The debate on disposable water bottles

Like so many other environmental issues, conflicting facts and opinions can be confusing when it comes to disposable water bottles. But ultimately, eliminating plastic water bottle use is one of the easiest and most positive things you can do as a sailor to protect the ocean.

There are many lifecycle analyses of the overall impact of disposable vs. reusable bottles – contact us if you’re interested in the specifics. Reusable bottles almost always come out ahead, provided they are actually reused, but in terms of overall energy use, the difference is often much smaller than people are led to believe.

That being said, the impact of disposable PET bottles on our oceans is undeniable. The average American consumed only 1.6 gallons of bottled water in 1976. By 2006, that number had jumped to 28.3 gallons. In the best case scenario, all the bottles we use while sailing return to shore and are properly recycled – though only a small portion of all single-use plastic water bottles used in the US (of which more than 75% never make it to recycling)- such action has a positive impact on local waters and marine ecosystems. But even then, bottles cannot be recycled forever. Eventually that plastic bottle will end up in a landfill or similar, leeching into the streams that feed the ocean.

In a more realistic scenario, and one that we see frequently while working with regattas around the world, bottles end up in trash cans, on docks, or blown into the water. This is not only unsightly, a point made earlier, but incredibly harmful to the marine environment. In the ocean, plastics break down quickly into tiny pieces, attracting toxic chemicals in the process. In recent studies, 100% of surface water samples taken from sites around the world contained plastic. These plastics are eaten by all forms of marine life, accumulating as they move up the food chain and into the fish we eat.

Water bottles among drift wood

Water bottles litter the beach in Acapulco, Mexico - Photo credit: Tanya Barcella, Marine Photobank

We believe strongly the use of reusable water bottles is a simple move easily adopted by all sailors that can greatly reduce the dangers caused by plastics introduced to the marine ecosystem. For more information on plastics, or on more general questions about sailing and sustainability, check out the Sailors for the Sea website at and feel free to contact us with any questions.

To learn more on how you can eliminate the use of disposable water bottles at your regatta, read our best practice on water bottle reduction.


Notes from the World Oceans Summit

A few quick notes from Dan Pingaro, executive director of Sailors for the Sea, while attending The Economist Magazine World Oceans Summit.

The Economist Magazine World Ocean Summit brought together NGO’s, companies and governments to address ocean issues and possible collaborative solutions to support a healthy ocean and vibrant economy. Sailors for the Sea is a proud and active participant at the WOS.

Keynote speaker at WOS

Last nights reception at WOS

Last night while attending the opening keynote speaker, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, president, Republic of Iceland, spoke about fisheries, Dan was struck by President Grimsson’s comment, “The nexus between fisheries and technology is quite possibly the best hope for ocean health.”

What do you think? Tell us: Do you agree that technology can help fisheries?

Learn more how the US incorporates science and technology into fisheries management through the The Office of Science and Technology, a part of the NOAA Fisheries.

Recycled Regatta Trophies

Sneak peak at the 2012 BVI spring trophies!

The BVI spring regatta will be doing yet another first for Clean Regattas at their 2012 regatta. They will take best practice #15, Recycled Trophies, to a new level with trophies made from used bottles!  The regatta is working hard to be certified at the gold level.

Glass blowing studio in the BVI's.

Judy Petz, Director of the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, is especially proud:
“This year the awards being given to the winners of first, second and third places have a special meaning to the regatta. The drink you were holding last year may be the award you hold this year. They are not only made from recycled glass from the past Spring Regattas, but they are also original creations made here in the British Virgin Island.”

Check out the full press release >>

The Economist – World Oceans Summit

Sailors for the Sea exectuive director, Dan Pingaro, will be speaking at the upcoming The Economist’s World Oceans Summit in Singapore. The summit will examine how the increasing activity in and around the oceans can be managed sustainably and what this means for business and other key stakeholders.

Dan Pingaro will speak on a panel about Corporate responsibility: Taking custodianship of the oceans.

The panel will discuss: Why have so few companies set goals in an around the responsible use of the oceans, or adopted oceans goals in their sustainability programmes? By contrast, there is barely a Fortune 500 company that hasn’t yet set goals around climate change, carbon footprints and sustainability in a broader context. Sustainability, indeed, is moving out of the realms of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and reputational risk into the boardroom: it is fast becoming a strategic focus for improving growth and adding value. Oceans, too, require this focus—a sustainability agenda that is both good for the oceans and good for business.

Stay tuned for information about from this important summit and discussion, with a post to come from Dan while in Singapore!


Life in the Deep Sea

Barrel Eye - a deep sea fish.

Have you ever seen a Fangtooth? What about a Rosy Worm Acorn? They are some of the creatures that live in the deep sea, with the Barrel Eye pictured right. It is often said that we know more about the moon,  than we do about the deep sea, but what we do know about the deep sea is astounding and the creatures unimaginable.

The deep sea is an extremely harsh environment. It is dark and below 200m the light levels are too low for photosynthesis. Learn more about the amazing creatures of the deep, how they adapt to lack of light, high pressure, and the ocean pollution that affects them. Read the essay now and learn a bit more about the ocean. Plunge in: Life in the Deep Sea

To learn more about the Barrel Eye, watch the video below.

Hooray for Reusable Water Bottles

A follow up post from A great method for reusable water bottles on a keelboat – in the words of the racers themselves.

Few things trouble a boat’s Minister of the Interior as much as plastic water bottles.  There is the inconvenient task of purchasing and transporting an entire isle of water bottle 24-pack cases.  Then there is the daily burden of hauling just over 30 lbs of water out to your boat. There is also my personal favorite water bottle related activity:  the between-race hunt for bottles carelessly thrown down below during races.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there is the issue of what to do with the water bottles when you are finished.

Everyday our 8-person Melges 32 team races, I pack four bottles per person.  That is 32 bottles a day.  With at least 50 racing days scheduled in a year, that is 1,600 water bottles.   While we make every effort to recycle those bottles, often facilities are not available or the bottles end up mixed in with the rest of the boat’s trash.

Team Intact water bottles in their water bottle cady.As an alternative to this mess, our team followed suit with the Melges 20 fleet who took the initiative to green the fleet’s liquids.  We purchased a different color 21 oz stainless steel water bottle for each team member and placed them in a bottle caddy (~$10) in order to keep them all together and to prevent the bottles involuntary tacking around in the bottom of the boat.  In general, it was easier to move around the plastic caddy and required less space than the large bag we had replaced.

Our process is to fill the bottles on the dock in the morning from either a large container or a dock hose fitted with a filter. Once racing it is very easy to pass the caddy full of bottles up on deck and let everyone get their personally colored bottle. Some of the big guys get two and if any need to be refilled, we pass up the spare gallon jug and top them off. Though prepping the bottles for the day was a concern at first, it ended up taking less time and effort to fill eight empty bottles than packing the 30 lbs of water we would usually bring from our hotel.  We found that one set of filled water bottles and one extra gallon jug was sufficient for the day.  It is important to make sure that the gallon jug has either a secure top or is placed in such a way as to avoid rolling around.  We chose the latter option and did not have a problem.

Water bottles sitting down below.

Bottles fit snugly down below next to the mast, keeping extra weight in the perfect spot.

An individual reusable stainless steel water bottle can run from $15-$25.  They are both environmentally and practically superior to other options as they are durable, safe and recyclable.  Aluminum bottles are also an option, but may be non-recyclable and less safe depending on their lining.  Reusable plastic water bottles are the cheapest option (around $8-$10 per bottle), but tend not to hold up as well in the heat and are less widely recyclable once you are through with them. In the end, it was faster, easier and more environmentally conscientious to use the bottles!

Megles 32 sailing upwing

The crew of a Melges 32 have a lot of worries - water bottle litter should not be one of them. Photo by Joy Dunnigan