Reminder: Practice Green Boating on Memorial Day Weekend

For many of us, Memorial Day Weekend marks the beginning of our summer. The kids are out of the school, the temperature is a little warmer than it was a month ago, and you finally have the perfect excuse to get the boat in the water. We’re certain you were environmentally responsible over the last few weeks as you’ve prepared your boat for this weekend, but we just wanted to give you one more reminder to practice green boating and green living while you’re having fun out there!

3 Quick Tips for Green Boating on Memorial Day Weekend

1. Wear eco-friendly and non-toxic sunscreen!

The Environmental Working Group just recently released their annual sunscreen guide, which is always a great resource for helping you choose the safest forms of protection from UV rays. Once again, Badger sunscreen receives the organization’s highest rating for both effectiveness and safety. Wearing green sunscreen brands is an important part of protecting the water and marine life this summer.

2. Take ALL your trash to shore.

Most people already know that you shouldn’t throw water bottles or aluminum cans into the water, but remember it’s important not to leave anything behind. Recycle your fishing line and put your food scraps in the trash you’ll bring to shore. If it didn’t come from the water, it shouldn’t end up there when you’re done with it.

3. Be prepared to handle an accident.

There are many steps you can (and should) take to prevent a fuel spill in the water, but accidents can still happen. Your immediate response to a spill is the most important. Before pushing off from the dock this weekend, make sure you have an absorbent oil pad on board.

Now, get out there and have some fun!

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Green Boating Law Bans Copper Bottom Paints

Finding alternatives to copper bottom paint has been a green boating priority for several years. Now, it appears that all boaters may need to reconsider their painting supplies as copper bottom paint becomes banned by state laws.

What is copper bottom paint?

Antifouling paint is applied to prevent fouling from marine life to the boat hull. Copper Bottom Paint is specifically designed to release small amounts of copper in order to stop muscles, barnacles and other marine life from attaching to the bottom of boat. However, some studies have indicated that this leeched copper is accumulating in large enough quantities to do significant damage to the waters of crowded marinas.

Copper Bottom Paint Banned

Washington State recently become the first state in the US to ban copper bottom paint. The law targets recreational vehicles under 65 feet long and gives boaters until 2020 to find alternatives. Boaters who are caught using copper bottom paint could pay fines of up to $10,000 per day.

While some critics of the law are disappointed that commercial vessels and larger recreational boats are exempt from the ban, proponents argue that the majority of boats parked at private marinas are covered by the legislation. There has been no mention of future plans to expand the law, but greening boating advocates are hopeful that the Washington law is just one step towards banning copper paints on a larger scale.

Green Alternatives to Copper Bottom Paint

Although Washington gives boaters almost a decade to find alternatives, there’s no need to wait nearly that long to start using environmentally friendly antifouling paint. Copper-free hull paint is already available from ePaint and SeaHawk Yacht Finishes. The ePaint compounds use Hydrogen Peroxide or Zinc Omadine to prevent fouling, and SeaHawk Yacht Finishes boasts a completely metal-free product.

Does the law go far enough?

With safe alternatives already readily available, does the Washington ban go far enough? Is the phase-out plan too generous, and should the owners of commercial vessels and large yachts also be exempt?

Tell us what you think!

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3 Reasons to Practice Green Boating

If you aren’t already practicing green boating, making the switch can seem overwhelming at first. You have to learn about the best kind of fuel, green maintenance, what types of products to use on board, and how to handle fuel spills responsibly. But the time it takes to educate yourself about green boating is time well spent.

3 Reasons to Practice Green Boating

1. Protect your favorite boating areas.

The lakes, rivers, streams and oceans we boat in are part of a delicate ecosystem made up of plants and animals. It’s this system that allows you to enjoy the beauty of the Great Outdoors, but maintaining it requires balance. Chemicals in the air and water can cause small changes in the ecosystem that lead to bigger changes, some of which can make the waterways no longer safe for boating, fishing or swimming.

2. Keep your food clean.

Whether you eat the fish that live in the water or the other animals that eat them, practicing green boating is essential to protecting your own food source.

3. Set a good example for kids.

Showing kids how to properly care for the environment doesn’t just teach them how to be green, but also how to be socially conscious. It shows them how to think beyond their own immediate needs and reminds them that they are a part of a larger community.

Green boating is good for the water, good for the Earth, and good for you!

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How to Handle a Fuel Spill on the Boat

Big oil spills make the news – we know those are bad for the environment. But it’s important to remember that even a few drops of oil or fuel spilled into your favorite lake or river can also cause a significant amount of damage to the local marine ecosystem.

Oil spreads very quickly into a thin sheen on top of the water. As little as one cup of oil can create a sheen over more than an acre of calm water. These oil slicks create a barrier to the oxygen that normally moves across the water’s surface, causing significant problems for both animal and plant life. When it comes to oil and fuel spills, a little bit can do a lot of harm.

Prevention, of course, is crucial. Take the time to learn how to safely fuel your boat to prevent spills and know where your marinas spill station is located. But accidents can happen to even the most careful among us. What do you do if you have a fuel spill in the water?

How to Handle a Fuel Spill on a Boat:

  1. Act quickly – remember that a small spill can spread quickly
  2. Place an absorbent oil-only mat pad over the spill
  3. Dispose of the used pad properly
  4. Contact staff at your local marina

That’s it! The most important part of handling a spill is to react quickly and to be prepared with the proper materials. Always have an oil absorbing mat or pad on board or with your boating gear, and know exactly where it’s stored.

Are you prepared or boating season? Do your part today by making sure you have the right supplies to take care of a fuel or oil spill.

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Save the Water, Ditch the Water Bottle

Every month we feature one product at the top of our Green Boat Stuff website. This month, we’re highlighting a 1 liter aluminum water bottle.

What do water bottles have to do with being green?

Let’s look at the numbers:

  • 30 million water bottles are thrown away each day
  • 2,480,000 tons of plastic bottles and jars were disposed of in one year (2008)
  • 10% of the plastic produced every year will end up in the ocean
  • 46,000 pieces of plastic are floating in every square mile of the ocean

While these numbers are estimates, it gives us a pretty good picture of where all those clear plastic water bottles end up. If you’re still not sure, take a walk along a beach or roadway some day and count the number of empty plastic bottles you find!

Purchasing one re-usable bottle for everyone on the boat is a great way to prevent plastic waste from getting into our rivers, streams, oceans, and landfills.

Look for stainless steel water bottles that are durable and made without BPA, phthalates, or other toxins. You might also look for models that do not have synthetic liners in order to avoid a metallic aftertaste.

In addition to helping the environment, investing in a reusable water bottle is also good for your bottom line. One $15 stainless steel water bottle can be used over and over again and easily pays for itself within the first week or two of daily use. You might also be more likely to drink water – which is great for weight loss and overall good health – if you’re carrying a water bottle with you at all times.

Save the water, ditch the plastic bottle, and everybody wins!

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Green Tips for Avoiding Plastic Food Packaging

Over on our Facebook page (you have liked us, right?), we recently asked what the most difficult “green change” was for people to make in real life. A couple people commented that they were overwhelmed by how much plastic was involved in their food packaging.

While it’s true that most cities have recycling programs for plastic, many of us would like to avoid having plastic come in contact with our food in the first place. It’s also a good idea to discourage the manufacturing of plastic, and the best way to do that is by eliminating its use from our daily lives whenever possible.

But plastic seems to be everywhere!

Is it possible to get food from the source to your table without introducing plastic in some form?

Here are a few suggestions for removing plastic from your food cycle:

  1. Start a garden. Even people living in small spaces can take advantage of container gardens and window sill gardens to grow vegetables and herbs. Herbs and spices are commonly packaged in plastic, but not when you’re snipping them off your own plant!
  2. Pick your own food. Some local farms will allow consumers to come and harvest their own produce, eliminating the need for the clear plastic containers in which berries are often sold.
  3. Shop at local farmer’s markets. Buying local cuts down on the resources that are used to bring your food to you, including gas and oil. Farmer’s markets are also a good place to find food that hasn’t been overly packaged.
  4. Bring your own containers to the store. Use an organic cotton shopping bag to bring home your groceries and smaller mesh bags for your individual produce purchases.

Making a big difference in the world comes down to making small changes every day. These small changes, when made over time, can dramatically reduce the amount of plastic you use.

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Practicing Green Fishing and Eating Sustainable Seafood

It’s no surprise that fishing is a favorite past time for many avid boaters. One of the best reasons to get up early in the morning is to take the boat out and catch the night’s dinner. Gathering around the table with your family to share a meal that you caught yourself, after patiently waiting and enjoying the Great Outdoors for a few hours, is one of life’s simple pleasures.

Of course, not everyone who throws a line into the water brings home dinner. Fortunately, you can always stop by a local fish market on the way home.

But before you cast out or place your next seafood order, stop and think about what effect your fish dinner could be having on the environment and aquatic wildlife.

It’s difficult to imagine, but there is not a limitless supply of fish in the Earth’s oceans, seas, rivers and lakes. As technology has helped us become better fishermen, we’ve begun to take a large percentage of wildlife out of the water. In addition to overfishing, we can also damage the habitats with certain fishing techniques, including bottom trawling and dredging.

To practice more eco-friendly fishing, learn about the invasive or overpopulated species in the waterways in which you fish. Make sure you throw back anything else you reel in. It’s also a good idea to invest in green fishing tackle – which means 100% lead-free tackle – and recycle your fishing line.

In addition to being a more eco-friendly fishermen yourself, it’s also important to encourage green commercial fishing by only purchasing sustainable seafood. Remember that just because it’s on the menu or for sale in the market, doesn’t mean it’s sustainable. Many corporations and small fishing companies are still more concerned with making a profit than protecting our aquatic wildlife and habitats. It’s up to you to become a better informed consumer.

Here are a few pointers about which seafood to choose and which to avoid:

Best Choices for Sustainable Seafood

  • U.S. farmed abalone (known as awabi in sushi)
  • Albacore tuna from the U.S., Canadian Pacific, Hawaii or Atlantic
  • Alaska wild salmon
  • Farmed oysters and mussels
  • Farmed or wild striped bass
  • Dungeness crab (Blue crab is also a good alternative)
  • Mahi Mahi from the U.S.
  • Pacific or Alaskan halibut
  • Farmed tilapia

Avoid:

  • King crab imported from outside the U.S. (Alaskan king crab is a better alternative.)
  • Atlantic halibut
  • Chilean Seabass

To make the best decisions about whether the seafood you’re purchasing (and eating) was caught using sustainable fishing techniques, you need to know more about where the animal came from and how it was captured. If in doubt, ask.

For a complete list of sustainable seafoods and downloadable pocket guide to help you make eco-friendly purchasing decisions, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch web site. Visit your state’s conservation web site for detailed information on local regulations and restrictions.

Working together, we can enjoy and protect our waterways.

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Why Should You Use Green Sunscreen?

Whether you’re spending a day on the boat or staying on land, wearing sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors is a must. Wearing sunscreen regularly can help prevent skin cancer and keeps your skin looking younger for longer. But wait! Before you start to slather on the white stuff, find out more about using green sunscreen this year.

Why should you use green sunscreen?

Many of the chemicals used in traditional sunscreens are considered “potentially dangerous” for your health. In some cases, research is still being done to determine for certain if the ingredients in sunscreen are linked to cancer or other health problems.

Why take the risk with your health, or the health of your family? green sunscreens use minerals and physical filters to provide protection, and some even offer a broader range of UV protection than traditional formulas.

Another reason to look for green sunscreen is to protect the environment. Chemicals found in traditional sunscreens have been shown to trigger a viral infection in coral that bleaches and kills the coral community. It’s estimated that about 10% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by the 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen that wash off swimmers into the oceans each year.

What if you’re not swimming in the ocean? Research has shown that chemicals used in sunscreens can build up in fish living in lakes and rivers, although it’s still unclear exactly how the fish are affected by the chemicals.

How do you know if your sunscreen is green?

Unfortunately, you can’t rely on manufacturers’ labels to tell you if a sunscreen is eco-friendly or safe for your body. Words like “natural” and “organic” aren’t heavily regulated within the sunscreen industry and can be very misleading. Your best option is to read the ingredients list.

Avoid:

  • oxybenzone
  • parabens (butylparaben, methylparaben)
  • vitamin A (usually listed as retinyl palmitate)

Look for:

  • zinc dioxide or titanium dioxide

The Environmental Working Group offers a full report on the best sunscreens that provide UVA and UVB protection with limited risk to your health. Some of our favorites from their recommendations include:

Educating yourself about what makes a sunscreen potentially dangerous is the best way to make sure you’re staying healthy in the sun this year!

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What Environmentalists Say About Nuclear Power

Nuclear Power has been in the news and on the minds of people all over the world since the Japan earthquake and tsunami threatened the safety and stability of the Fukushima Dai’ichi Power Plant. Many people are asking questions about nuclear power that have gone unanswered for years.

Is nuclear power safe?

Is it green?

Are there better options?

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be one set of answers that everyone can agree on – even in the environmentalist community.

Patrick Moore, who helped found Greenpeace in 1971 as an anti-nuclear group, is now a paid ambassador for the nuclear industry. He says that nuclear power is among the safest forms of power available and that nuclear power plants are a greener solution than coal-powered plants. Nuclear plants don’t emit greenhouse gases.

The Sierra Club, however, remains opposed to nuclear power. Although the group had supported a bill two years ago that included subsidies for new nuclear plants in the United States, Executive Director Michael Brune now says that The Sierra Club will not support the construction of any new nuclear plants.

While Patrick Moore has changed his position, the organization he helped start has not. Greenpeace USA’s nuclear policy analyst Jim Riccio says, “We’ve always believed that it’s an inherently dangerous technology that should be phased out and replaced and there are many cheaper, easier and less dangerous ways to generate electricity that don’t threaten our families, homes and communities.”

What are the other options?

Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council are advocating for “cleaner” sources of electricity, specifically solar and wind power. They believe that the initial investment needed to develop these technologies would actually result in lower energy costs in the future as communities become less dependent on non-renewable energy sources.

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Getting Your Boat Ready for the Water

While some parts of the country actually had snow this week, it is officially spring. Hopefully that means boaters all over will soon be able to get back in the water. As you’re pulling your boat out of winter storage and getting ready for your first splash of the season, keep these green boating tips in mind.

Green Boating Tips to Get Ready for Spring

  1. Schedule a tune-up with a mechanic you trust and with whom you feel comfortable discussing green maintenance practices. A tune-up is good for finding (and fixing) any leaks or dysfunctional parts.
  2. Scrape off all debris from the boat, trailer tires, propeller, and anchors before entering water for the first time.
  3. Stock up on chemical-free sunscreen. Most sunscreens have an expiration date and should be replaced each year for maximum protection.
  4. Be prepared for spills and accidents by having absorbing bilge pads and oil pads on board.
  5. Switch to a green lubricant to prevent corrosion without damaging the environment.
  6. Know where you can safely pump out and discard mechanical or electrical parts, cleaning agents, paints, and hazardous wastes. Contact a local green marina or state conservation office to locate the facilities nearest you.

After a long winter, many boaters are eager to finally get outside and enjoy the sun and water again. Just a few steps of precaution beforehand can ensure you have a great – and green – boating season!

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