20 Ways to be more Sustainable On Board

Hannah is an ex-stewardess who now runs Viveco, an Eco Yacht, Hotel and Home supply shop in Mallorca.

It was with great excitement that I discovered this month’s issue will be based on Eco Sustainability in the yachting industry. From the Sustainability Hub at last year’s Monaco Yacht Show to the hot topic at the Dusseldorf Boat Show, it is great to see how much focus this subject is getting. Seeing the changes taking place to make the industry more sustainable to protect the thing we love the most is heart-warming.

After writing many in-depth articles about specific product and brand alternatives, I decided this month to make a simple checklist of 20 practical things you can do on board to use less plastic, reduce your yacht’s waste, or just have a positive impact on the planet. You can use this as a starting point to check how many things you have done, or as inspiration for things you can still do!


  1. SWITCH TO USING A REFIL SYSTEM ONBOARD: Store large 5L, 10L or 20L containers in the bilges or racks, and refill smaller bottles in cleaning caddies and bathrooms. Do this for CLEANING, LAUNDRY and TOILETRIES and you can reduce your plastic use onboard by 75%!
  2. DITCH THE GUEST MINIS: So many yachts I work with refill all crew toiletries but don’t know there are some GREAT luxury options for guests with refill options too! Most brands traditionally used on board for guests are full of synthetic fragrances, packaged in small-single use bottles – and just a bit dated.
  3. SWAP BOTTLES FOR BARS: If your crew is up for it, you can save money and SO much plastic by swapping to Shampoo, Conditioner and Soap Bars instead of bottles. You have to be ready for a change and invest in some good storage options, and soap docks to keep them in good (not slimy) condition, but this will eliminate all plastic waste.
  4. USE CONCENTRATED CLEANERS: If space is an issue, stock up on super concentrated cleaners that you can put into spray bottles you already have and just add water. Great for having extra stock onboard or for yachts with minimum storage space.
  5. LOOK FOR GOOD QUALITY PRODUCTS: What’s on the inside matters as well. Check the ingredients list on cleaning and toiletry bottles. Look for 100% biodegradable products that won’t damage the environment. Stay away from synthetic fragrances, colourants and preservatives, phthalates, etc.
  6. SIMPLIFY EVERYTHING: Instead of buying a different product for the floor, surfaces, walls, etc, get one great all-purpose product. This saves waste, money and time. Instead of stocking 10 different stain removers, find a high-quality one that does everything.
  7. SWAP DISPOSABLES FOR REUSABLES: Still using throwaway items like Ziplocs? Replace them with silicon-based reusables that last for years. There are now reusable, sustainable alternatives for nearly everything. Swap Tupperware for glass versions or stainless steel.
  8. REEF-SAFE SUNSCREEN: Make sure the sunscreen you offer guests and crew is good for them and the planet. At a bare minimum, that means making sure your sunscreen is free from oxybenzone and octinoxate as these block the sun’s rays from reaching coral. You can go further and only offer certified reef-safe options, mineral creams and make sure the product is free from other nasties.
  9. SWAP DISPOSABLES FOR NATURAL MATERIALS: There are some products you use onboard that have a limited life and need to be changed, such as toothbrushes, body sponges, etc. Swap these for natural alternatives such as bamboo, loofah, sponges, etc. This means they can be composted rather than end up in landfill.
  10. STOP MICROPLASTICS No.1: Are you using anything that is made from plastic such as sponges, microfibers, fleece jumpers, etc? Be aware that these are all made from plastic and are shedding each time you use them. Swap for natural alternatives such as loofah, bamboo fibres, natural cotton, etc.
  11. STOP MICROPLASTICS No.2: Plastic fibers are in many things fleeces, sports clothing, uniform, even ‘eco’ items such as recycled clothing. Use a Guppy Friend Bag to try and stop as many as possible from entering the waterways. If you are heading into a refit ask your engineer about retrofitting a microplastic filter like Planet Care to your washing machines.
  12. INSTALL A WATER FILTRATION MACHINE: No more plastic bottles for crew or guests! In addition to the unnecessary waste and cost, plastic bottles leach into the water over time. There are many options for filtration machines available from under the counter, to full systems for the whole boat with hot/cold/sparkling, etc. There are also beautiful pitchers and water bottles available, so there are 100% no more excuses.
  13. DITCH THE NESPRESSO MACHINE: It makes rubbish coffee and is based on some great marketing by George Clooney. From a simple but chic French Press, a bean to cup or a full barista cappuccino maker, there are lots of alternatives that look better, taste better and eliminate the hideous amount of pods used.
  14. IF YOU ARE WORLDWIDE TRAVELLING, REDUCE BEFORE YOU GO: If you are about to undertake a long round-the-world trip or even heading to the Caribbean, remember that the rubbish facilities in these places are much less cohesive. Take off as MUCH waste as possible before you arrive in these places. Stock up adequately to avoid buying unnecessary products and disposing of large amounts of unnecessary waste while there.
  15. ECO UNIFORM: Look at your current stock and options. Choose more natural materials, recycled materials, reduce the amount and choose something that won’t go out of style in a year. Talk to suppliers about the best eco options available and about reducing packaging waste.
  16. LOCAL PRODUCTS: Where possible, when you arrive at a new destination, use the local suppliers and produce as much as possible. Even if your guests have requested watermelon flown in from a specific location, also offer them a local fruit platter or the specialty of where you are. This helps keep the local economy healthy and saves on air miles!
  17. AVOID BIOPLASTICS/GREENWASHING: There has been a surge in plastic alternatives in recent years with many claims of ‘compostable’ and ‘biodegradable’. While these are good in theory, the reality is more complicated, with many of these items still taking years to break down, even then into micro-particles that require industrial composting facilities. Research and read between the lines to make sure you understand what you’re buying.
  18. TALK TO SUPPLIERS: Yachts have a huge amount of purchasing power and the more the industry demands change, the quicker it will happen. Talk to local suppliers and agents to say you want the products and deliveries to arrive with as little plastic as possible. Keep reusable containers on board to give out where possible for deliveries and, most importantly, keep talking to businesses about what you want.
  19. GET INVOLVED: Look out for local beach clean-ups wherever you are. If there isn’t one, why don’t you organise one and try to get local communities involved? Living on board a yacht and travelling to some of the most beautiful places in the world is such a privilege, so let’s try to keep these places as clean as possible for local communities and future generations.
  20. LOOK FOR COMPANIES THAT DO GOOD: Wherever you can, look for companies and people that go above and beyond to help not only the planet but other people too. Look for ‘1% to the Planet’ stickers, read about companies’ ethics and history, and try to spend money where it will have the biggest benefit.

I’d love to hear if you have any other ideas. Also, how many of the above your yacht has already implemented and what do you think has made the biggest difference!

Hannah-Russell of Viveco

Written by Hannah Russell

Photos by Hannah Russell


+34 634 326 981


Photo By AdeleP hotography


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