Working towards a ‘Zero Waste’ yachting lifestyle

One ex-chief stewardess is helping crew reduce their environmental impact…

The ‘zero waste’ movement is a lifestyle or philosophy that seeks to drastically reduce the amount of rubbish and waste we produce. Although at first, this may seem antithetical to the yachting world, there are ways that these principles can be adopted on board. Hannah Russell is the founder of Viveco, a company based in Mallorca that is educating and supplying the island and its crew with sustainable alternatives to everyday products.

Russell, who previously worked as a chief stewardess on an 80m, started the company after noticing the rubbish problem near her home outside of Palma, Mallorca, and the sheer amount of waste her household produced. “I started when my son was born, as I realised how much waste we produce,” she explains. “When you live on a yacht with lots of people, you take out the rubbish twice a day but you think, ‘Well there are 28 people living on this boat, it’s normal’. But it’s when I lived in a house with my baby, I thought about how much rubbish there is, from just the two of us!”

Inspired by her research on the zero waste movement, Russell made the decision to actively cut down on the products she and her family used that were not sustainable or environmentally friendly. “I discovered the zero waste movement, which encourages you to use as little as possible, and started to use much more natural products.” However, she soon found that obtaining the items she needed became part of the waste problem. “I was having to order the things from different places and they all come in lots of packaging, so it defeated the whole point. It was then I thought that I could bring the products here and cut down on the amount of shipping and the amount of waste.”

She then made the connection between the zero waste lifestyle and the crew experience on board. “It was a light bulb moment for me because all these things would all be so beneficial on a boat. You’re fighting for space, you don’t want to go to shore all the time to stock up, then having to store the rubbish, and you often get rid of the rubbish where there is no proper disposal system.”

Using her knowledge of life on board, Russell began to buy products that would be helpful for vessels and showcased how these items could impact yacht life specifically. “Changing your plastic water bottle for a reusable one is a huge change, so imagine a yacht doing it,” she remarks. “I’ve spent days of my life loading plastic bottles onto yachts! So that simple change would mean that the impact can be unbelievable.” Within the Viveco website, yachts can access a specific catalogue that outlines all the suitable products for them, and also hear how they have been successfully implemented on other vessels.

The realisation of the importance of eco-friendly thinking on board has also led Russell to create her own products. “The ‘Green Cleaning Kit’ I have developed with another ex-yachtie here,” she continues. “There is a huge amount of research coming forward at the moment about the toxicity levels in our home from ‘fragrance’ scents and cleaning products. Onboard a yacht, in a sealed environment these problems are even more exacerbated!”

Russell also highlights how the attitude of the owner, charter clients and crew (as well as the wider world) needs to adapt. “We are sold from the day we are born that we have to have all this ‘stuff’ and that it equates to luxury,” she says. “It’s about making the switch to minimalism, and having higher quality products, but less of them.”

Viveco is not the only brand committed to zero waste on the island. Clean Wave is a company that works to install filtration systems, in order to access clean water and reduce the usage of buying plastic bottles. Russell also works with Ondine, a marine conservation organisation that spends it times collecting data about waste on the island, organising beach cleans. [Zero waste] is really trendy at the moment,” she comments, “But it is also important to understand that this is a more efficient way of life that does save you time and money.”

From her experience as a chief stewardess and now a firm believer in the zero waste movement, Russell sees the two lifestyles as entirely complementary. “I think yachts should be at the forefront of using less plastic as the ocean is their playground,” she concludes, “They should be protecting the thing that they live on.”