Crew spend a lot of time in nature and appreciating the ocean, but they are also aware of the challenges facing the environment today. Many want to do something to help the reefs, oceans, and islands that form the basis of their work. From talking to other crew and looking at their social media, Chef/Mate Alyse Arehart knew that crewmembers were concerned and were making efforts individually. Thus, Project Green Flag was born, which plans to focus on localized efforts in the Virgin Islands, including detailing which products to use and which suppliers will carry them.
After a conversation with Chef/Mate Susannah King, they started the Project Green Flag Challenge with the help of Chef/Mate Taylor Esposito to present the project to the industry and give it a little momentum. The challenge will be hosted at the 2018 Virgin Islands Charter Yacht Show and will ask crew to commit to eight sustainable actions for the 2018–2019 charter season. Participating crew will fill out a questionnaire describing their green approaches and which products they’ll use, and for their commitment, they’ll receive the signature PGF green burgee flag to fly on their vessels. Charter crew don’t have to enroll at the show and can do so at any time during the year.
“We felt there should be some sustainable guidelines that crew could commit to and receive recognition. There is an international organization called Blue Flag which certifies oceanside businesses, marinas, and ecotourism vessels, and we loved the idea of flying a flag as a visual symbol of support for the environment,” Arehart says. “We couldn't participate in that program because charter yachts are recreational and thus not purely ecotourism. But the charter yacht industry is so large, so impactful down here, we knew it made sense to appeal to crews to drive this eco-initiative.”
The project’s mission is to encourage sustainable behaviors by crew and management to care for local reefs and island ecosystems in the Virgin Islands. “What we do on our vessels, what we put on our bodies and wash down our drains, even the choices we make on land — this ends up in the water,” Arehart says. “We have an opportunity to model sustainable behaviors to protect the ecosystems we love and rely on.“
This charter season will be the project’s first full season, but they’ve been in discussions with crew since May 2018 to understand which behaviors need to change and to devise a list of effective and approachable changes. They have begun working with vendors to source greener products locally and to establish a small recycling effort because there’s no municipal recycling on St. Thomas.
Although the project’s efforts are aimed at the Virgin Islands, all crew are encouraged to join the discussion on their Facebook group, which provides a platform for crew to share ideas and enthusiasm toward green efforts. Arehart lists some ways crews can be more eco aware, including avoiding single-use plastics (grocery and produce bags, straws, and water bottles), drinking filtered water instead of bottled, and buying locally grown produce and locally made products. It’s important to understand how to choose green products because the market is full of mislabeled products, she says. Educate yourself on what products are truly eco-friendly, and Project Green Flag is there to help along the way.
“We don't have to do perfect to do better. It’s important to make personal changes, but it’s crucial that we act in unison to make systemic changes. We can influence behavior in our industry, and we can model practical behaviors and an eco-kindness that our guests will naturally see,” she says. “When you know your actions are part of a bigger system of change, you have purpose.”