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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ways to have fun on water without mess of gasoline

Kristin Arrigo

Fun people have boats. Willy Wonka had a boat. When people talk about their weekend, all they have to say is “took the boat out,” and everybody knows they were having fun. Even jet skis are considered good times. But boats and jet skis are bad for the environment. The manufacturing of them, the interruption to aquatic eco-systems, emissions, not to mention all that noise, make them a great contender for eco-friendly improvements.

A boat is something most people buy for kicks. Boats have bad resale value and the maintenance of a boat is costly. That’s when boats are not so fun. So what if your boat wasn’t just a hole in the water that you threw money into? What if it were the ... Willy Wonka boat? No, just kidding, I meant to say the Polli-Boat, a sustainable boat recently built out of recycled materials and run by sun and wind energy, tested in the waters of Taiwan.

The Polli-Boat is a 23-foot boat and is described as a trimaran. Dubbed “the boat made of trash,” it is constructed of 804 plastic bottles. The plastic is cut to interlock, forming a polli-brick. Additional pieces like the deck are made from a composite of wood and plastic waste and canvas. The sail is made of advertising banners. Solar panels replace the electric motor as an energy source, along with the wind.

So maybe you can’t take it tubing on Winnipesaukee just yet, but you can go far, like sailing around the island nation of Taiwan. It’s kind of ironic, Taiwan has a reputation for manufacturing many of the items we buy and use here, products that aren’t very recyclable, and yet it’s the location of an eco-friendly, sustainable invention’s debut.

It may be a moderate success in the world of boating for now, but a success like this is inspiration for more advanced industrial designs. Especially when sustainable construction like the Polli-Boat and the technology of eco-friendly energy sources are combined.

There are eco-friendly motorboats out there already, including hybrids that run on biodiesel fuel and rechargeable batteries.

Even better are Ski Nautique E boats that use batteries and have a unique design to improve the boat’s performance. This boat debuted at a boat show in Montreal in January 2011. In one charge, you can go for as long as you would on eight gallons of gas, which compares to pulling about four skiers. Just think of how quiet the lake will be when everybody goes eco-friendly.

Gasoline in the water is truly disgusting and certainly cannot be good for the aquatic eco-systems. This makes me think about jet skis, which are said to release as much as 2.5 gallons of gas into the water after running for just two hours. Jet skis also cause physical damage and should not be used in wetlands ever; this includes eco-friendly models, as well.

That being said, EcoWatercraft makes a pretty quiet and emissions-free jet ski, which is helpful on over-crowded lakes. There will probably be convertor kits for both jet skis and boats available at some point, too. Just think: low maintenance and all the savings on gasoline; that’s more fun.

It’s good to know the choices are getting better for toys on the water. Often because the immediate damage being done to the eco-system can’t be seen, many people believe it’s not happening. Eco-friendly alternatives like the Polli-Boat raise awareness of the disruption. They also inspire future eco-friendly designs.

Soon your jet ski won’t be annoying everyone with loud noises and your boat will no longer be a hole in the water you throw money into, and that will truly be fun.

Kristin Arrigo is an environmental writer and can be reached at karrigo@nashuatelegraph.com. Follow her on Twitter @ArrigoKristin. Only Better runs the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.