Ocean Advocates Week 1: Single-Use Plastics

Hey Ocean Advocates,

Hope everyone’s had a great start to the summer. It’s a great time of year to focus on ocean health. Our first module is on single-use plastics – where they might be flying under the radar in your program and how to eliminate them for good. We collaborate with Sailors for the Sea, so if you want to learn more about anything below, we encourage you to visit the Clean Regatta Toolkit and the Green Boating Guide.


Encouraging someone to invest in eliminating single-use plastics is not easy. Your club’s management team might be thinking, “but plastic is cheaper,” or “we’ve been doing it this way for years,” or “how can one yacht club’s plastic usage actually make a difference?”. These perceptions make it challenging to dive into a conversation about single-use plastics. One way to open that type of conversation is to start with a powerful statement. Facts, statistics or anecdotes can help demonstrate the urgency behind your message.

Here are a few data points that might help open a conversation:

  • 1 in 3 fish caught for human consumption contains plastic. Seafood lovers eat an estimated 11,000 pieces of microplastic every year. Microplastics can also be found in tap water, beer and salt.

  • A plastic bottle can last for 450 years in the marine environment. Plastics currently in landfills date back to the 1920s.

  • It’s estimated that only 9% of plastic has ever been successfully recycled (this one really gets people).

  • On average, one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute. Plastic beverage bottles are also in the top five most collected items at beach clean-ups.

  • 700 species of marine animals are in danger of extinction due to plastic. 7-0-0.

  • A plastic bag is used on average for 15 minutes, and there are the equivalent of 150 plastic bags per person in the world.

So, next time you’re talking about single-use plastics to your friends, other sailors, event organizers or your club’s operations manager and don’t know quite how to approach it, try one of these data points on for size. It might resonate.


Let’s say you shared one of the compelling statistics above with your club’s operations manager and were able to get 15 minutes with them to explain that the club needs to eliminate single-use plastics.

Where do you start? Here are a few tips to share:

1. Reusable water bottles should be everyone’s best friend.

→ Your club saves money in the long run by not having to buy thousands of racks of water bottles.

2. Ditch plastic straws cold-turkey.

  • There are tons of creative alternatives to straws: metal, paper, hay, pasta, bamboo, the list goes on! Spread the word.

  • Speak to your club’s management and/or the regatta organizers about completely ditching plastic straws from the behind-the-bar repertoire. Challenge them to get creative with straw materials.

3. Serve plastic-free meals at events – regattas, club parties, lunches, banquets, etc. – using reusables and/or durables. 

  • Steering clear from plastics when using items like plates, cups, serving-ware and utensils can take two forms. The first, which is less ideal, would be to opt for single-use compostable items.

    • For example, to find reusable bamboo utensils, visit a site like To Go Ware, where you can find discounts on bulk orders.

    • Items like paper plates (without wax coatings) and wooden utensils can easily be taken to your local compost facility. (Read: this only works if you have access to a commercial composting facility!)

  • The second, which is recommended, is to avoid single-use items altogether and invest in real dishwater, or have attendees bring their own.

    • Some clubs have started to collect dishware from yard sales, etc. to be able to use for large events. Others have started encouraging sailors to bring their own “mess kit,” similar to what you would bring camping.

    • In general, single-use anything is not as sustainable as something that will last.

4. Everyone loves a tote bag. 

  • Plastic bags show up in countless ways when it comes to sailing: with registration packets, to keep NORs/SIs dry, to carry lunches, and I’m sure we could think of a few more. Let’s put a stop to that here and now.

  • Canvas bags are inexpensive and reusable, and provide the opportunity to add your club’s logo or even work with a sponsor.

→ Activity idea: Hold a sail drive to collect old sails from your program, and repurpose them into bags.


Whatever your role is in your program – instructor/staff, sailor, club member, parent – we know you don’t always hold all the power to make these changes away from single-use plastics. So, we put together a quick draft email for you to share with your event organizers/club management, whoever it may be. Feel free to customize for your situation:


Hi [management],

This summer, I’m working with the Ocean Advocates @ JSA, a group within the Junior Sailing Association of Long Island Sound, to find ways to reduce our collective environmental impact.

As an [employee/member/sailor] at [yacht club], I’d like to see if there are ways we can incorporate some of the sustainable practices we’ve been learning about in our club’s operations.

I have a number of ideas and resources, such as water refill stations and reusable cutlery, that I would love to discuss with you. There’s a real opportunity for our club to be a sustainability leader in our area.

Please let me know if you have any time to connect in the next few days.

Thank you!


Ocean Advocates @ JSA



Just for fun, we’ll leave you with a few companies/organizations out there that are helping us upcycle and use materials that are better for our environment. These aren’t all necessarily sailing-related, but who cares! Check them out.

  • Sea Bags – send your old sails here and they’ll make it into the perfect gift that will live on.

  • Lava Rubber – this company makes yoga mats, flip flops, coasters and more using pretty much anything they can find: old wetsuits, gaskets, wrappers, miscellaneous gear scraps…

  • Marlow Ropes’ Blue Ocean brand focuses on incorporating sustainability into every corner of rope production, from material science to packaging and shipping.

Remember: Share with your communities, tag us on Instagram, let us know how you’re doing!

-Ocean Advocates @JSAofLIS

Article contributed by Megan Grapengeter-Rudnick: Megan is a life long sailor who grew up sailing at Noroton YC and was an instructor at Riverside YC for one summer. She now races J/70s, IC37s and Viper 640s on the weekends. Megan is a volunteer leader with Sailors of the Sea because she knows healthy oceans are key to mitigating climate change and believes sailors have a unique responsibility to protect their second home.