By Frank Hugelmeyer
As recreational boating industry stakeholders, we understand the important role healthy waters play in boating and fishing, as well as our role as a leader in conservation efforts. We recognize the importance of sustainability and the crucial part it can play in promoting environmental and conservation efforts. In recent years, our industry has made significant strides towards more eco-friendly and sustainable practices, both in products and manufacturing.
It all begins with making some of the most durable and long-lasting consumer products anywhere. Recreational boats have an average useful life of anywhere from 25 to 45 years. And marine manufacturers are constantly innovating to make manufacturing processes and end-products cleaner. We’ve also made impressive advancements toward reducing emissions. As a result of those collective efforts, recreational marine accounts for 0.7% of transportation CO2 emissions, and we consume about half of 1% of the gasoline in the U.S.
Given the diversity of products and experiences we offer across recreational boating, there is no one-size-fits-all solution or approach towards reducing emissions. The diversity of boat types, operational cycles and unique energy requirements of recreational boats requires a portfolio of product offerings and technologies to address climate initiatives while meeting the performance needs and expectations of boating consumers.
Multiple marine propulsion technologies available today are laying the pathways to even greater sustainability and allow consumers to do their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact. These include sustainable marine fuels, hybrid-electric propulsion systems, fully electric propulsion systems, advanced hull designs, advanced combustion, and efficiency management systems. Each of these exciting technologies allows consumers to choose products that meet their needs while preserving their boating experience.
We have also made great strides in minimizing the environmental impact of boat manufacturing. Many boat manufacturers employ sustainability experts and are adopting sustainable practices in their factories and supply chains. Companies are also working to reduce their carbon footprint through more efficient production and shipping methods. This translates to a lower environmental impact and reduced shipping emissions.
The boating industry is not only working to reduce its environmental impact in product use and manufacturing, but also in advocating and annually contributing hundreds of millions of dollars for marine conservation efforts. This can be seen in the support for marine protected areas (MPAs) – areas of the ocean that are designated for conservation and management. By promoting the creation of MPAs and supporting their management, the industry is helping to protect our most important marine ecosystems and the species that inhabit them.
Let’s also not forget that the recreational boating industry has long been— and remains—stewards of sustainability, focused on minimizing our carbon emissions. In addition to innovative technologies, the industry has:
- Pioneered the very first on-water emissions sampling device to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from recreational boats and worked with the U.S. EPA to approve the test method.
- Worked alongside the U.S. Department of Energy and Argonne National Laboratory to successfully test and approve next generation biobutanol fuels for use in recreational boats.
- Implemented evaporative emissions controls on boat fuel tanks to significantly reduce emissions and improve the consumer experience.
- Implemented the Clean Vessel Act which created pump-out stations for recreational boats.
- Developed industry standards to minimize the spread of aquatic invasive species.
- Led U.S. conservation efforts through the creation of states’ Office of Outdoor Recreation, funding the Sport Fish and Restoration Trust Fund, and manufacturer led sustainability programs
We are also working as an industry to fundamentally understand the various pathways and technologies that will be required to further reduce our CO2 emissions through a comprehensive life-cycle assessment study. This study will be the most current and comprehensive of its kind for the recreational marine industry and will provide invaluable guidance to industry and policy makers.
Collectively, as an industry, let’s embrace our role in promoting environmental and conservation efforts. By adopting a variety of solutions, including sustainable technologies and promoting responsible boating practices, the industry is working to minimize its environmental impact and protect the natural resources upon which it relies.
With continued effort and innovation, we can ensure that recreational boating remains a sustainable and responsible activity for generations to come.
Frank Hugelmeyer is the president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and co-founder of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.