Want to use more eco-friendly products on your boat? Responsible boaters understand the need to protect the environment that we love so much. That includes being mindful of the things we use on a daily basis.
We moved onto a boat to experience the freedom, beauty, and closeness to nature that a cruising lifestyle offers. But the only way to keep these places beautiful is to do our part in reducing our impact on the earth. That means using products that embody that philosophy.
In this article, we share some of our favorite Mother-Nature-approved products that you can feel good about using.
Here’s our list!
21 million Americans drink water that violates U.S. health standards. Read that again. And how have we dealt with this problem? By creating an entire industry around plastic water bottles full of BPAs and other toxins.*
On a boat, water is life; no two ways around it. And many sailors do what we used to do – stock up on bottled water.
That is, until we learned about the Berkey water filter system. And if you think it’s just another water filter, think again. The Berkey is actually a water purifier because it meets the higher standard of removing 99.9999% of pathogenic bacteria.
The Berkey water filter system removes heavy metals, bacteria, and viruses that conventional filters cannot, while still allowing key minerals that your body needs to pass through. It doesn’t require electricity because it’s gravity fed, so it’s perfect for a boat.
Each filter can filter up to 3,000 gallons of water so even though they seem pricey, it’s much more cost effective than bottled water.
Our first set of filters lasted us nearly 5 years of daily use. Overall, with the cost of the entire system, cost us about $0.10 per gallon of drinking water. Once you’ve purchased the system, the filter refills mean you pay less than 3 cents per gallon.
We’ve used our Berkey for the last 6 years without a single problem with intestinal issues. You should have seen the stares from other boaters throughout Cuba and Guatemala as we filled our jugs with hose water to pour into our Berkey for our drinking water.
We love, love, love our Berkey and whether we’re traveling on the boat or by car, we never travel without it.
- Made of stainless steel (perfect for a boat)
- Long-lasting filters (ours last us 4+ years)
- Reduces more than 700 plastic bottles per year from our use alone
- Must secure while sailing
- A bit of an investment (but so worth it and way more affordable in the long run!)
*For some scientific advice on the adverse affects of plastic, listen to this eye-opening Joe Rogan Podcast episode with Dr. Shanna Swan about how plastics and chemicals affect our reproductive systems among other things. You can also read her best-selling book Count Down.
Cleaning products and laundry detergents are some of the most toxic offenders on a boat.
Words like “bioplastic” fool us into believing its better. But just because they remove petroleum from the ingredient list doesn’t mean they haven’t substituted another oil that requires equally harmful additives. “BPA FREE” doesn’t tell us anything about what substitutes are being used.
And those eco-friendly products packaged in heavy plastic bottles? That’s like wrapping a crisp, green summer salad in a slice of 5-meat-and-cheese pizza.
If you don’t already know, white vinegar is one of the cheapest and most effective eco-friendly cleaners you can use on a boat. We use it on our stove and in our toilet.
Recipes for making your own cleaners with vinegar
Deck Cleaner: Add 1-cup of white vinegar to 1 gallon of water. Always use a soft bristle brush. Don’t get overly-aggressive or you could damage the gel coat. Want to add some disinfectant properties? Simply add a cup of hydrogen peroxide.
Stain Remover: Add 3 tablespoons of baking soda to a small bowl and slowly add your vinegar/water mixture (from above) until it forms a thick paste. Think peanut butter. There you go, a natural version of Soft Scrub.
Pro Tip: Have small black mildew dots on your lifejackets? Fill a 5-gallon bucket with warm water, add 5 cups of white vinegar and 5 cups of hydrogen peroxide. Let them soak for 30 minutes with light scrubbings as they soak. Rinse thoroughly.
Stubborn Mildew Stains on Sail Canvas or Cloth: Combine 1 part lemon juice (no, vodka lemonade doesn’t count) and 1 part salt. Scrub gently. Gently! Too hard and you’ll damage your sail. Rinse thoroughly and let dry completely in the sun.
If you absolutely must use a commercial cleaner, check out one of these:
Additional resources worth checking out
The Environmental Protection Agency has created the Safer Choice Label. All of the products on this site are manufactured to meet the strict EPA guidelines, so you’re guaranteed to find an eco-friendly product. The list is concise and straightforward.
Another great resource with easy to decipher lists is the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
Yes, it’s soap. So, why isn’t it included in the section above?
Because it’s a special soap.
It’s more of a body soap, but saying that would be selling this soap short. Not only can it clean your body and hair, it can clean your teeth, your toilet, your fruit, and your dog. And that’s not the complete list!
You could virtually have one cleaner on your entire boat.
Dr. Bronner’s soaps are made with over 90% organic ingredients. Over 70% of ingredients are certified fair trade, meaning ethical working conditions & fair prices.
There are no synthetic preservatives, thickeners, or foaming agents. The baby version contains no peppermint or other scenting agents. Dr. Bronner’s is never tested on animals and it’s packaged in 100% post consumer recycled plastic.
This soap is 3 times more concentrated than most soaps, so a little goes a long way. You need to dilute it. (Especially when using it on pets… trust us on that one, or you’ll spend all afternoon rinsing the soap out).
More soap per bottle means less waste in packaging!
We like the Baby Unscented version. And if you’re ever short of reading material, their labels are pretty fun and wacky to read.
A coffee maker is eco-friendly? Yes. These days with Keurigs being all the rage, a simple French press is super eco-friendly.
Not only is the coffee better, there are no paper filters or plastic coffee pods to chuck in the trash. For God’s sake, do we need another pod? iPods, Tide-pods, storage PODS and now, coffee pods.
This coffee press uses no power (unless your stove is electric) and is insulated stainless steel, so it keeps your precious java warm for up to one hour.
Our brew never lives that long, but if your the easily distracted type, this might be the perfect accessory for you.
Win, win if you ask me.
Are you noticing a pattern here? We use these stainless water bottles for two reasons, the obvious one being that we do everything we can to not buy plastic.
The second being hygiene. We fill our bottles with our Berkey water and that in turn, minimizes the risk of contamination.
We like Klean Kanteen because they’re made of quality stainless and the non-insulated bottle is lighter weight compared to our double-insulated bottles. This makes it perfect for travel, hiking, sports and more. I also use mine on my bikepacking trips.
I also like the wide-mouth non-insulated version (shown in the photo above) because if we’re backpacking or camping and we need to heat water over a fire or camp stove, we can use it without fear of the thing exploding*.
Dual uses for everything! That’s how you make the most of your eco-friendly products for boat living.
*Never heat a double-walled stainless bottle or cup on a stove or fire. The heat won’t pass through properly and it could explode. Also, never heat a coated or aluminum bottle over a fire because of leaching. (source)
Not all eco-friendly products have to be boring and uber practical. Some can be down right luxurious and these 100% organic Turkish towels are exactly that.
They’re super-soft, highly-absorbant, fast-drying, and made with organic dyed yarns.
They are thinner than most conventional bath towels and require less water for washing and less time and energy in the dryer. (We hang ours on the lifelines to dry).
They’re large enough to be used as beach towels, too. While not the obvious choice or blatantly screaming eco-friendly, a little luxury goes a little farther when you feel good about how it’s made.
Melody has super thick hair. Some of it inevitably ends up in the sink. A few years back, our sink clogged up.
We tried everything (natural) that we could. Vinegar and baking soda, boiling water and plunger, and nothing worked. This endeavor went on for a couple of days.
That’s when I first discovered Unique’s Super Digest-it Safe Drain Opener. Within an hour after pouring that stuff in the drain, the clog was gone and our sink drained faster than ever before. I’ve been a fan ever since.
Unique produces several other eco-friendly products specifically for marine use. They know if you clean and flush your marine head overboard (know the local laws about discharge) or unclog your sink, whatever you used is going into the water.
Unique is cool because they share a complete list of the ingredients in every product they make along with their reasons for choosing those ingredients on their website.
I’m here to tell you, we use their Marine Digest-It Holding Tank Treatment in tandem with their RV Toilet Cleaner + Holding Tank Enhancer and they work better than anything we’ve ever used. They smell great too.
Try them! You can thank me later.
If there’s one thing that I hate almost as much as plastic, it’s a gas outboard motor.
Aside from the old two-strokes belching out blue smoke and spilling oil into the water, they raise one’s blood pressure when they fail to start or run like crap because you’ve let them sit for week and the fuel has mucked up your carburetor.
And don’t believe those who tell you, “the four-strokes are so much better!” Nah.
When Torqeedo came along, I thought it was a great idea but it just didn’t seem practical in the real world of cruising. They didn’t have enough range, they were heavy, and took too long to charge, and… they were damn expensive!
Now, the weight has been seriously reduced (you can even carry them in a shoulder bag) and the range is very respectable, depending on the model you choose of course. (We’d probably go with the Cruise 8hp).
As solar arrays get bigger and more efficient, electric outboards are now viable options when cruising to far off destinations. They’re quiet, completely waterproof, and the newest models feature on-board GPS calculations of remaining range.
Oh, and just try laying your 8hp Yamaha on deck for a few days and tell me you won’t find a puddle of nasty oil or gas when you go to launch it.
Are they expensive? Yes.
But consider the pay-to-play factor when you factor fuel prices, how many times you end up with bad gas from a remote fuel dock, the time you sit pulling on the pull-cord or removing and cleaning the carburetor, or the strain on your relationship as you sit in a stalled dinghy with your groceries going bad in the midday heat while you drift helplessly.
Conclusion – Eco-Friendly Products for Boats
Hopefully this list gave you some ideas on ways you can be kinder to the environment.
Whether you’re a liveaboard cruiser or weekend boater, when it comes time to replenish your laundry soap or your personal hygiene products, consider trying one of our favorite eco-friendly products for greener sailing!