Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Lighter Footprints

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Human-caused climate change is an issue of our time. While no figures are available for recreational boating greenhouse gas emissions, the National Marine Manufacturers Association says that over 87 million Americans participate in recreational boating at least once yearly. If over 35 percent of the population engages in a motor-driven activity, chances are that carbon emissions from boating have an environmental impact.

Robyn-AlbrittonA boat’s engine emits carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) through the exhaust (even those released underwater rise above the surface and into the atmosphere).  Robin Albritton, sustainability director of Sailors for the Sea, an environmental organization on a mission to clean the oceans, notes that “People have different carbon emissions depending on the type of boat, size of the boat and fuel that they are using, as well as how much they use each time they go out on them.”

Boats are not alone in sending greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere — autos, planes, electric service, interior heating and cooling, food production, and many more activities pump out these gasses — but boaters can contribute to the solution by curtailing emissions.

While a significantly smaller segment of the population boat on a yacht, owners and operators of gas-guzzlers can do their part to offset carbon emissions through either a specialist boating carbon trader or an environmental non-profit.

One way of tackling carbon emissions for the yachting set is through a dedicated carbon offsetting company. Carbon offsetting is a documented procedure requiring no equipment aboard — a yacht’s emissions (based on the fuel quantity used) are matched to carbon savings achieved by onshore green energy projects.

Mark Robinson, managing director of UK-based Yacht Carbon Offset, calculates that even on a super yacht consuming 5,000 gallons of fuel a week, the cost of offsetting the carbon emissions is about $430.00.Mark Robinson Yacht Carbon Offset

“While the cost is very modest,” Robinson notes, “the principle is that you as an individual have thought about your carbon emissions and taken the decision to deal effectively with this part of your environmental impact.”

While much of his business is for yachts measuring from 100 to over 400 feet in length, the service is applicable to craft of all sizes in all parts of the world.

Robinson’s business taps into the global carbon trading system, where carbon credits are generated by emission reduction projects such as renewable power stations that need supplementary funding. Robinson explains, “If an entrepreneur wants to set up a hydroelectric scheme, he must show the banks how the revenue from selling electricity will be boosted by the revenue from selling carbon credits, and only then will financing be available to allow the project to go ahead. Our position is as a buyer of these credits, so participating yachts are the source of this essential financial support to each project.”

The number of credits/quantity of emissions saved is calculated by an auditor in accordance with a set of international standards; the audit trail leads all the way from the vessel to the green energy project wherever it is in the world.

Those less affluent need not seek a high finance carbon trader to offset carbon emissions. Sailors for the Sea, based in Rhode Island, offset the emissions of the Volvo Ocean Race sailing event when it arrived in their city through Sea Grass Grow, a community foundation working on ocean conservation. Sea Grass Grow’s Jarrod Curry relates that the 1,000 tons of carbon that the Volvo Ocean Race event emitted paid for the restoration of 1,500 square feet of salt marsh wetlands.

DCIM100GOPROG0030860.Sea grass and salt marshes are being destroyed around the U.S. coastline, causing many problems. Curry advises, “Wetlands and sea grass are habitats for small fish that grow up to support fisheries, and they also help absorb the force of storm surges.

“Sea grass absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. Where a tree will store the carbon until it dies or is cut down (when it releases the carbon it stored), sea grass buries the carbon in the soil. It is 35 times more efficient than the Amazon rainforest!”

Recreational boaters can calculate their environmental impact with calculators available from Sailors for the Sea, Sea Grass Grow, and other offset groups. From there, resources are available to counterbalance the ding made to the atmosphere every time you go boating. You won’t save the planet single-handedly or make your vessel completely carbon neutral, but you will be cruising towards a cleaner world.

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By Richard Shrubb




is a freelance journalist living in Weymouth, England with his wife and two cats. A lifelong water sports enthusiast, he has sailed in the U.S., Caribbean, Mediterranean, and northern Europe.

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