Sailing with Charlie: Going Green

Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre
Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

Going green used to mean that someone was about to be sea sick – not any more. Well, it still might mean that but more likely today ‘going green’ indicates an effort to be more ‘eco-friendly.’ In other words, to eliminate toxicity in the atmosphere, on the land and in the ocean. Charlie is pretty good at recycling. He always eats the leftovers; sometimes even the cat turns its nose up at what Charlie is eating. 

In the past in the Caribbean there has been a lack of awareness of the effect of pollution. Plastic food and drink containers, bags, bottles etc. are carelessly dumped, thrown out of car windows, or just haphazardly thrown by the roadside. Open dumps, land-fills and incinerators cause toxic smoke and add to an already overloaded atmosphere choking with carbon dioxide and world-wide deforestation hinders the transition of CO2 to O2. Then there is the beautiful Caribbean Sea; the colors, the luminescence and clarity are natural wonders in these tropical latitudes and must be preserved.  

The Caribbean’s reefs are already taking a massive hit from rising sea temperatures. Global warming is causing increasing torrential rains, hurricanes and tropical storms These are not only responsible for coastal erosion but wash plastic debris into the world’s oceans where it harms sea life. Clearly our planet is under duress.

Styrofoam is one of the big offenders; it never biodegrades. Drinking straws, plastic drink bottles, polyethylene domestic products, fishing nets and floats are just a few of the culprits that make up what is now called the great Caribbean garbage patch near Honduras. Similarly, there’s the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ a gyre or vortex in the Pacific about double the size of Texas, and there’s yet another in the Atlantic Ocean. The planet is being inundated.

It’s satisfying to learn of increasing awareness of the pollution problem in the BVI but ironic to see so many plastic (fiberglass) sailboats with no solution for their disposal when they reach their ‘End of Life,’ as witnessed by the many wrecks lining the shores of the BVI more than two years after the 2017 hurricanes. 

One hopeful green initiative being talked about by charter companies is the use of non-ablative, non-poisonous anti fouling paints for yacht bottoms. There are vinyl adhesive systems that deter marine organisms from attaching themselves. Also, in the pipeline are paints that are so shiny, marine growth cannot adhere and even after months in the water a wipe with a cloth is all that is needed. This ‘Slip’ technology can be a game changer and a huge benefit to the marine environment. Racing boats will love it too.

Since there is no good way to dispose of plastic the only solution is recycling and the BVI with non-profits like Green VI, VI Plastics and Green and Clean BVI are the standard bearers. These companies are providing more and more facilities for the separation of waste material. Shredded fibreglass can be used as an additive for concrete where it strengthens it and eliminates the need for wire mesh. Other plastics like drink bottles, bags, plastic plates, cutlery, shampoo containers etc. can be turned into numerous worthwhile items like furniture, ornaments, jewelry, picture frames etc. Glass bottles can be melted down and recreated into so many useful and decorative items.

The other day Charlie was at the beach bar talking to the manager of a charter company about ‘Going Green.’ He looked at his empty can of fizzy liquid called ‘Light Beer’ and said, ‘Good idea, I’ll have a Heineken.’ Well, they’re not called ‘greenies’ for nothing.

Julian_Putley
Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.