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    Sunday, July 26, 2009

    What is Green Boating? Part II (Navigating Green Marketing in the Marine Industry)

    What is green boating? Is there such a thing as a green boat? To what degree does something have to be beneficial or less harmful to the environment to be considered green? Is a sailboat considered inherently green? Is a hybrid superyacht green? A wooden canoe made from salvaged timber, a kayak made from recycled plastic? Are environmentally preferable boating practices aboard a vessel enough to claim to be an eco-cruise? Is green boating an unattainable goal or a set of principles and actions we take with the best of intentions- 'to do no harm'?

    For centuries sailors ascribed to sustainable practices to survive long period of time at sea. Albeit sailors of yore had no mitigation for sewage treatment; they were able to survive for months at a time aboard ships using natural products, and navigating by only wind power, brawn, and intellect. Sailors had to be in tune with ocean currents, atmospheric conditions, and celestial bodies to navigate their way. Modern technology has supplanted much of our understanding and intimate relationship with the sea. As societies ascribe to a new consciousness that recognizes human impact on the environment, boaters are searching for alternative solutions to improve their environmental performance.

    Efficiency of systems aboard boats have always been considered to extract the furthest range and power from a vessel. As the clean tech/green tech revolution captures the attention of the marketplace, the marine industry and boat manufacturers have been ahead of the curve. The marine industry has not needed to wait for cues from the government to forge ahead with the clean-tech economy and green innovations. Sailors, boat builders, and manufacturers have for years been pressing the envelope of what is possible in sustainable designs, alternative locomotion, best management practices, and stewardship of our environment.

    Most products designed and built for ships have taken sustainability in mind from the first step of the design process long before being 'green' came into fashion. Products for the marine industry had to be rugged, durable, withstand the elements of the sea, and perform reliably. While the marketplace spins out cheap products for our disposable culture, most sailors understand the need for quality products that can last a lifetime.

    Many consider it greenwashing to tout environmental benefits of products that are already prerequisites required by regulatory laws. Non-profits were once the only ones who would stand against those making unsubstantiated and or misleading environmental marketing claims. Now governments are increasingly responding to deceptive environmental claims with serious penalties.

    Products or companies that use environmental marketing claims in the U.S. are subject to guidelines set by the Federal Trade Commission. Assertions of environmentally preferable traits or attributes may be subject to substantiation, and can create potential liabilities for those making the claims or selling the products. Green claims should provide substantive benefit to the environment, but compared to what, to doing nothing, to alternatives, or substitutes? Where is the balance struck between touting environmentally preferable products or services and just adding to the glut and confusion of the marketplace. Firms must weigh the benefits of environmental marketing with potential liabilities from such claims.

    Firms ascribing to such claims may also be held to higher standards of ethical scrutiny and evaluation. Those who make green product claims should be prepared to have all or their business practices and processes examined to determine if they are in line with their environmental policy or marketing claims. Corporate social responsibility is not independent of manufacturing, packaging, or marketing an environmentally preferable product or service. Those who ascribe to higher standards of ethicism on the environmental are often held accountable to ensure all of their business transactions take place in a socially acceptable and environmentally preferable manner.

    GREEN BOATING is dedicated to identifying and sharing knowledge which will help the marine industry protect the environment and stimulate sustainable innovations and designs. As we witness the greenwashing in the marketplace and the abuse of the good intentions boaters who wish to curb their impacts, we must be wary of those who seek to make a quick dollar from our good nature.

    Have you seen examples of Green Washing in the marine industry?


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    Greg said...

    Great article! Indeed greenwashing surrounds us and we need to cut through the BS. I don't think any sensible person can argue that a 150+ ft MOTOR yacht that burns through gallons per NM (not the other away around) can really be considered an eco-friendly green boat, just because they use recycled toilet paper in the head. I'm a big fan of electric power, especially for aux. power on sailboats. Thanks for the great blog! -Greg