Practicing Environmental Stewardship as Paddlers

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As a paddle sports enthusiast, you are already doing the environment a favor by choosing a vessel that does not require fossil fuels – only the power of your body. While this is significant on its own, there are many other ways for us to care for the planet as paddlers. This week, we want to share a few ideas for you to consider.

First, always leave your surroundings cleaner than when you arrived. Planning ahead can help you avoid using disposable containers for drinks and food. Go reusable whenever possible. If you must bring items that produce trash, be sure to pack it out with you for proper disposal. If you are fishing, never leave monofilament line or other fishing gear in the environment. We are advocates of the “Take Five” approach – always set aside five minutes during your paddle to clean up any waste you see.

You might also put some thought into your transportation choices when traveling to and from your paddling location. Carpooling with friends is a great way to reduce your carbon emissions.

While you are out paddling, be aware of your surroundings and be sure not to cause damage. Even kayaks and paddleboards can tear seagrass or scrape coral reefs. Move through the water with caution and care for what is in your path.

Avoid using chemical insect repellants and sunscreens. The ingredients can have long term consequences for fragile ocean ecosystems. Instead, cover up with clothing or choose natural alternatives. We like eucalyptus-based bug sprays, and sunscreens with non-nano zinc oxide are safest for coral reefs.

Finally, if you’re in the market for a new board or boat, do your own research or ask your local paddle sports shop about any eco-friendly options that are available. More and more companies are using recycled or biodegradable materials and less harmful manufacturing chemicals. One company, Starboard, offers paddle attachments for picking up trash. There are a number of great options at similar price points to conventional boards. Happy (green) paddling!

Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club hosted by Sanibel Sea School that helps the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit or follow us on Facebook to learn more.