Measure, Track, Reduce: What Gets Measured Makes Change

Wavysail partners with Marineshift360 to undertake a full LCA of all our trips

Andrew Cowen
by Andrew Cowen ·

We love taking crews to explore the great untouched wilderness of the worlds Oceans. As a responsible operator, we believe it is also our duty to minimize our impact on this fragile eco-system. 

For this reason, we are now measuring the environmental impact of each of our trips and publishing this data on our website so our crews can easily see it. What gets measured, gets changed and, by doing this, we will also be putting in place stretching targets to reduce our impact.

Why measure our environmental impact - isn't Sailing sustainable?

Sailing gets us close to nature and, in theory at least, is a sustainable means of transport. However, most sailing vessels also use a considerable amount of fossil fuel on a trip, both when motoring or when charging batteries through a generator. Although we use solar panels to help charge the batteries, it is normally not sufficient for all our energy needs on board. Commercial sailing vessels also tend to do more "motoring" than you might on a family sailboat - if the wind drops, we can't just drift along; our customers have to be back at a specific time, so the engine gets a considerable amount of usage. We also use bottled gas on board for cooking and other products such as cleaning products, oils and other items which contribute to the operational footprint. 

For reference, a 10 day sailing trip might require up to 200litres of diesel. If we add in the Co2 impact of other items such as the food we consume during the trip, the footprint could be as high as 1.4Tons of Co2, which is the equivalent of a small family sized cars Co2 footprint for a full year. 

We do not believe this is widely understood by our customers and, while we do not wish to put anyone off from all the positives of a sailing adventure, we do not wish to hide from them either. We rather measure it, make it public and put plans in place to improve it. We also hope our leadership in doing this will encourage other sailing businesses to do the same, and have worked with Marineshift360 and Greenly make this as easy as possible for everyone to do.

What are the challenges of measuring the environmental impact of sailing?

Measuring our impact is actually quite complex. There are many environmental factors to consider and there is no existing agreement for sailing about what should or shouldn't be included. 

For this reason, we partnered with Marineshift360 who are world-leading experts in life-cycle analysis and combined their data with grocery data from Greenly. Together, we have created an approach that is easy for all sailing businesses to use and hopefully will provide a common methodology that will help everyone.

We understand that our methodology will not be perfect and we will be continuing to work with Marineshift360 and Greenly to improve what gets measured and how. However, we wanted to publish where we have got too, even if it is not perfect, so that others may join us and work with us on this important topic.

What are we measuring?

Our approach is to measure what we can control and change. We have focused initially on measuring the operations of our trips - that is everything we consume over the duration of the trip itself. We break that into four groups

  1. Fossil fuels (Gas and Diesel) for propulsion and for generating electricity 
  2. Shore power and marina services
  3. Accommodation where that is a direct part of the trip
  4. Food and supplies - both those consumed on board, or when eating ashore

We decided to measure the Co2 footprint of the trips and express this as a Co2 emissions in KG per trip and per day. This enables crew to compare the relative impact of our trips.  We preferred to use a "Per day" measure rather than a "Per person" measure because per person would be artificially lowered by putting more crew on board without actually changing the Co2 emissions.

We also decided not to include the Co2 impact of transportation to or from our trips. We recognise that transportation does have a big impact and we absolutely encourage all crews to use the most sustainable form of transportation they can. However, this is outside of our direct control and, of course it is highly variable depending on exactly where our crews are coming from. We did not want to "mask" the true environmental impact of our trips behind a "transportation" element which might be significant, but does not absolve our responsibility to make changes in how we run our trip.

Why are you only printing your Co2 impact?

We could measure many different aspects of environmental impact. We decided to focus first on Co2 as it is widely understood by our customers, can be measured and is significant. 

We remain mindful of other environmental factors such as the need to recycle, reduce waste and certainly respect all the pollution regulations which already exist to keep our Oceans free of all forms of damage. We will continue to work with Marineshift360 to measure, track and reduce other environmental metrics once we have embedded the Co2 measurement.

How are you going to improve your impact?

We will be tracking the actual Co2 per trip against our estimations and will openly share this with anyone who is interested. The ways in which we can improve the footprint are numerous, but some examples below

  1. Reducing the amount of meat we consume on board 
  2. Buying produce locally rather than supermarkets, which have longer supply chains
  3. Exploring other forms of fuel such as bio-diesel which as a lower Co2 footprint
  4. Investing in improved power generation such as Solar, Wind or Hydro
  5. Education : helping our crews understand the need to conserve power and not leave items switched on - which is also good safety practice on board.

We will work closely with vessel owners and our skippers to make consistent improvements on our environmental impact on each trip while always prioritizing the safety of the crews and the vessel.

How confident are you in your data?

We have taken real world data from all our trips to form the basis of the calculations. For example, we used the actual shopping lists from our previous trips to calculate the food Co2 impact. We know exactly how many sausages we consumed, and thanks to Greenly, we know what the Co2 footprint of a sausage is. Likewise, we know how many litres of diesel were consumed on our trips, and we know the Co2 footprint of a litre of diesel purchased in South Africa, or Scotland thanks to Marineshift360. 

There are inevitably some assumptions made and some averages, but we believe we have a good picture of the approximate Co2 of each of our trips and, because we've used a consistent measurement methodology, we can compare one trip to another and track changes over time, which is actually more important than being 100% correct in the calculated number.  

Where can I find out more?

Whether you are a sailing operator, school or an interested member of the public, we will be happy to share all our learnings and our methodology openly. Our purpose is to reduce the carbon footprint of commercial sailing operations everywhere, not just at Wavysail. You can contact us at or you can connect with our partner in this work, Marineshift360. 

We hope you will support our intention to bring clarity and to make positive change so everyone can enjoy the thrill of Ocean exploration, knowing we are leaving the smallest footprint possible.

Find out more at