I had the honour of meeting Giverny, affectionately known as Giv, and the team from MY AWOL at the 2019 ACrew Awards where they were up for several awards including Giv for the Chief Stewardess. Unfortunately pipped at the post, it didn’t seem to upset her. She said she was just overwhelmed to have been nominated and to be a finalist. This mindset really sums up Giv and the crew of AWOL. Often thought of as a selfish industry, employing people more interested in the paycheck and the party than in the job at hand, there really are some heroes who are a little less unsung than they used to be. As ever with these things, it is only a small group that actually have this selfish attitude, however, the impression given to those that don’t understand the industry can often be far-reaching and harmful. AWOL and its exceptional Owner, Captain and crew are working hard to change that perception and it appears it’s gaining traction.
When we speak on the phone Giv has just returned from South Africa where she was visiting friends and family and also had the wonderful unexpected pleasure of getting engaged, which she is obviously very excited about. Giv and Partner/Captain Tristan have been working together for the same owner since 2012 and she says that when she first arrived on board the state of play was very different, with single-use plastic, non-eco friendly cleaning products and Molten Brown for the guests. Over the years though, the crew have slowly but surely brought around a change in attitude. It started with the cleaning products. Rather than having individual products, the interior and deck now share and make sure to bulk buy far in advance, from their eco-friendly supplier. The costs when buying in advance are not that far from general use products and the quality of these eco-products now is as high, if not higher than the old school cleaning materials still used by a lot of boats.
A quick tip Giv had that she uses on the boat to make her whites whiter than white is to ditch traditional clothing conditioners and instead switch it out for the old yacht favourite, yep, you guessed it, white vinegar. Somewhat cynical I agreed to try this in my own washing machine, and sure enough, my whites came out pearly and not only that, they certainly did not smell of vinegar. It also has the added benefit of being a decalcifier that is friendly to the environment. After a quick succession of scrubbing of kettles and showerheads and I was an immediate convert. Giv says that there are many small tricks such as this that can help to make a boat a more environmentally friendly place to work, and that it is when many people make these small changes that has a massive impact on the environmental friendliness of a superyacht. Giv is actually quick to point out that they don’t moniker themselves as eco-friendly as they still use fuel, which isn’t going to change anytime soon, instead, they use the label eco-conscious, as they are constantly trying to find new ways to improve and educate and to encourage likeminded boats to get onboard.
As she says, much of it is down to the education of the crew, but also of owners and guests. AWOL managed to source some new eco products for the guests and whilst the boss was reticent at first, when they ran a trial at MYBA the results were impressive, with both the owner and agents loving the new products. No more Molten Brown. It made AWOL stand apart from the crowd which is what the boss had always wanted and now guests choose AWOL because she is trying to make a difference.
Another way that AWOL has made a quick and easy change is in the laundry room. Instead of normal towels for the guests AWOL now use kkiois. A kikoi is a traditional rectangle of woven cloth originating from Africa, particularly along the east coast and as far south as the Horn of Africa and rather than taking hours to dry it drys in minutes and is far easier to store, meaning that it is also economical on space and needs less detergent. Each guest is given one on arrival along with a lovely 500ml drinking bottle labelled with the AWOL logo, so it is both eco-conscious and a lovely memento from the time aboard. These bottles are kept, refilled and swapped out as and when guests are finished. They are then dishwashed, refilled and restocked in the fridges. So rather than use upwards of 300 33cl bottles for a one week charter, AWOL has now got rid of most of their single-use plastic. If you imagine that is just one charter boat for one week, I’ll leave you to do the maths, but the numbers of bottles our industry gets through is astounding. With just a small investment from the boat into reusable tin bottles for the guests and crew the impact not only on plastic waste, but storage and also expenditure is huge.
Giverny and the crew of MY AWOL have put together some top tips below for simple and easy changes that can be made onboard and even at home. If we all come together and follow MY AWOL’s example we can start to change and alter not only the perceptions of the yachting industry, but the way we impact on the environment as a whole. Help spread the word and make eco-consciousness A Way Of Life!
Buy in bulk and use refillable cleaning bottles.
Use eco-friendly brands (EYS) .
Use Glass Clothes (Prowin) -no products required.
Ceramic treatments for less product requirement (Absolute Magnitude).
Use eco-friendly brands.
Crew products in refillable bottles/ bulk.
Refillable drinking bottles.
Be mindful of unnecessary washing.
Purchase ethical and sustainable clothing/ uniforms (Rashr).
Eat less meat.
Buy eco-friendly in bulk.
Share products with the interior department (sanitiser in 5L).
Reusable Products (Bee’s Wrap, bamboo kitchen towel, storage bags, produce bags).
Sort the waste as best you can (organic, glass).
Reduce water waste.
Use dryer balls.
Re-use soaking buckets several times (whiteners).
Use white vinegar in place of softener.
Keep your dryers Lindtfree for maximum efficiency.
Hang dry as much as you can (install foldable drying racks for extra space).
Use Eco-products for wash-downs, teak cleaning etc (Absolute Magnitude).
Be aware of where and how the anchor drops as to avoid damaging the seabed.
Collect rubbish in the sea and on beaches and get the kids involved!
Opt for electric water toys.
Reduce water waste.
Offer kikois to guests (Oz Ra Tekstil) over towels.
Re-usable water bottles.
Luxury eco-toiletries and travel accessories -bamboo, (Shalene Hutchinson).
Stainless steel straws.
Educate guests about how you are making a difference- inspire them to join the movement.
By Victoria Pearce