Green Wakes: 10 Ways to Reduce Waste Aboard

Here are some simple things you can do to lessen the amount of trash on your boat and ease your environmental burden.
Bring your own cutlery and takeout containers ashore. Heather Francis

Zero waste has become not only a buzz phrase but a global ­movement. Although the term “zero waste” implies a drastic lifestyle, the main purpose is to raise awareness about how much waste is created in our day-to-day lives. With most cruising boats lacking a place to keep bags of trash, and many of the remote places we visit lacking the infrastructure to handle much trash, reducing waste is a win for everyone.

Joining the zero-waste movement might seem overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead of making many changes at once, pick one or two things you’d like to work on and go from there.


Alternatives to plastic wrap and paper towels
Beeswax food wraps and hand-knitted dish cloths can replace plastic wrap and paper towels. Heather Francis

Swap out disposable for reusable: Paper towels, dish sponges, plastic wrap and paper plates are just a few of the items on board that can be easily switched from disposable items to reusable.


Go au naturel: When considering clothing or cleaning cloths, choose natural fabrics like cotton, linen, hemp and bamboo, which can biodegrade, over man-made polyesters and microfibers.

Use what you have: A great way to start reducing food waste is simply to use what you have on board before re-­provisioning. Sometimes it means getting a little creative in the galley, but that can be a good thing too.

water bottles
Skip plastic water bottles and disposable coffee cups and get in the habit of using your own. Heather Francis

Upcycle items: Before spending big on fancy storage containers try reusing things like glass peanut-butter jars, coffee cans and plastic ice-cream tubs.


Make your own: From preserves to toothpaste, clothing to cleaning supplies, the internet is overflowing with DIY ­projects that will help you on your zero-waste journey.

Recyclable shopping bags
Don’t forget your shopping and produce bags on provisioning runs. Heather Francis


Refuse single-use plastics: Straws, plastic bags, water bottles, takeout ­containers and utensils are the big culprits. Simply by packing your own reusable shopping bags and saying no to straws, you can drastically reduce your trash. If you’re getting takeout, bring your own container and utensils. And don’t forget your reusable water bottle and coffee cup.

Local market
Local markets usually offer products with no packaging. Heather Francis

Buy local: Supporting local makers and growers is an easy way to shop ­sustainably. These small businesses often use less packaging and preservatives. Buying local cuts down on transporting goods, reducing their carbon footprint.


Shop secondhand: Books, ­electronics, clothes, galley equipment and even big-ticket boat gear can all be sourced secondhand. Check out your local swap meet, charity shop or online forums like Craigslist and eBay.

Go green: Look for plant-based, ­biodegradable detergents, soaps and cleaning products that are free of parabens, phosphates, phthalates, harsh chemicals, dyes and fragrances.

Skip it: Many items are impulse buys. Before making a purchase, ask yourself if you have something that already does the job.