Graham Phillips runs
TIA Environmentally Responsible Products. They sell
environmentally responsible products to the canal and inland
waterways community from the narrowboat Tia which cruises the
South Midlands area. For more info see
Issues of the environment and climate change are
becoming more commonplace in news stories and documentaries in
the media, but how can we, as boaters, help to alleviate the
burden we are putting on resources and at the same time make
boating a more enjoyable, safer, cost effective and rewarding
Reuse, Recycle is becoming a
household mantra and is very relevant to cruising.
Reduce the amount of time you have to
run your engine to charge your batteries. If you leave your boat
unattended on a mooring for long periods consider investing in a
small, flexible "solar panel" or photovoltaic cell as they are
known. A wind generator, perhaps like
the compact Rutland 503, is also an option, but not convenient
for everyone. Both of these pieces of equipment will trickle
charge your batteries for free when you are not around. Also, if
you have an engine mounted 240v generator, like the Travel
Power, fit a battery charger to your system. These options will
cut your carbon footprint by reducing the time you have to run
your engine and save you money into the bargain as you won't
have to buy as much diesel - a big benefit as the price could
double in 2008. (See the Canal
Junction Electrics Page for suppliers.)
Reduce the amount of miles your food
has travelled and the amount of packaging you end up sending to
landfill. This can be done easily at source. Check the country
of origin to determine how far the item has come.
Don't buy pre-packed produce. Nine times out
of ten, selecting your green grocery from the "pick and mix"
counter will work out cheaper. Obviously there is a need, in
some cases, to pack these goods into bags - but don't use
plastic. Paper bags are easier to recycle. Mushrooms are a prime
example. But why use bags for things like marrows, apples and
A better way altogether to shop whilst you are
out cruising is locally and in season. There are many towns and
villages on the canal system with independent retail outlets,
village stores and farm shops who would really appreciate your
Reduce the amount of heat loss from
your boat. Not everybody cruises during the winter, but we like
to - the canals are quieter and it is easier to find visitor
moorings. But it can be cold. Good insulation installed on your
boat will help to reduce heat loss and cut down on carbon
emissions - especially if you are using coal or diesel heating.
Hang good quality lined curtains on the windows and ensure gaps
around doors, where drafts can enter, are sealed - but do not
block air vents which are designed to reduce the hazards of
carbon monoxide poisoning.
Reduce the number of miles you have to
travel to your boat and relocate to a mooring nearer home.
The first reuse must be carrier bags. Plastic
bags can take 500 years to fully degrade so think carefully
before using them. Also, why not save and reuse those plastic
containers you get from takeaway shops - great for storing left
over food for a following days' tasty lunch, for elusive screws,
nuts and bolts or germinating seed trays for your summer plant
Reuse also brings me to touch on the subject
of bio-diesel. All I will say for the time being is that
bio-diesel is an excellent way to fuel a boat especially when
used cooking oil is the main component. (More later.)
Everybody by now should be familiar with
recycling. There are some extremely good recycling points along
the canal system but unfortunately at the moment it is patchy. I
am aware that there are very frequent recycling points along the
Grand Union as far up as Stoke Bruerne and that some boating
businesses such as Calcutt Marina provide a service for their
moorers and visiting customers. But it is still an alarming fact
that most of the waste British Waterways process is sent to
|Boat Building And Fitting Out
Before starting to think about your builder
and your layout, think first about your reasons for buying a
boat. How often will you use it? If you are considering a boat
for live-aboard or long-term cruising then your only option is
to buy; whether that be new or second hand is another question.
If, however, you think you may be adding to one of the hundreds
of boats laid up in marinas for fifty weeks of a year then
perhaps you should consider a timeshare option or hiring? If you
do decide to buy, but think you may use the boat infrequently
perhaps you could get together with a few friends and share the
time and costs between yourselves?
When commissioning a boat you might like to
consider the following factors. Does your builder have an
ethical policy? i.e. Do they purchase their materials from
renewable sources? Have they changed to a "green" electricity
tariff (for instance Ecotricity)? As far as possible are the
appliances to be fitted to your boat of a low energy rating? A
good resource for this kind of information is The Good Shopping
Guide (ISBN 0954 2529 34)
Batteries and Oil
Batteries are, for the time being, a fact of
life for boaters; at least until such times as new developments
in technology (like fuel cells) are realistic and affordable.
But how many times have you spotted errant batteries lying
abandoned on the towpath? This is really disgraceful behaviour
on the part of boaters. So how do we deal with this problem?
Some British Waterways depots appear to take batteries for
disposal and some chandleries and boat yards (including The
Bottom Lock Chandlery at Braunston ) charge a small fee (£2 per
battery)- but it is worth it!
Servicing your engine means you have to get
rid of your waste oil. No! this doesn't mean leaving it under a
hedge or putting it in a rubbish skip or dustbin. There are
signs prominently displayed at BW service points with a
telephone number you can ring for it to be collected or you can
take it to your Local Authority recycling centre. Waste Connect
is a good website for general recycling.
|Engines and Fuel
Well manufactured, maintained and frequently
serviced boat engines will dispense fewer carbon emissions -
unfortunately not all are! I believe there should be a
compulsory emissions test included in the four-yearly boat
Fuel for boating is a contentious issue.
Carbon emissions relating to unnecessary travelled miles are
constantly a target for the environmentalists. Surely though, if
you are spending your time boating in this country and not
jetting off on holiday at every available opportunity it must be
less harmful for the planet. My problem with fuel is one of
water pollution. Recently the European Union decided to remove
the tax derogation on red diesel for pleasure craft by November
2008, possibly resulting in a doubling of the price of fuelling
your boat. This may well tempt many boaters to fill up jerry
cans at supermarkets where the fuel will be cheaper (like
independent run garages, boatyards won't be able to compete),
transport them several miles to their boats (with all of the
inherent dangers involved) and transfer the fuel to their tanks,
adding to the risk of pollution. There are many instances I can
recall where a film of diesel, accompanied with the inevitable
smell has emanated up from the canal indicating where somebody
has allowed fuel to spill overboard.
One cheap (about 45p per litre), practical and
environmentally sound way of fuelling your boat is to make your
own bio-diesel. There is more information on bio diesel at
Bio-Fuels GB Ltd and on the Environment Agency Website. There is
also a network of bio-diesel suppliers growing throughout the
country - information can be found on the bio-diesel filling
stations website. It may be advisable, though, to contact your
engine manufacturer or supplier before you go ahead.
There has been a bio-diesel trial on Norfolk
Broads' hire craft to gauge the effects on cruising and the
environment. Pleasure craft run on 100% bio-diesel use no fossil
fuels, reduce the pollution problem (as bio-diesel is a
relatively clean fuel which has a lower concentration of
sulphur) is rapidly biodegradable and completely non toxic.
If you are still concerned about the amount of
carbon you are releasing into the atmosphere you can always take
part in carbon offsetting. That is to say plant a tree or two or
get in touch with an organisation like The National Forest who
will plant a tree on your behalf for a few pounds.
Lighting your boat can be a drain on battery
power, especially during the winter months. Switch off lights
you are not using. Halogen bulbs use less electricity than
conventional filament bulbs and new LED lighting clusters use
even less power. Plan your boat's lighting sensibly.
If using a multi fuel stove on your boat, use
wood rather than coal - it is carbon neutral and free in many
instances. Why not use the heat from your stove to boil a
kettle, simmer a soup or cook pot roast? I swear it always
tastes better after a cold day out cruising and it saves us a
packet on gas.
|Moorings and Marinas
There seems to be a slow but sure move towards
marinas and boatyards becoming greener. Architects are
encompassing eco-issues in their design criteria and creating
wild-life friendly banks instead of steep piles and using
sustainable wooden walkways and jetties; but they have a long
way to go before they are semi-self sufficient. Sustainable
building information can be found at The Association for
Environment Conscious Building (AECB) and Wind power information
can be found at the British Wind Energy Association. Ensure your
marina owner is aware of these before they embark on a new
marina or extension plan.
Water is a scarce commodity - Don't waste it.
Keep an eye on your hosepipe when you are filling your water
tank and don't let it overflow.
Get your marina or mooring to invest in some
water butts. Connect them to the down pipes from the clubhouse
and utility room roofs and collect the water for washing your
boat, flushing the toilets and watering plants.
Don't waste water at locks. Think ahead and
plan your next move. If you see a boat approaching an empty lock
and you wish to fill it to descend - wait for the approaching
boat. Recent cuts in funding may result in pounds running low
and imposed cruising restrictions like during the 1980s.
Remember, excessive speed and wash causes
damage to canal banks and stresses wildlife.
Many household cleaning products contain
obnoxious and unnecessary chemical ingredients harmful to
aquatic and plant life and human health. For example, many
washing powders contain phosphates, which can lead to potential
health risks for you and your children and cause oxygen
depletion in the water, resulting in the localised suffocation
of aquatic life. Degreasers dry the natural oils that fish need
for their gills to take in oxygen and many cleaning products
contain chemicals that disrupt the reproductive cycle of some
fish. A chemical to avoid which is used in many products such as
toiletries, shower gels, toothpastes, washing-up liquids and
antibacterial sprays is Triclosan, sometimes called Microban.
This is particularly harmful as it is resistant to degradation
and so can bio accumulate in fish and crustaceans.
Thankfully there are other products, such as
Ecover, which are widely available and do not contain these
harmful ingredients. They do the job equally as well as the
brand name products, are safer for us, our children and pets and
are kinder to the aquatic eco-system of the waterways. For more
There are many, many things we can do as
boaters to improve the environment and our boating experience.
Some inevitably cost a little money but lots just require a
small shift in lifestyle and attitude. Every one can do a
little, but everybody will achieve a lot.
For more information on becoming a greener
boater you may like to visit
The GreenBlue Website.