Ecotourism and Sustainable Charters

Carbon Footprint island
Eco-friendly yacht charters? It sounds like an oxymoron. Motor yachts burn fossil-fuel fuels. They are built with materials that aren’t always sustainable. And just getting to the yacht typically requires a flight or two.

Is it really possible to have a green charter? Can yacht charterers really enjoy the world’s most beautiful corners and ports of call, without increasing their carbon footprints?

Until the last few decades, a green yacht charter wasn’t really a reality. Unless you chartered a sailboat in a port near your home, you likely would be driving up your carbon footprint. Today, though, that’s changed. Thanks to advances in yacht construction and design, greater awareness in sustainable practices, and a blossoming ecotourism industry, an eco-friendly yacht charter is no longer a myth. It’s an attainable environmental goal that guests, brokers and yacht builders are achieving.

What Is My Carbon Footprint?

To understand ecotourism and green yacht chartering, it’s good to start with your carbon footprint. Travel can have a significant impact on your carbon footprint. But what is it exactly?

In short, your carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide you release into the atmosphere based on your lifestyle. Everyday activities like commuting to work or using electricity contribute to your greenhouse gas emissions. And the total of all your emission-causing activities is your carbon footprint.

Some lifestyles – like those that include frequent work travel, or a diet rich in beef and pork – contribute to a larger carbon footprint. (Want to see what your footprint is? Use the EPA’s handy carbon footprint calculator to get a quick estimate.)

So, what does this have to do with yacht charters? Well, for one, a yacht charter can add significantly to your carbon footprint (although that’s changing). And also, understanding carbon footprint can help you understand how eco-friendly yachting choices help reduce the carbon impact of your Caribbean or Mediterranean vacation.

Yacht Charters and Your Carbon Footprint

Yacht charters – and travel in general – tend to require a lot of flights, taxis, hotels, and single-use items. All of which equals more greenhouse gas emissions created by the traveler. In fact, travel and transportation can have a significant impact on your carbon footprint.

According to the EPA, transportation accounts for about 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. It’s the second leading source of GHG emissions in the U.S., behind only electricity. And flights, in particular, tend to have the most impact. A flight across the U.S. generates about 20 percent of the greenhouse emissions that the average American produces from driving for the entire year.

In other words, just getting to your yacht charter destination can create a lot of greenhouse emissions. Yet, that doesn’t take into account all the other contributing factors that can make yacht charter less sustainable, including:

  • Fuel burned by the yacht
  • Taxis to and from the yacht
  • Emissions created when the yacht was built
  • Using single-use items like water bottles and toiletries while onboard

All of these factors can make green charters seem unattainable. Yet, charter guests can make a number of choices to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of their yachting vacation.

Sustainable Travel: How to “Green” Your Charter Vacation

What are some simple ways charter guests can make their vacations more sustainable? From the choice of yacht, to on-board decisions, more and more yacht charters are employing these techniques for guilt-free cruising.

1. Charter a Sailing Yacht or Catamaran

A luxury sailing yacht drastically reduces the amount of fuel that’s burned during charter. Instead, you’ll be using wind to power the vessel, one of the most sustainable energy sources. Plus, the experience is just as luxurious as chartering a motor yacht. Sailing vessels allow for a quieter and more traditional yachting experience – the perfect way to cruise the high seas.

2. Choose a Sustainable Motor Yacht

Not all motor yachts are gas-guzzling energy hogs. In fact, in recent years, yacht builders have turned to hybrid technology to greatly reduce the amount of fuel that luxury megayachts consume. Motor yacht SHERAKHAN is an example of a sustainable yacht. Refitted in 2017, the yacht received an upgraded low-emission diesel genset – which greatly reduced the yacht’s carbon footprint. If sustainable yachting is your goal, choose motor yachts with hybrid engines.

3. Think About Carbon Offsets

Carbon offsets are credits purchased through a nonprofit that invests these credits into sustainable projects. Projects like renewable energy power plants, tree planting, biofuel production, energy-efficient lighting installations and much more are all funded through carbon offset programs. This allows travelers to have truly carbon-neutral charter vacations. Many airlines also offer offset programs, a convenient way to achieve eco-friendly travel.

4. On-Board Preferences

Reducing waste, recycling and eliminating single-use items while on charter can all contribute to a more sustainable vacation. Prefer no plastic bottles? Or would you like to reduce food waste? Mark that on your preference sheet. Charter crews can help accommodate any waste-reduction initiative.

What Is Ecotourism? Choosing a Sustainable Destination

Another choice for a sustainable charter: The destination you choose. Many of the world’s top charter destinations are also ecotourism hotspots.

Ecotourism refers to a country’s commitment to conserving environments and wildlife, as well as the country’s unique cultural heritage. Tourism dollars in these locations go to conservation and preservation efforts, and therefore, choosing a sustainable destination means you’re investing in an environmental cause.

For example, Australia – and especially the islands around the Great Barrier Reef – are fabulous ecotourism destinations. The Whitsunday Islands benefit greatly from tourism dollars and invest tourism revenue in protecting local flora, fauna and managing tourism. Other great destinations like Alaska, the Galapagos Islands and Norway similarly invest heavily in conservation efforts and are great eco-tourism destinations.