In the yachting world, there have been several worthwhile initiatives and attempts to reduce the impact of the industry on the environment. But what can yacht owners and yacht crew do to make their yachts more eco-friendly on a daily basis? From reducing single-use plastics to buying in bulk at the start of the season, small changes can make a big impact.
We spoke to Hannah Russell, the founder of Viveco Yachts and Viveco Home to find out more. Following nearly a decade of working at sea as a yacht stewardess, Hannah is now dedicated to working with boats and yachts to be more sustainable.
Featuring Hannah Russell, Founder of Viveco Yachts and Viveco Home
What is your background in the yachting world?
After working as a yacht stewardess in my twenties, I have now spent the last 10 years in Mallorca. After experiencing some of the most amazing sights the planet has and settling in such a special place, I am more passionate than ever that we all need to act now to preserve and regenerate our planet. I am here to help yachts and yacht crews make long-lasting sustainable changes on board that drastically reduces single-use plastic waste, while also making provisioning easier and more efficient.
How, when, and why did you become interested in sustainable yachting?
I remember when I was on my first yacht, I was unpacking the printer ink for the season, there was a huge pile of thick plastic and a tiny pile of printer cartridges. At the time, I took a picture and I remember thinking, “This is ridiculous.” I have always been ‘eco-conscious’ but when I moved to land and had my son, I realized how crazy the systems are that we have created for ‘convenience’. On a yacht, you throw everything away and it is removed from sight, so you never think of it again, and living on an island made me question what happens to all the waste we create.
I started my business Viveco to cater to the island community and encourage residents to use less single-use plastic. However, I began to understand the whole cycle and saw that this meant shopping less, storing less, and creating so much less waste. I could see the ways that this could have a hugely positive impact on the yachting world. It would not only benefit the planet and the ocean that yachting relies on but also streamline the provisioning practice onboard, create consistency of products, and even end up saving money. A few forward-thinking yacht stewardesses contacted me to enquire about products and then I started focusing more on items that were needed on board, talking to yacht crews about what they needed, and it grew from there.
I could see the ways that this could have a hugely positive impact on the yachting world. It would not only benefit the planet and the ocean that yachting relies on but also streamline the provisioning practice onboard, create consistency of products, and even end up saving money.
What is the least sustainable practice and/or product on board a yacht and how can this change?
The easiest and cheapest way to be more sustainable is to just stop buying things. Overconsumption is a significant problem (both on land and on yachts) and by simplifying and assessing what we really need you can make a huge reduction in waste, shipping, unnecessary production, etc. There are also indisputable issues with massive fuel consumption, hull paint degradation, and waste management.
However, from an interior crew perspective, I tend to break it down into two different categories:
Big Scale Issues: These are things that tend to take more time to solve, can be costly and need a lot of collaboration and a desire to change. For example, using water bottles on board – to solve this there needs to be a lot of collaboration between owners, engineers and crew etc (involving installation of new machines). It is totally doable, and the great news is that hundreds of yachts are making the switch – but it is not an issue that can be tackled overnight or by an individual.
More Solvable Issues: These are things that yacht crew can identify and start changing instantly – e.g. single-use plastic. Crew can start by just refusing to buy these items (like plastic cutlery etc.) or looking for reusable versions. A great way to do this is start with one thing – toothbrushes, razors, sponges, tampons and swap it for a more sustainable alternative. Then once these things are done move onto toiletries, cleaning products etc.
Changing Big Scale Issues is amazing but can get overwhelming and quite time consuming at the beginning, making tangible change within the areas you can is a great way to motivate others to do the same while moving you closer to the end goal.
Once you have made the change, stick to it, stock up and quickly this ‘change’ becomes the norm. Work your way around each area until you are as plastic-free as possible!
Overconsumption is a significant problem (both on land and on yachts) and by simplifying and assessing what we really need you can make a huge reduction in waste, shipping, and unnecessary production.
What is your favorite sustainable initiative to start on board a yacht?
By purchasing in bulk, you can reduce your plastic waste by 75% and you can guarantee consistency of product quality and reliability. In addition, by stocking up adequately in advance for the season, you also save money by not panic buying random products in remote locations. Also, yacht crew can introduce Refill Systems onboard, where a yacht purchases larger containers and then refills the smaller bottles from this while at sea. I love this system because it is easy and simple to do, and the benefits are massive.
You can apply this ‘bulk buy’ system throughout laundry, toiletries, and cleaning products. I also like the new wave of concentrated cleaners and toiletries that are coming onto the market. These are tiny amounts of a super concentrated product that you add water to – saving on more plastic, fuel consumption when shipping, and space!
Are there any common mistakes when trying to be sustainable on a yacht?
Rushing into buying new products, or just finding an off-the-shelf ‘eco’ alternative to everything you already buy can cause problems. The wealth of choice, misinformation, and greenwashing can quickly become overwhelming and disheartening. It is beneficial to take some time to test products or new systems first before rushing in. If you invest time and money in a lot of products that you do not like or do not work and end up throwing them away – this is not sustainable and can make people wary of making a change in the future. Do a little bit of research where possible or ask a trusted independent party when choosing brands or products.
What advice would you give to owners, captains, and crew who want their yacht to be more eco-friendly?
The world of sustainability can be a minefield, so do not hesitate to reach out for advice. Several great companies can really help and save you time and money in the long run – we offer a consultation service where we can show you better alternatives for interior products you currently have – considering your specific requirements.
There is also now a brilliant training company, ETYC, that can come on board and train the whole yacht crew, so everyone is equipped with the most up-to-date knowledge and best practices to protect the environment.
Yacht crews need to be open-minded about change and be ready for a little trial and error before they find the best solution. It can take a little bit of effort at the beginning, but you will find amazing benefits. For example, often when switching to bulk the initial quotation for an order can be higher than a normal receipt from a supermarket – this is because you are buying a whole season’s worth of a product, which you may not do when shopping monthly. Yacht crews, yacht managers, and yacht owners need to be open to looking at the bigger picture and the added benefits of less time spent shopping, not paying to dispose of waste, the environmental and health benefits, etc. It is great when the whole chain from owner to crew is excited about making a positive change as this is where the most impact can happen.
Yacht crews need to be open-minded about change and be ready for a little trial and error before they find the best solution.
Have you seen more yachts adopting sustainable practices in recent years?
The response from yacht crew over the last few years has been amazing. Everyone I speak to is so open to change and ready to do whatever they can. I am constantly approached by chief stewardesses who genuinely want to make changes. I have over 250 yachts on my client list – from smaller sail yachts to 80m+ motor yachts – and hopefully, this momentum will just keep going.
Why did you join forces with Superyacht Eco and what do you hope to achieve?
I have been working closely with Superyacht Eco for several years since they became the main distributor for ECOSTORE, one of the most popular brands I sell, and I also know Lucy and David personally since I was a chief stewardess on board.
As time went on, we realized that we were helping each other out in several ways ‘unofficially’ and began talking about how we could move forward together to make it easier for the yachting community to find us and make lasting change. While manning the stand at the Monaco Yacht Show in the Sustainability Hub, we decided to officially join forces.
For more crew articles, tips and yachting insights, click here.