Environmental Innovator Winner: Sailors for the Sea

Environmental Innovator Winner: Sailors for the Sea
June 7, 2017
Posted by:
Kelley Martin

Sailors for the Sea


Description of Project or Initiative: Please describe the program or initiative and how the applicant is leading the industry in encouraging environmental and social change in 500 words (4000 characters) or less. Be sure to include how the project or initiative embodies the 2017 Green Sports Alliance Summit Theme, PLAY GREENER ™: Engaging Fans, Athletes, and Communities.

Sailing is a life-long sport that many people participate in their entire lives. Sailors rely on nature in order to compete – and often the elements of nature, wind and waves are harder on sailors than their fellow competitors. Nature demands a certain amount of respect from sailors; and Sailors for the Sea mobilizes this community of ocean enthusiasts to give respect back to the ocean with real solutions to big ocean health problems.

Sailors for the Sea’s Clean Regattas program is the only sustainability certification for water-based events. It is a hybrid model of sustainability based on the ISO 20121 standard for Event Sustainability Management; the ISO 14000 standard for Environmental Management; and the Global Reporting Index (GRI) Event Organizers Sustainability Guidelines. Clean Regattas is a voluntary certification program comprised of 25 Best Practices and 75 sustainability indicators. Regattas are asked to start by meeting just one best practice – and have the opportunity to earn certifications at the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels.

The Clean Regattas program instills the concept to “Play Greener” throughout the sailing community. The introduction of the program to an event often starts with just one individual. As planning begins, the influence expands as a green team is formed. The green team, which can range in size from 2 to 250 people, is trained in the sustainability efforts often helping sort trash, recycling and composting – helping refill water bottles – or creating emergency plans for oil spills. These skills are able to used at other events. Every athlete at the event is engaged in the sustainability initiatives as they are embedded in the event.

Spectators or fans also partake in the Clean Regattas program when watching from a boat or onshore. The program spreads throughout the sailing community when sailors introduce the program to new events.  From the smallest children’s regatta to the largest sailing events in the world, such as the America’s Cup or the Volvo Ocean Race, with more than 100,000 fans in attendance – have been certified as Clean Regattas because the program is scalable and practical. Over the course of 10 years, 1,097 events have participated in the program with more than 397,000 people partaking in sustainability efforts. 2016 was the largest year yet for the program with 216 events and 42,256 people in 32 US States and 31 countries and territories.

The 25 Best Practices that make up the Clean Regattas program are broken down into 5 categories to match regatta organizer needs. These categories are event management, food and beverage, waste reduction, venue management and race management. This enables the program to address a wide range of issues that water-based events might face, from marine mammal strikes to oil leaks to single-use plastic reduction. The 75 sustainability indicators (3 per best practice) empower event organizers to assess if they are meeting the best practice. In all, the program addresses 10 different environmental issues including: environmental outreach, plastic pollution, nutrient loads, and toxic cleaning products.

If possible, provide qualitative or quantitative data that demonstrates the environmental or social impact of your project.

Quantitative Data - In 2016 1,472 Clean Regattas Best Practices were utilized to reduce environmental impact at 216 events in 32 US States and 31 countries and territories. - In 2016, 1,362,589 people engaged with Sailors for the Sea’s programs and social media in 2016. That’s 3,733 people every day. - Sailors for the Sea achieved 289 million media impressions in 2016, an unprecedented achievement for the organization, with 53 of the 190 articles focused on the Clean Regattas program. Qualitative Data - Antigua Sailing Week is one of the many great examples of how the Clean Regattas program empowers communities to work together to overhaul sustainability issues. Starting in 2009, the regatta began using the Clean Regattas program. Like many events, they started small with just a few people on the planning committee working to make simple changes. They started with recycling, then engaged a local environmental group to create a Green Team, and then tackled straws. While the concept of not using straws seems easy – as simple as not putting them in a drink – habits are hard to break.

Beginning with the event in April 2016, straws were removed from bars, and signs were posted saying straws were available by request only. However, knowing that many sailors would be dining at bars and restaurants outside the yacht club and marina, race organizers expanded beyond the docks. The Antigua Barbuda Marine Association introduced the ‘Skip the Straw’ concept to hotels and marinas, encouraging them to display signs in their window that they were part of the Clean Regattas efforts and would not be using straws. But long after the regatta was over, signs in the windows remained. The community recognized the benefits of reducing straw usage to their beaches, waterways and endangered sea turtle population. What could have been just 800 people not using straws for a week during a single event became an island-wide initiative with a community of locals and sailors behind it!