Saturday, October 30, 2021

Green boating?

Well COP26 is upon us and I'm wondering how to be more green, or more especially how to go boating in a greener fashion.  After I've typed in my thoughts (which I haven't had yet) I'd be grateful if anyone else can chip in to help.

Thought No 1: is this a serious problem?  Of course it is. On a scale of 1 to 10 I'd put it at 11.  Extremely serious - not particularly for me 'cos I won't live to see the worst of it  but my kids and grandchildren face a pretty bleak future if we don't do something now.  I have no time for climate change sceptics. If they can't see what's staring them in the face then I won't waste my time arguing with them.

Thought No 2:  I have to own up that a narrowboat like ours is off to a bad start in being green.  An older inefficient internal combustion engine  burning red diesel for hours a day is not good.  Neither is a heating stove burning fossil fuels or an Eberspacher diesel heater.  Of course if I'm not moving the boat or using the heating it's OK but that rather defeats the object of having a boat.  Also, every time I travel from home to the boat, that's another hour and three quarters car driving.

Thought No 3.  There are more positive attributes.  Boaters tend to be more frugal with water.  Our boat has a composting toilet which uses no water and no chemicals.  We have solar panels to make electricity, albeit mostly in the summer.  And if we do run the engine to move the boat, we make hot water and electricity at the same time so it makes good use of what fuel we do burn.

So what's to be done?  How can a boater reduce his /her carbon footprint?

Well of course there's all the personal stuff which applies whether you're on a boat or not.  Eat less red meat and dairy, wear extra clothes in winter, reduce use of plastics, etc.  At home we've dropped the thermostat a couple of notches, tried to cut down on packaged foods and consumables, avoided food products flown in by plane or grown in hot houses, cut down on car use, experimented with non dairy alternatives like oat milk (ok but not as nice - I hear good things about almond milk so we're trying that next).  Etc etc.

But what about the boat specific stuff?

Well I suppose the first thing is to see if we can run the engine less.  That means two things - travelling less far and minimising our use of battery electricity.  It's true that these days we don't cover the distances that we used to and are often quite happy to stay in one spot for a couple of days.  I guess we might /should do more of that.  In the winter though, we don't get a lot from the solar panels, so the engine has to run to keep the batteries up.  And if the engine is running for battery charging you might as well be moving.  Hmmm.  How about in cold weather not using the fridge?  We could keep stuff cold in a cool box in the well deck.  The fridge is the main eater of battery power so that would be a good saving I reckon.  Of course if we didn't eat meat or dairy we probably wouldn't need a fridge anyway.

In the past I've put a clip-on ammeter onto the charging lead from the alternator and it seemed to me that it showed that the charging current didn't improve much with increased engine speed, so there's a tip - if you do run the engine just for charging, run it gently -that will burn less diesel.

I always go on about making sure firewood for the stove should be properly dried, and that does make a difference to how much wood you burn for a given amount of heat.  Less wood =less CO2.

LED lights inside the boat? Got'em.  They use about a tenth of what a neon strip uses.

Now I'm running out of ideas.  Short of selling the boat or keeping an expensive boat and not using it much, I can't think of much else.  I'm sure there are ideas out there.  Let's pool them and go green together if we can.  Over to you.

PS I forgot to mention one thing.  It can be quite hard to know what to do for the best and how much difference certain actions make in reducing your carbon footprint.  One book that is really helpful in that respect is How Bad Are Bananas by Mike Berners-Lee (brother of the more famous Tim). It's packed with the facts and figures you need to know and very readable to boot.  Highly recommended.  BTW bananas are not bad. Unless you are diabetic.


nb Bonjour said...

Good post Neil, and I'm impressed with your commitment regarding food! You're doing better than us. Did you know that the bigger Tescos have a collection point for 'flexible plastic' - in my local one it's where the carrier bag collection point was. You can put crisp packets in there as well as other things - check their website. I expect you are already using local shops such as the greengrocer (fewer food miles for veg) and zero-waste shops for loose food items like raisins (if you have them in your nearest town) instead of supermarkets.
Every little helps as someone once said. It just needs all of us to do it.
best wishes

Chertsey Sarah said...

We've been hearing a lot about air source heat pumps lately and I'm very sceptical about them. What has this to do with boating, you ask. Well, they're decsribed as working like a reverse fridge (but on a bigger scale). And if there's one thing a boater knows, it's that fridges use A LOT of power.

Pip and Mick said...

There's the HVO diesel substitute which is manufactured from a crop. I believe North Kilworth Marina on the Leicester Line sell nothing else. It claims to "eliminate up to 90% of net CO2". I don't know what the crop it is made from is and how much of the UK's arable field acreage would need to be used to grow it. Sounds too good to be true. This web site promotes it (but then they sell it too)

NB Oleanna

Caroline said...

Here's another link for HVO this is made of waste fats and oils. There are various trials going on for heating oil as well.

Another thought is about the carbon footprint of pets, in particular the impacts of manufacturing pet food. But I don't see many boaters (or others) wanting to be without their pets?


Vallypee said...

When I was a child, and I expect you grew up with this too, Neil, my parents used to say 'waste not, want not' and that applied to everything: food, clothing, water, lights, you name it. I don't know why we were brought up to be quite so frugal, but it's stood me in good stead all my life, and especially now. I don't think we were unusual, though. I suppose it was an attitude of mind people developed during the war when everything was short, but I think it was a good one.