was 13. It’s made him value the power of wind and so we sail whenever possible (sometimes even when we’re barely hitting 1 knot). We only use the engine if we’re in a tricky spot, are pressed for time and need to make it somewhere to meet people, or we’re coming in to anchor/moor up.

It’s something that we take a lot of pride in. Plus it saves us money filling up on diesel! (We’ve probably used less than 80 litres in over a month).

Eco-friendly products

The quickest green boating change you can make is swapping out your cleaning/beauty products for ocean-friendly products.

Even on land, I’ve been much more conscious of the products I’ve been buying. Now we’re flushing everything straight into the sea that we swim and see fish in, we feel even more responsible. Before we came out, we bought reef and marine safe boat wash, ocean-friendly laundry detergent, ocean-friendly surface wash and sanitiser. We also use ocean safe toothpaste, reef safe shampoo, conditioner and eco-friendly suncream.

It’s not as expensive as you might think if you do some research. We use brands like EcoMarine (boaty bits), GreenPeople (toiletries), and Ultrasun (eco-friendly suncream).

Reducing waste

Close up of green boating couple in front of boat Ethos

We don’t have loads of space on our floating home but we have two separate bins - one for recycling and one for general waste. If we spend consecutive nights on anchor, they can fill up quickly. It’s definitely given us perspective on how much waste we create even when it’s just the two of us; when we have guests, even more so.

To help reduce our waste at sea, we buy fruit and veg that isn’t wrapped in plastic. We also buy what’s grown locally on the island. This isn’t only better for our carbon footprint, we learnt early on that in the sun everything spoils 3x faster, especially if it’s already travelled far to get to the supermarket.

Eating what’s in season and not whatever we fancy (like we’re often guilty of on land) makes me feel better - something I’m going to take back with me.

Short showers

On our boat, almost everything is precious, especially battery power and water. When we feel like we need it, we use our two water tanks to have a freshwater ‘shower’ off the back of the boat.

We keep our showers short and turn the water off between soaping, shampooing and conditioning (me, not Callum). Being less wasteful with water is something I’m taking back with us, 15-minute showers are unnecessary.

Leisure power

Our leisure batteries give us the power we need to keep the fridge running, wash up, and turn lights on at night but we don’t have lots to spare. The previous owners of our boat fitted a wind generator and solar panels that keep our batteries topped up throughout the day.

This means we sparingly charge our phones, don’t run the taps continuously or waste any energy keeping lights on that don’t need to be. It can be tricky sometimes when washing up but it makes us much more conscious of what we’re using and it’s a small price to pay!

Having wind and solar power on a boat is an investment but is 100% with it. We have a Rutland wind charger and two BP 350J solar panels. If you have or choose to get solar panels and/or a wind generator for your boat, here’s a top tip: Periodically give your solar panels a wipe down with freshwater, the salt makes them much less efficient!


We aren’t perfect at green boating and it can often be difficult in remote places to make eco-friendly boating decisions but we figure if everyone, boat or no boat, did what they could, together we’d make a massive impact.

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