Green Boating: Unlikely Partners


For those who relish the boating lifestyle, it’s easy to appreciate the delicate balance between enjoying and protecting the environment. And it’s no surprise that boaters tend to prefer purpose-filled vacations that support the conservation of natural resources.

Protecting habitats, rehabilitating endangered species, practicing waste reduction and water conservation, and providing educational experiences are just a few ways we see the vacation industry champion marine preservation.

High-end resorts aid restoration

Sanctuary biologist at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary-credit-National Marine Sanctuaries via Wikimedia Commons

The Nayara Bocas del Toro resort in Panama has expanded its conservation focus. Already built on stilts to protect native mangroves and reefs, it now partners with the Caribbean Coral Restoration (CCR) organization. As part of this collaboration, they have installed innovative fish habitats and artificial reef structures around the resort.

Guests are welcome to visit CCR and learn more about the native species and efforts to reduce human impact.

In Jamaica, the GoldenEye Hotel, in a joint effort with the GoldenEye Foundation, established a reef restoration project around its property. Guests may observe the work being done and participate in coral planting in the underwater nurseries. This project produced an increase in fish populations by 1,800% and is now the template used in restoration projects throughout Jamaica’s coastal areas.

In Africa, the conservation-focused tour company, &Beyond teamed up with Oceans Without Borders to address diminishing populations of sharks, the vital apex predators in reef ecosystems. Guests at &Beyond Mnemba Island have a front row seat to the work being done with snorkel/diving educational experiences. In the big picture, cruise lines are innately the opposite of eco-friendly, but many companies are making significant strides to reduce their environmental impact. A newcomer to the cruise line industry is the Explora I. Completed in July of 2023 out of the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy, this ship was designed with conservation in mind from its inception and built to evolve in line with electric- and hydro-powered developments.

Targeting destination stops tailored to sustainable tourism standards and eliminating single-use plastics are just a few of the ways they hope to make cruising more eco-minded. Updated systems technologies, like water and air purification, propeller designs, and waste management equipment, are helping to lower the impact of some cruise ships.

When considering a cruise ship experience, a little research will go a long way. Information about a cruise line’s environmental policies, sewage treatment practices and water quality compliance are easy to locate online.

Green getaways

In the United States, environmental considerations are taking hold in many vacation hot spots. Alaska has initiated a vacation industry certification program to promote best practices. The Adventure Green Alaska program (AGA) curates businesses that incorporate sustainable practices and eco-friendliness through their services or excursions. Many businesses are adjusting properties and practices to attain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications. LEED is a global third- party green certification program established in the 1990s by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council. Companies can earn status levels based on adherence to environmentally considerate measures, including construction, interior design, operations and management.

Tides Inn & Resort | Courtesy of Tides Inn

Properties retrofitting their systems to gain certification are seeing energy efficiencies pay off in just seven years. Montage Deer Valley in Utah is an example of a LEED (Silver) Certified property. The resort incorporated significant sustainability features and practices to minimize waste, preserve open space, and use renewable energy sources. Many resorts and hotels throughout the United States now include energy and water efficient equipment and fixtures, and adhere to green housekeeping, purchasing and landscaping policies. Onsite culinary gardens and the use of locally sourced products are another welcome trend in the field of hospitality.

Vacation experiences that support the environment are frequently located on our beloved waterways. Kayaking, hiking and boating eco-tours are available on the west and east coasts. These immersive tours promote awareness of unique ecosystems and a renewed appreciation for our natural resources and the need to protect them.

If you visit sensitive coastal areas, you may find places to volunteer as part of your vacation experience. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is just one of many organizations that rely on volunteers to support their educational and environment protection missions.

Hands-on, eco-educational opportunities are increasingly popping up on hospitality offerings. One example is found at Tides Inn & Resort in Irvington, VA. As part of an ongoing sustainability project and conservation effort, an onsite ecologist and horticulturist provide an educational experience. Guests learn about the role of oysters and crabs on the Chesapeake Bay by seeding oysters or catching crabs, and enjoy a cool beverage, roasted oysters, and steamed crabs. Tides Inn also offers a beehive experience. Visitors learn about the honeybee and the importance of these vital pollinators. The workshop concludes with a tasting of local honey.

Boaters have a vested interest in keeping our environment healthy while celebrating the beauty that surrounds us in our cruising lifestyle. From luxury resorts in faraway places to stateside venues, options abound for those who want a purpose-filled, eco-friendly experience.

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