Clean marinas, harbours, and yacht clubs


ThisRock is onto a new industry this week, researching sustainable waterways. (If you missed it, last week’s industry was restaurant sustainability) Over the last 5 days we sat down with people who spend time on waterways, including a yacht club member, a member of a power boat club, and a cottage owner. It’s a no brainer – those who spend time on and near the water are thinking about climate change. Why? Their passion is dependent on oceans, lakes and rivers. And, they are seeing planet warming and pollution effects.  

10 ways marinas, harbours, and yacht/boat clubs can become more sustainable

Many waterway sustainability programs or certifications are voluntary. For example, the Clean Marine Program in Ontario is not mandated. The good news? Being eco-rated (and flying a clean marine flag) attracts a healthy community of members and staff. This is why over 300 organizations are taking part. Being eco-friendly is a differentiator. It is also a cost-saver. There are many important ways that waterways can become more sustainable both on and off the water, including;

1. Reducing direct pollution – fuels, oils, single use plastics

2. Waste management – food, cleaning, recycling 

3. Energy efficiency – equipment, appliances, heating, cooling, lighting 

4. Water – saving and reducing usage (consumption, pools, etc) 

5. Biodiversity – policies, protecting species, invasive algal blooms 

6. Events – paperwork, trash, equipment 

7. Local – food at restaurant, suppliers, shipping 

8. Awareness – educating members, slip guests, and staff

9. Advocating for change – policy and regulations  

Green changes can be rolled out using technology, simple swapping, and the love of the water. Start with a baseline. How clean is your club or marina today? Identify where you need to improve. Set reasonable goals and actions toward 3 initiatives. Track progress. And, then proudly tell your community through public relations and education. You don’t have to change behaviours to drastically improve sustainability.  

Sailing clubs are finding their way to sustainability

What worries marinas and clubs when it comes to sustainability?

While we have read and heard many answers to this question, a common worry shared by all seems to be the speed at which climate change is taking hold. A marina patron asked us this week, “what kind of environment are we leaving the next generation?” Lake levels are drastically lower in Ontario this summer. Algae is a big problem in marinas. While membership may not be an issue, the supply chain is concerning clubs. Getting equipment and supplies on time is challenging. Retaining and attracting staff is also a burden. 

Stemming from these concerns is the issue of time. Board members, boaters, and owners are busier than ever in their personal and professional lives. Being greener is important – but finding time to do it is hard. Budgets are limited and costs are climbing. There is also the worry that new regulations will come out that clubs will need to comply with. What if sustainability programs are rolled out, but patrons and members just ignore the new policies?  

Why become a more sustainable club or marina? 

There is a bright light. Money will be saved. You will feel good. The benefits are endless – truly. World Sailing cites several main benefits in their guide to becoming a sustainable sailing club. 

  • Cost-savings from energy efficiency is the most obvious. 
  • Streamlined management and processes can also benefit stakeholders. 
  • Just plain using less and conserving equipment is also useful.
  • Clubs and marinas will be well positioned when regulation and compliance become mandatory in future.
  • Bonus: sustainable yacht, canoe, kayak, and power boat clubs attract new members by acting responsibly.

Turning climate concern into simple action 

Lindsay’s Dad texted while writing this blog. Ironically, he sent a photo of the low lake level in Ontario’s cottage country. August always brings low water levels on the lake, but this year the reduction is the most dramatic we’ve seen. 

Environmental clean facilities, coast and waterway protection, and pollution reduction is where we turn. Let’s push against climate concern and use it to stand up sustainability strategies and policies at marinas, harbours, and clubs. Create a green launch program. Set up recycling stations. Eliminate waste. 

Movements are happening. One we find inspirational is 4ocean. They are on a mission to end the ocean plastic crisis. And more businesses and organizations are following suit.

4ocean is a business for good.

Have a great day!