Green Boating: Making Sure Your Boat is Environmentally Sound
Spending the day out on the water can be a great experience, especially when you make sure there’s no environmental mess floating behind you. With just a few simple steps, you can help make sure your boating adventures are safe, clean and environmentally sound.
Heading out onto the water can come with responsibilities. To make sure you’re not trailing trash and chemicals in your wake, start by actively taking care of your watercraft and your garbage.
Properly Handle Your Waste
No matter how inconvenient, a responsible boater never tosses anything into the water that didn’t come from it. Boats 40-feet long and larger are required to have a written waste management plan describing the collecting and processing of garbage, according to the United States Coast Guard. While it may not be required on your boat, developing a plan for your boat could be helpful. Discharging garbage into U.S. waterways is illegal and you could face fines if you’re caught. Federal law requires that all boats with an installed toilet have a Marine Sanitation Device, which either treats or holds sewage. If you use a portable on-board toilet, never dump its contents in the water. Take it back to shore and empty it at a dumping station.
Clean is Green
Many boat-cleaning products’ ingredients include chlorine, phosphates and ammonia. These chemicals can be harmful to aquatic life, so consider rinsing your boat with fresh water after each use to lessen the need for cleansers. Another option is cleaning your craft with more environmentally friendly ingredients, including vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and good old elbow grease. Also, cleaners that run off into waterways can have a negative impact on marine life. To help minimize the impact of boat cleaning, boatus.org provides these suggestions:
- Use a designated wash down area for all boat cleaning.
- Regularly rinse the boat with fresh water to help avoid the need for harsh cleaners.
- Power washing or high pressure washing can remove paint, so consider saving that step for when your boat is in the wash down area.
- When you must use soaps, read the labels carefully. Look for non-toxic and biodegradable products, and try to use them sparingly.
Remove Invasive Species
Keeping your boat free of invasive species is an important way to maintain the environmental health of lakes and rivers. Just a few simple steps can help ensure that your boat doesn’t transport invasive species from one body of water to another. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers these tips:
- Once it’s out of the water, visually inspect your boat for attached plants and animals.
- Remove any mud, plants, fish, or marine animals before leaving the access site.
- Drain your boat and all wells completely before you leave.
- Use high-pressure water and/or hot water to clean anything that came in contact with the body of water.
- Dry and inspect your boat thoroughly after washing it.
- Soak items that were in or held water — things like buckets and anchors — in vinegar for 20 minutes to kill any aquatic hitchhikers.
Recycle Oil and More
You can recycle a lot more than just your empty aluminum cans. Check with your marina to see if it offers collection of used oil for recycling. Some marinas may help you recycle your used oil, oil filters, antifreeze and batteries. If your marina does not offer a used oil collection service, check with your local automobile repair shop or look on earth911.org for a collection site near you, says boatus.org.
Don’t Overfill Your Fuel Tank
When you fuel up, take care not to overfill your tank. Gas expands as it gets warm, and excess fuel may escape into the water through the vent line. Boatus.org suggests you fill your tank to no more than 90 percent capacity.
If you do overfill your tank, wipe up the spill—never hose it into the water. If a large spill ends up in the water or if the spill discolors the water, you must report it to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 or to the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.