Southampton International Boat Show shapes up on sustainability

Sometimes you need to give credit where credit is due.

A year ago, fresh off the back of my Turn the Tide on Plastic campaign in The Volvo Ocean Race I visited the Southampton International Boat Show. I was shocked and embarrassed that a major event in our sport was not doing better with regard to making environmentally sound decisions and sustainable actions for a public event. I was so incensed that I wrote a strongly worded email to British Marine to express my disappointment and the areas I felt they could change.

One year on and I have to say I am impressed by what has changed. A walk round the show on Friday allowed me to see a different event altogether. The focus has been on a few main areas; plastics, paper, catering, waste and recycling, travel, access and education. This extends to engaging all the exhibitors and contractors with them signing a commitment to marine conservation and reduction in their environmental impact.

Change does take time and this year is just the start. I am sure we will see further improvements in subsequent shows. Collaboration is key, as is having buy in from the industry and I did sense that most people are onboard and recognise the changes being made. It was particularly poignant to see these changes on a day when huge numbers of children were striking from school to  draw government attention to the climate crisis. There were some noticeable changes and, while there is room for improvement, it is a good start.

At the show all drinks on site are in cans or compostable cups. Reusable bottles have been provided for exhibitors and water refill stations available for everyone.

Food traders at the show are not using single use plastics and have agreed to use seasonal produce that is locally sourced from Hampshire suppliers.

There has been a big move towards more digital marketing and information sharing. The use of an app has helped along with E Tickets for show entry.

There has been a collaboration with Biffa to ensure waste is dealt with appropriately, encouraging more recycling and food waste management.

In the theme of sustainability, exhibitors are being encouraged to re-think their stands trying to re-use materials and design components that can be utilised year on year.

Public transport links to the show are being promoted to ensure people can easily access the show without the need for individual cars, thus reducing carbon emissions.

There was the launch of the new Green Blue website, a national environmental awareness programme, whose aims are to inspire sustainable recreational boating for cleaner, healthier waters. Also, a new Environmental Award to recognise exhibitors who have embraced environmentally responsible behaviour and sustainable work practices. Congratulations to Spirit Yachts and RS Sailing, winners of this inaugural award. Recognition for Rockley Watersports and Sunsail who were runners up.

It was great to see awareness grow and an acknowledgement of actions that need to be taken. I hope the momentum continues.

Dee Caffari

British yachtswoman Dee Caffari is the first woman to have sailed single-handed and non-stop around the world in both directions and the only woman to have sailed non-stop around the world three times. In 2006 Dee became the first woman to sail solo, non-stop, around the world against the prevailing winds and currents and was awarded an MBE in recognition of her achievement.

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