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Make 2019 count - Kinder cleaning

by Gael Pawson 5 Apr 12:00 BST
Katherine is a qualified Yachtmaster Ocean, offshore racer and has won speed competitions in the International Moth as well as the women's European title © Katherine Knight / www.narwhalexpeditions.com

Making a difference on the water

Katherine Knight spent last summer undertaking a sailing expedition to 'Clean up the Arctic'. "It was a really eye opener to the extent of the problem of plastic pollution and inspired us to commit to making simple switches on board our sailing yacht 'Narwhal' to reduce our plastic consumption," she explains.

The following are some simple changes that they have made that anyone can easily make on board their own boat or at home:

  • In the galley they have switched plastic scrubbing sponges for knitted cotton dish cloths.
  • They have stopped taking three plastic bottles into the shower block and instead have switched to shampoo and conditioner in soap style bars.
  • In the laundry they have started using a bag, the 'Guppyfriend', to catch micro fibres that come out of our sailing gear in the wash, preventing them from being washed down the drain and eventually entering the ocean.
  • They also have some 'sapindus mukorossi' seeds, which are supposed to make an alternative to chemical washing up liquid.

"It brings a sense of satisfaction each time I use a plastic alternative," says Katherine, "knowing that my actions are a part of the solution."

And that's exactly the point of this article and our whole series of these features - let's all become part of the solution by considering our actions and making some different choices.

Kinder cleaning

Cleaning products can account for more waste than we might think and there are plenty of alternatives that can make a significant difference to your impact on the world. So as we prepare for that spring boat clean, here are a few ways to cut our negative impact on the environment.

For us sailors it's not just the general cleaning products that we all use, but the products that we choose to use to clean our boats and our kit. If we can encourage our sailing clubs to make some small changes, and change some of our practices on board larger boats as well it can add up to a significant reduction in waste and move towards more sustainable living.

Remember too that many harsher cleaning products aren't very good for us as well as the environment, and the sea is inevitably where they end up. As with the rest of our lives, we are all too used to putting our waste in the bin and not worrying about where it goes, or simply washing it away down the drain. This is where we need to alter our mindset and take a moment to consider what happens after we've finished with a product. And as with every other area we are looking at in this series, every little change we make will make a difference.

There may be some products you aren't ready to let go of quite yet... that's fine, but by switching others you will make a difference.

There are a number of areas we can look into making a difference with here:

  • Switch to eco-friendly alternatives to chemical products.
  • Switch to reusable cloths and scourers.
  • Opt for natural, biodegradable materials where possible.
  • Avoid unnecessary packaging.
  • Choose refillable products, natural packaging.
  • Recycle the waste you do create.

Environmentally friendly products

There is a growing range of environmentally-friendly cleaning products. These can be a bit more costly than some of the harsher chemicals, but you can mix them with some of the cheaper products below. There is a good choice out there, seek out recommendations from friends and see how many of your products you can replace. Just remind yourself, every single harsh chemical product you can substitute will reduce the harm you are inflicting on the sea. Useful brands include Method and Ecover.

Natural products for a DIY cleaning kit

There are a lot of natural alternatives to specialist cleaning products that often work better than you might think and in many cases can be just as good as a specially branded product. One great example is vinegar versus a specific glass cleaner.

Here is a list of some of the key ingredients in a DIY cleaning kit, most of which your grandparents would have used. They aren't all completely 'safe' but are far less toxic than most commercial cleaners and cheaper too, although in some areas they may require a bit more elbow grease.

  • Vinegar disinfects and loosens dirt and limescale
  • Lemon juice disinfects and cuts through grease
  • Olive oil polishes and 'feeds' wood, picks up dirt
  • Bicarbonate of Soda (baking soda) great gentle abrasive for cleaning
  • Castile soap foaming cleaner ideal for many uses
  • Borax disinfects, whitens, deodorises
  • Washing soda (sodium carbonate) caustic cleaner and stain remover

Vinegar and bicorbonate of soda mixed together make a great abrasive cleaner for many applications to remove stubborn dirt and stains.

Steam cleaning

Steam cleaners may use electricity, but they're not using chemicals, and so thy can make a big difference to the chemical waste you are adding to the environment, while being effective at removing dirt and grime. If you think it may be worth using one, try borrowing a friend's first before plunging in to buy something that may prove not to work for you.

Cloths, brushes and sponges

We have got very used to special sponges and scourers that have a lifespan and we throw away. These are generally not biodegradable or recyclable, and there are plenty of alternatives that you can use. Remember natural fabrics will biodegrade at the end of their life.

Try the following ideas:

  • Reusable cloths for washing and polishing.
  • Rather than buying cloths, make your own from old t-shirts or towels.
  • Natural sponges.
  • Natural scrubbers and scourers.
  • Brushes with replaceable heads.

Washing

When it comes to using your washing machine, there are eco powders, or refillable balls you can use with natural soap nuts. Additionally, consider reducing the temperature to 30 degrees where possible. Air dry items as often you can and avoid using a tumble drier as much as possible, and finally look at taking measures to avoid micro plastic pollution from manmade fibres you are washing, like the Guppyfriend bag mentioned above.

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