Green is the new blue when it comes to marine conservation in the Caribbean. Marina operators, regatta officials and charter yacht organizations are all doing their part to preserve and protect the region’s seas and its surroundings.
Firstly, visitor demand.
Martin Oliver, general manager of St. Croix’s Tamarind Reef Resort’s Green Cay Marina, the first marina in the U.S. Virgin Islands to achieve Blue Flag status, explains, “The Blue Flag program was initially developed in Europe and our annual visitors from the Danish tour groups have shown a real interest in the program. This in turn has raised the awareness of the need for a ‘green’ Green Cay, and all that that entails.”
Secondly, it’s the right thing to do, says Judy Petz, director of the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, which was recognized by the Newport, Rhode Island-based Sailors for the Sea, a nonprofit organization dedicated to worldwide protection of the oceans, as the first regatta on the planet to be completely Carbon Neutral. “The world has become very aware of the environment and the impact we all have on it. By our regatta committee showing its support and creating ‘green’ initiatives each year, we gain the respect of our sailors and those who are part of the event.”
How are these groups going ‘green’?
“One way is concentrating on the ecological aspects of the marina,” says Green Cay’s Martin, “such as having sewage pump-out facilities.”
St. Thomas’ Crown Bay Marina, which received its Blue Flag status last year, enhanced their already eco-friendly initiatives by removing paper towels from the bathrooms and adding hand dryers, says Jane Wherren, director of operations. “We have also started an aluminum can recycle program, and we have increased environmental education by using a gazebo on property to display information about the environment, and we plan to use our monthly barbecues for a 15-minute presentation on different environment topics.”
The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, like the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival, is one of ten competitive sailing events in the region that is part of Sailors for the Sea’s ‘Clean Regattas’ certification program.
Karen Smith, regatta assistant, says, “The majority of our efforts are based around not creating excessive waste and if we cannot avoid this, ways to make sure that the waste is either properly dealt with or biodegradable at the very least. For example, no straws are given with drinks at the party locations, no paper or flyer products are allowed in skipper bags to reduce waste; and using green water bottles supplied by Heavenly Water and Fiji.”
A water bottle program was started at the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival in 2009 with the help of local bottled water supplier, Clear Water. To date, says Petz, “there is at least 40 to 50 percent less plastic being dumped in our waters.”
The Plastic Water Bottle Buster Contest, where crews create a piece of art, form or function out of plastic water bottles to raise awareness, is one part of the Caribbean Yacht Broker Association International’s (CYBA) ‘Going Green to Save the Blue’ program. Over 100 Caribbean-based charter yachts have been recognized for their efforts to ‘go green’. These endeavors have included use of green cleaning products, reusable shopping bags, non-toxic bottom paints, solar panels, eco-friendly sunscreens and installing water filtration systems to save on use of plastic bottles for drinking water. This initiative was started at charter yacht shows in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and has expanded this year to the Antigua Charter Yacht Show.
“My guess is that in the Virgins alone, this initiative saved about two million bottles from going to landfills,” says Trish Cronin, president of Denaud, Florida-based Ocean Getaways Yacht Charters and CYBA president.