How easy is it to go eco friendly sailing? We look at the steps cruisers can take to minimise their impact on the marine environment

Is it possible to go eco friendly sailing without it costing you the earth?

The Green Blue publishes a thorough guide to minimise your impact on the environment.

Many of the suggested steps for eco friendly sailing  are easy to do or are simply good seamanship and boat care in the first place and will help to protect your boat and keep it sailing well.

Some will cost more money to do than the less environmentally friendly way of doing things, but often the steps will actually save you money in the long run.

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• Select the right antifoul for your boat and location.

• Consider more environmentally friendly boat paints and non-biocidal coatings such as silicone, vinyl or ultrasonic technologies.

Paint on the ground after antifouling

A tarpaulin under the boat will stop paint and dust getting into the groundwater. Credit: Sarah Brown

• Use a washdown facility that captures antifoul residue

• Wet sand or use a vacuum sander

• Dispose of scrapings, used brushes, trays and empty tins in a hazardous waste bin.

Invasive species

• When leaving an anchorage, remove visible animal or plant matter and wash off both the anchor and chain

• Regularly remove biofouling from the hull with a sponge or soft brush

The invasive species wireweed

Wireweed can get tangled with moorings. Credit: Sarah Brown

• Drain water from every part and all equipment that can hold water.

• Avoid sailing through water plants and weed if possible

Oil and fuel

• Install an inline bilge filter to catch oil and fuel or use a bilge sock

• Use a funnel when pouring fuel or oil

• Avoid overfilling your tank to avoid overflow

Eco friendly sailing - Use a funnel when pouring fuel or oil

Using a funnel can help minimise spills

• Dispose of waste oil at an oil bank and oily materials in hazardous waste containers

• Never use detergents to deal with spills – carry a spill kit instead

Energy efficiency on board

• Change to LED boat lights

• Invest in solar or wind generators to avoid running your engine to charge batteries

• Consider using an electric outboard, or even inboard

Solar panels on a deck of a yacht

Although initially expensive, investing in solar panels will reduce your reliability on your engine for power

• When victualling, choose locally produced groceries

• Keep your hull clean, engine running efficiently and trim the engine to minimise fuel consumption

• Recycle as much waste on board as possible and recycle your second hand kit, sails and oilskins at boat jumbles or online rather than throwing it away


• Utilise marina or shore facilities whenever possible

• Fit a holding tank and use it, particularly in estuaries and anchorages

• Use environmentally friendly toilet cleaners on board

• Only use recycled toilet paper as this breaks down more quickly than regular paper

Green cleaning products on a yacht

Opt for ‘green’ cleaning products to reduce their impact

• Encourage your local marina or harbour authority to install pump out facilities

• Only empty holding tanks at pump out stations or when more than 3 miles offshore


• Prevent plastic bags, drinks cans and loose items from being thrown or blowing overboard

• Use butt boxes for stub ends, as cigarette ends can last up to 5 years

• Remove excess packaging before you go on the boat

Eco friendly sailing includes making sure you dispose of rubbish responsibly

This rubbish was collected from the shore in one anchorage, but whether it’s your own rubbish or not, it needs to be properly disposed of. Credit: Sarah Brown

• Recycle as much waste on board as possible, with mixed recycling, you need only two bins on board

• Ask your marina to provide recycling facilities

• Use biodegradable rubbish bags which break down much quicker

Cleaning and maintenance

• Choose environmentally sensitive cleaning products, avoiding chlorine and bleach

washing up on a yachr

When washing-up try and use a minimal amount of washing-up liquid

• Use only fresh water when cleaning your boat on the water

• Minimise the use of soaps and detergents used in onboard sinks and showers

Wax your hull to remain fuel efficient and reduce the need for cleaning products over the season


• The rule of thumb is to stay at least 100m away from marine wildlife in the water and 50m away from marine wildlife on cliffs and rocks. Use a good pair of marine binoculars to get a better view rather than getting closer

• If marine wildlife appears alongside your boat, maintain course at a steady speed. When they leave, don’t follow

• Don’t steer into rafts of birds on the water

A sailor using binoculars onboard a yacht

Always use binoculars to get a better view, rather than get too close

• Avoid splitting mother and young, such as seals and pups

• Use existing mooring buoys or take care to anchor correctly to avoid dragging or scouring.

Useful contacts to help you go eco friendly sailing

The Green Blue is an innovative programme to help you think about eco sailing and act in a more environmentally conscious way.

Oil Bank Line helps you find the nearest oil disposal bank near you

Marine Conservation Society campaigns for the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife and organisation beach cleans around the country

Sea-Changers raises funds specifically for grass-roots marine conservation projects around the UK

Continues below…

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust is one of several trusts around the UK that monitor the state of sea mammals.

Sea Watch Foundation works with the public to help monitor cetaceans in UK waters

UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) investigates all marine mammal strandings in the UK and offer advice on how to report strandings

Consultancy firm C2W specialises in marine planning and bio-security