A Guide to Green Boating

How to be an Environmentally Friendly Boater


For boating enthusiasts, simply being on the water brings us joy. However, with that pleasure comes the responsibility to protect the marine environment and preserve it for generations to come. 

The good news is, adopting green boating habits isn’t difficult. Just like the simple steps you’ve taken to be more environmentally friendly on land, green boating can be achieved by making a few changes to your usual routine.

Does Sailing Cause Pollution?

It’s important to recognize that what we do in and with our boats has an impact on aquatic environments. 

Over 700,000 boats sail in the British Columbia waters each year and each of them has the potential to cause environmental damage through:

  • Sewage and grey water dumping: which can pollute our food sources
  • Fuel and oil spillages: half a litre of oil can produce a slick one acre in size
  • Garbage pollution: plastic and other garbage is often dumped overboard
  • Gas emissions from engines: older vessels can discharge up to 25% of their fuel directly into the water
  • Chemical pollution from cleaning products and paint: cause harmful algae blooms and poison sea-life

The good news is, there’s lots you can do to be a greener boater – and if everyone takes a few small steps it will make a big difference to the health of our marine environment.

How to be a Green Boater

Protecting the marine environment and practicing sustainable boating does require some effort. Use the green boating tips below to get started:

1. Prevent Oil Spills


  • Practice Safe Fuelling – fuelling spillages cause much of the oil pollution in our waters. To prevent drips, use an absorbent bib or collar. Fill your tank slowly to a maximum 90 percent full to allow for expansion. Regularly check your tank and lines for damage.
  • Keep your bilge clean – spilled oil, fuel and other toxic liquids build up in your vessel’s bilge area and can spill into the ocean. Use absorbent pads and pump-out into a designated bilge pumping tank when required. 

If you have an oil or fuel spill, notify the marina or the coast guard immediately, no matter how small it seems.

2. Stop Pollution

  • Dispose of sewage and untreated water safely– black and gray water contains pollutants and soap residues which can impact water quality, poison marine life and encourage algae growth. In Canada, it is illegal to dump sewage within 3 nautical miles from shore.
  • Bring your general waste back – Over 17 billion lbs of plastic enters our oceans each year. Do your part in reducing plastic pollution by bringing all of your garbage back to the dock. 

Use designated sewage pump stations, garbage and recycling facilities at your marina to dispose of waste products. The Georgia Straight Alliance’s Green Boating Guide contains a list of marinas with designated sewerage pumping facilities around Vancouver Island and the southern BC coastlines – including Van Isle Marina in Sidney.

  • Use Non-Toxic cleaning products – phosphorus and nitrogen in some cleaning products may dissolve grime, but they damage the marine ecosystem. Clean your yacht regularly with fresh water to prevent dirt build-up; research eco-friendly cleaning products (or make your own) and follow the dilution instructions.
  • Choose non-toxic Bottom Paint – copper in bottom paint leaches toxins into water as it dissolves. Aluminum-based paint is one more eco-friendly option.

3. Reduce your environmental impact

  • Reduce fuel use – reduce your speed, don’t idle and consider upgrading your engine. You’ll use
    less fuel which reduces pollution and saves money too.
  • Have a regular maintenance routine – tuning up your engine will increase efficiency and catch issues before they can cause environmental damage. Remember to do maintenance on dry land to prevent leakage into water.
  • Upgrade your engine for lower emissions – traditional 2-stroke engines lose up to 25% of unburned fuel directly into the water. Change to a Direct Fuel Injection, a 4-stroke or an electric engine to reduce fuel loss, reduce pollution and save in gas costs.

4. Make the switch to renewable energy

Boating enthusiasts and manufacturers are at the forefront of finding ways that renewable energy technologies can reduce the environmental impact of boating. 

Instead of idling your engine to charge electrical items on board, consider generating your own electricity by installing renewable energy technology such as: 

  • stand-alone solar panel
  • wind generator 
  • water generator 

Check out Sailors for the Sea’s Green Boating guide for more comprehensive advice on environmentally friendly sailing.

The Future of Green Boating

Imagine taking a ride on a boat which is almost silent, doesn’t vibrate with engine rumbles and produces no emissions. These things are possible thanks to rapidly developing electrical engine technology including:

  • Electric outboard motors – these motors are charged via electrical hookup in dock and can provide the speeds and longevity most boaters require.
  • Hybrid Vessels – these vessels combine a traditional combustion engine with an electrical engine, providing the ability to reduce environmental impact while retaining the reassurance of a traditional engine if needed. High performing boats are increasingly being powered this way including superyachts.
  • Solar powered boats – solar panels are used by many boaters to power onboard equipment, but new technological advances mean boat builders are now able to design vessels entirely powered by the sun!

Van Isle Marina Supports Environmentally Friendly Boating

Recognizing that what we do in our boats can impact the waters we love sailing on, Van Isle Marina is proud to offer services to support environmentally friendly boating. Located in Sidney, BC, the marina has a full service haul-out facility to enable out-of-water cleaning and maintenance. Power washing and bottom painting facilities and services are offered, along with ground sheets to prevent waste leakage.

Our state of the art fuel dock includes a holding tank pump-out to prevent oil spillage and we offer a sewage pump as well as complete garbage and recycling facilities on site. Considering an upgrade to a more environmentally friendly yacht? Contact our sales team today.