Whether it’s the food, furniture or ferrying guests, on board parties can still be eco-friendly, says Kate Rigby...
When it comes to planning an event “thinking big” comes with the territory, but when your party is on a yacht you also need to think small. The food and drink you serve, the decorations you buy, the disposal of waste and even the humble cocktail stirrers you choose all have an impact on the ocean, but attention to detail will help make it a more positive one.
Dining, drinking and decoration
One of the great pleasures of cruising is the opportunity to sample regional foods and the good news is that fresh, locally sourced ingredients are generally the more sustainable option – and better quality. But do your homework. Ask your chef to confirm where and how seafood was caught and never buy fish caught with a “bottom trawl” as the process damages the seabed. When planning seafood dishes, it’s easy to check how sustainable your choices are: the Seafood Watch app by Monterey Bay Aquarium is very useful and the Marine Conservation Society provides colour-coded seafood ratings online (mcsuk.org). When it comes to meat, fruit and vegetables, check how and where local foods are grown and opt for organic varieties that come in recyclable – or ideally no – packaging.
Encourage your crew to recycle wherever possible
On the subject of packaging, a major cause of marine damage is plastic – a significant proportion of which is water bottles – but major yacht companies are leading a sea change, including Y.CO, which is partnering with S’Well to encourage its yachts to become free from single-use plastic bottles. The S’Well reusable eco-friendly stainless steel bottles are ideal for entertaining as they can be personalised or colour-themed to your event or yacht (swellbottle.com).
Take things a step further by making the entire bar area a plastic-free zone. Stick to glass or stainless steel cocktail stirrers, bamboo toothpicks and paper straws, and consider the drinks themselves. Many alcoholic beverages feature preservatives and ingredients grown with pesticides – none of which favour our oceans. Choose more sustainable ones, such as Greensand Ridge Gin, and create a signature eco cocktail for your party – a great conversation starter to spread the message.
Avoid glitter and use potted plants, as seen on Here Comes the Sun
When it comes to decoration, avoid balloons – even biodegradable ones cause fatal damage to marine life. Glitter is also out. Instead, source decorations made from natural, recyclable and biodegradable materials and natural dyes, and re-use or recycle wherever possible. “I love entertaining and have always been conscious of the need to be natural,” says superyacht owner Paola Trifirò. “I avoid the use of any plastic on our yachts – I always use porcelain plates and when it comes to decorating tables I take inspiration from the sea, such as shells or driftwood. Guests are always delighted by such thoughtful and natural touches.”
Rules for flowers follow those for food. Choose local, ethical growers and suppliers and get the lowdown on how they operate: are the flowers grown sustainably using natural pesticides? Is flower waste composted? Do they use biodegradable plastic and cellophane and natural ties rather than elastic bands and string, both of which can cause injury and death to marine life? As an alternative, use potted arrangements as table centrepieces. They can be gifted to guests to take home or restyled to extend their life on board.
Opt for an electric tender like the Mylne Bolt 18
Clean yacht, clean ocean
Keeping yachts immaculate is a 24/7 job, so if you’re not using marine-friendly products that means a lot of harmful chemicals being released into the ocean. Antibes-based Environmental Yacht Services (EYS) supplies MARPOL-compliant cleaning products worldwide, meaning you can be marine-friendly from deck to galley. “Just by changing your dishwasher and laundry products you can make a 60 per cent improvement on your yacht’s ocean-pollution impact,” says EYS owner Sheila Goddard (environmentalyachtservices.com).
Entertaining generates a lot of waste, which needs careful management. Ocean Changemakers (oceanchangemakers.com/maritime) has some good advice on waste disposal. To a large extent it comes down to awareness and planning – think before you buy, be creative in repurposing things, donate costumes or linens to charity and make an extra effort to recycle. It can be a challenge to find proper facilities in some ports but they often do exist, even if it’s not immediately obvious. If in doubt, ask the port authority and raise awareness of the need for solutions.
Summit furniture on board Nirvana
Ocean advocate Emily Penn stresses the need for owners and crews to collaborate. “The yacht industry is in a unique position to bring about real changes to the health of our oceans. It’s about working together, sharing learnings and getting the word out. We all have an opportunity to be part of the solution and even the smallest changes count.”
Thanks to MARPOL regulations, on board waste systems have improved. Innovations such as Tony Team machines (tonyteam.co.uk) mean many types of waste can be compressed to 14 per cent of the original size so it can be stored cleanly and compactly until it can be disposed of responsibly. Chefs can also lower environmental impact with blast chillers and shock freezers. Some models use up to 30 per cent less gas than traditional methods and their fast-chill facility makes them perfect for catering at volume.
Nature Squared offers sustainable options for yacht interiors
The bigger picture
Parties inevitably mean lots of people coming and going, so consider how to transport guests to and from the yacht with minimum environmental impact. Electric tenders, such as Mylne Yacht Design’s Bolt 18, do the job in style with pollution-free, all-electric propulsion (mylne.com). Take care to also research the location of your party, steering clear of sensitive areas – at all costs avoid dropping anchor on a seagrass meadow, coral reef or other fragile marine habitat.
If an event or party means investing in new furniture or interior accessories, look to companies with an ethical approach, such as Summit Furniture (summitfurniture.com), which uses sustainable plantation-grown teak for chairs and tables, and Nature Squared (naturesquared.com), which uses only natural materials that are not endangered. Even better, if your yacht is yet to be built or due for refit, rethink all the materials – right down to the decks of entertaining areas. Natural cork, for example, is a more ethical alternative to traditional teak.
Companies such as Clear Group International (clearyachtinteriors.com) put sustainability at the heart of your entertaining spaces. “There are new advances all the time,” confirms CEO Joyce Clear. “We already have textiles that generate energy from the sun, and wind and wave energy being used to operate electronic devices and lighting. In addition, we are always employing chemical-free interior solutions and never use plastic when possible – it’s all helping to make mindful entertaining a great deal more realistic.”