Is the boat which I am going to buy sustainable? There are not many dealers and even manufacturers around that can answer this question. Why? Electric or hybrid propulsion does not equal sustainability, because using recycled materials does not automatically mean lower carbon footprint. One must dig very deep to find the right answer and until recently boat builders did not even think about finding it out.
What is the carbon footprint?
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) and specifically carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by something (such as a person’s activities or a product’s manufacture and transport) during a given period. For instance, when you drive a boat, the engine burns fuel which creates a certain amount of CO2, depending on its fuel consumption and the driving distance. GHG is the major negative factor responsible for global warming and climate change.
Beneteau rcently started to measure its carbon footprint © Beneteau
The European Green Deal is set to prevent dramatic environmental degradation by reducing to zero net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. Transport including leisure vessels is one of the key areas of decarbonization and the immediate goal is to reduce GHG emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. However, most talks about boats and ships carbon footprint are limited by discussing the use phase while often this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Seeking for the shift
Among the winners of a prestigious DAME Design Award at Metstrade 2022 was MarineShift360, a bold lifecycle analysis tool designed specifically for the marine industry.
Life сycle analysis (LCA) is a scientific method of quantifying the environmental impact of a product, service, or system across the whole lifecycle. It enables assessing of all the elements including raw material extraction, manufacturing, distribution, and recycling to make a valid conclusion about cumulative sustainability. Nowadays, when the boating industry desperately needs shifting from linear to circular economy, LCA tools can make this process measurable.
MarineShift360 was developed in partnership with US based ocean conservation charity 11th Hour Racing and Anthesis Group, one of the world’s largest sustainability consultancies. The development period took four years before the tool went live last April. This project intends to create an industry-wide consistent dataset to populate the tool as well as provide a platform that encourages collaboration across the marine community to better quantify its environmental impact, provide unbiased information, share sustainability best practices, and inspire positive changes.
The production of the Imoca was measured with Marineshift360 © 11th Hour Racing
Solar panels everywhere to provide enough energy © Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing
Sustainable material replaces PVC © Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing
“Traditionally LCA has been quite an academic subject and it has not been used as much, definitely not within the marine industry,” explains MarineShift360 director Ollie Taylor. “We see it as one of key transitional tools that industry needs to move from where we are today to where we need to be in the future. We are going to experience a massive change in the way products are made and used. LCA is one of the most fundamental tools enabling this transition. We see a lot of brands who are making claims about their green credentials that unfortunately are not backed up by the data. I guess people do audit their own data, but it would be good to comply with the standards and have a structure on how to do all these things”.
How it works
Essentially designers and manufacturers have to collect all the information about raw materials that go into the boat and input these data into MarineShift360 online templates following the boat building process. Up and downstream transport, use phase and end of life disposal are also considered. Then it goes into a calculation model where an algorithm converts materials into equivalent weight of released CO2. The impact is calculated across several categories: global warming potential (kg CO2 eq.), energy consumption (J), mineral resource scarcity (kg Cu eq.), water consumption (m3), marine eutrophication (kg N eq.), waste factor (inefficiency in processing material).
Finally, the results are reported in a configurable dashboard that allows users to deep dive into information. And the key piece of this tool is that it shows “hotspots”, the areas of the product where one needs to focus on.