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CAROLINA SAILING

Green Regattas & Other Myths By Dan Dickison

A

fter months of the devastating BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this summer, late August brought some refreshing environmental news from the folks who run the Intercollegiate Sailing Association (ICSA, the governing body for competitive sailing among colleges throughout the country). Speaking on behalf of the organization’s 18member board of directors, ICSA president Mitch Brindley announced an initiative to eliminate single-use plastic bottles at ICSA regattas. The goal of eliminating some 25,000 plastic bottles from the waste stream—the number purchased each year by ICSA members for their events—may seem purely symbolic when considered alongside the enormity of an estimated 170,000 million gallons of crude oil in the ocean. At the very least, it’s an important step in the right direction for our sport. And at best, it could offer vital leverage for environmental activists in sailing. Working with the nonprofit organization, Sailors for the Sea, Brindley and his fellow directors hope their initiative will not only divert plastic bottles and caps from landfills around the country, but also from the ocean. According to the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Food and Water Watch, water bottles are responsible for up to 1.5 million tons of the plastic waste that’s generated each year in the United States alone. In addition, only around 20 percent of the estimated 50 billion bottles of water consumed in our country each year get recycled, while some 80 percent are simply thrown away. Once discarded, it’s not difficult for some portion of that 80 percent to migrate into our water-

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October 2010

SOUTHWINDS

One of only two recycling bins that we found on the docks at Charleston’s largest marina.

ways, eventually posing a hazard to sea life. By taking a proactive stance on this issue, ICSA’s directors have acknowledged an often-overlooked but important idea: the notion that because we sailors are dependent upon the quality of our environs, we should be among the strongest advocates for good environmental stewardship. And, in the case of bottled water, there’s plenty of motivation for taking that stance. According to ICSA’s announcement, “Single-use plastic bottles of water cost up to 10,000 times the cost of tap water. Bottled water does not undergo the quality testing that tap water does. Seventeen million barrels of oil are used in the production of water bottles yearly. The bottles take thousands of years to degrade and contribute to litter problems onshore and offshore.” Given that information, convincing sailors to serve as environmental stewards should be easy. But it turns out that doing so on a comprehensive scale is pretty tough. Consider your favorite regatta. Here in the Carolina Low Country, we’ve got plenty to choose from. Whether it’s one of the summer weekend contests hosted by a local yacht club, or the ever-popular Charleston Race Week, you’d be hard-pressed to find event organizers who even discuss the need for recycling bottles and cans when planning their regattas. It’s just not a priority. In general, we pay far more attention to the kind of trophies offered than we do to the environmental impact of our events. That’s not a criticism as much as it is a simple fact. Half a dozen years ago, a small contingent of Charleston area sailors conducted a pilot recycling program during Charleston Race Week. The intent was to raise awareness about and encourage the practice of recycling at area regattas. The group placed clearly identified recycling bins on the docks where the majority of the competitors’ boats were berthed. Each afternoon, when the boats returned to the docks and disgorged that day’s empties, the bins filled up and were promptly carted away. It was a successful experiment. As an aside, it put a new focus on the fact that the beverages consumed in the party tent were all dispensed in non-recyclable cups. Yet despite the success of this one-time enterprise, comprehensive www.southwindsmagazine.com

Southwindsoctober2010  

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Southwindsoctober2010  

http://www.southwindsmagazine.com/pdfs-issues/southwindsoctober2010.pdf