A Greener Galley  –  In many ways, sailing is the ultimate green activity. How many other ways can you travel thousands of miles with almost no energy consumption related to your mode of transportation? In reality, most of us operate our diesel engines at least occasionally, use strong chemicals during boat maintenance and generate more trash than we’d prefer. In honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day this month, I’d like to share some ways I’ve found to be more eco-friendly in the galley:

Reduce, reuse and recycle. There are few formal recycling programs in the Caribbean, so focus on the reduce and reuse part of the mantra

Reduce food waste. Studies show that an astounding percentage of usable food is wasted. Though waste occurs in production facilities and supermarkets, households generate much of the food waste. Make a list before heading to the supermarket in order to buy an appropriate amount of food. Then be sure to monitor the contents of your refrigerator – boat fridges are notorious for food that disappears into nooks and crannies – to ensure that you use food in a timely manner.

Buy locally.
Fresh fruits and vegetables commonly come to mind when one thinks about buying local foods, but the BVI also produces eggs, pork, roti skins, hot sauces, breads and other bakery items. Though not as local as BVI-produced products, perishable and non-perishable foodstuffs from throughout the Caribbean are found on BVI supermarket shelves. Buying locally helps support the Caribbean economy and means less shipping distance – in essence, fewer “food miles.”

Reuse those tote bags.
When I first moved to the BVI, I would bring empty tote bags with me to the supermarket, just like I had done in the States. I was often met with confused expressions from the checkout staff, who were never quite sure what to do with the bags. (Would I pack them or should they pack them?) These days, RiteWay staff cheerfully pack my bags and even give me a few cents off my bill for each bag I reuse.

Rethink water. Among grocery items, bottled water ranks high in terms of a carbon footprint, especially considering that some of the BVI’s most popular brands of water come from Europe. If you choose to purchase bottled water, buy gallon jugs from Caribbean water sources and have everyone pour water into his or her own bottle or cup. If you want to drink tap water – generally a very safe option in the BVI – you may consider having your boat’s water tanks professionally cleaned or using filtration systems such as Britta or PUR that attach to a faucet. Aboard my sailboat, we had excellent success with a small camping-style water pump, though it took some muscle to filter our water. We cruised for months throughout the Caribbean and only purchased bottled water once, when one of the down-island marinas had rather dubious-coloured water flowing from its dock hose. If you can afford it, a reverse osmosis water maker is an outstanding investment and will reduce trips to marinas to replenish fresh water supplies.

Consider packaging. Eschew single serving packaging in favour of larger sizes (assuming the food won’t be wasted, of course) and keep readymade foods to a minimum, as they tend to use more packaging. Since there’s often an inverse relationship between quantity of packaging and healthiness of food, buying food with less packaging likely means you’re also buying healthier food.

Follow food disposal regulations.
Lastly, observe rules for proper disposal of food waste. Most importantly, be sure that no plastic whatsoever ends up in the ocean. Also be mindful of etiquette when disposing of food waste. Nothing kills the moment like having an apple core float by your goggles while snorkeling at The Indians.

Once you’ve tackled your projects in the galley, go up on deck and enjoy the most eco-friendly and fun activity of all – sailing!