Sailing Green: Zero Waste Antigua

One man with a boat and a mission is singlehandedly creating a green economy in Antigua

Fed up with the amount of plastic litter on Antigua, longtime sailor and resident Martin Dudley, founded Zero Waste Antigua to encourage recycling on the island.

Living on an island in the West Indies that boasts 365 beaches (“One for every day of the year!”), Martin Dudley has it pretty good.

His family came to Antigua in the late 1960s, and for the most part he’s called this place home. But aside from the tropical waters and the warm trade winds, Martin’s seen the island change substantially over the last 50 years. From English colony to fledgling country, lush mangrove forests to five-star hotels, Martin’s witnessed a country that’s undergone political and environmental disruption.

For Martin, his journey from sailor to environmental watchdog started at an early age, when he grew up in Fitches Creek, an area on the northeast side of the island where he sailed a 10-foot Mirror dinghy after school.

With a big red sail and a consistent onshore breeze, his mother never worried that Martin would get into any trouble. Later, Martin would join the Thursday night races organized by the famous local cruiser Jol Byerley, who passed away just last year.

After local races came years of sailing in Antigua Race Week before realizing that saving the marine environment was a much more serious cause than racing boats.

But it wasn’t until 2008 that Martin took his connection with sailing and merged it with an environmental philosophy.

After purchasing a 36- foot Carriacou sloop, Martin created Zero Waste Antigua, an organization to engage restaurants, marinas and the government in taking notice of the plastic waste accumulating all over the island. The initial mission aimed to take the message around Antigua and spread it to surrounding islands.

Although Martin no longer has the boat, the message stayed, and the mission of Zero Waste Antigua has flourished. Armed now with a trusty ’94 Land Rover, Martin is a staple around the island, where he can be seen collecting anything and everything that can be recycled.

What’s exciting about Martin is not that he provides a much-needed service (there’s no curbside recycling in Antigua), but that he’s educating and setting an example for other sailors and locals to follow. Single-handedly, he’s creating a green economy.

Eventually, he tells me, the goal is to find another boat that can take his message to other islands. Until that time, his Land Rover is doing the job just fine.

Tyson Bottenus, Sailors for the Sea