When most people think of sailing in Croatia, they either think of millennials getting wasted at Hula Hula on Hvar or the rich and famous sipping cocktails on their 90-something metre yacht. On the 27th May, 2017, I discovered there was a different way to sail Croatia.
Before I started my sailing trip, I’d never really given sailing much thought – none of my friends had ever gone sailing, so it wasn’t really something I’d discussed with anyone, I kind of thought it was, and sorry for my silly prejudice, snobbish and only for extremely wealthy retired people. Not only had I not given sailing any thought, but I also wasn’t aware that a thing such as Green Sail even existed.
I don’t think I’m the only one – eco tourism in Croatia isn’t a thing yet simply because we’ve had it easy and didn’t need to think about it because, let’s face it – we have plenty of water resources, there haven’t been any major ecological catastrophes, so sometimes I feel like we think that being environmentally friendly is a thing others should care about because we’ve never really had to. I’m well aware that this is a very dangerous path and that we shouldn’t act only when things get bad, but prevent things from becoming bad in the first place and I’m glad that Green Sail has given me the opportunity to change my mind and see how important the environment really is.
The tour I went on was called ‘Green Sail’, it is a 7-day sailing tour created by Sail Croatia with the intention to promote environmental awareness. They crafted an itinerary that included beach clean-ups, visiting eco-farms and participating in sustainable tourism activities.
I had no idea what to expect from the profile of the people I’d meet – but I definitely hadn’t expected them to be so young and was pleasantly surprised that the generation we love to hate – millennials (myself included) is doing something useful and really cares about these matters. I consider myself as having a sensibility about how things start small, so I recycle and have been taught by my mom never to litter, and seeing other people who thought the same way was really refreshing – people would pick up things from the street when we were randomly walking around, which, honestly, is such a small, but vitally important thing.
People came from different backgrounds and different countries – all of them told me that they joined this particular trip because they love feeling useful and doing something positive for the environment. Ellen is 25, and she’s a nurse from Belgium. She was on the other boat with Ashley (26), who is from Atlanta, but currently lives in and works in Prague and will go study to the UK next semester, and Jodie (20), a Kiwi living and working in the UK. All of them had been on some sort of sailing trips before, Ellen had even gone to sailing school, so she knew a bunch of theory and practice. On my boat, there were expert Green Sail sailors, mom and son Jenny and Andrew, from London, who love Croatia so much that they’ve been coming here to sail for 7 years now and they’ve been learning Croatian for a few years as well.
There was also Leah (38), from Canada, who does video animation and whose father is Croatian, so she decided to visit Croatia to see where her dad was from. Some of them had booked the trip months in advance, some of them had found it by accident a few days before, but everyone was determined to make a change. And isn’t it kind of ironic that foreigners care more about our coast than we do?
There were also some very admirable examples of sustainability (or at least people appreciating what we do): we were given 5 litres of homemade wine by a man who lived next to one of the beaches we cleaned and a Starigrad-based farm we visited, Hora, was a sustainable farm with zero-waste policy: everything we ate there was grown on the farm and any excess food that was left from us was given to farm animals (pigs, chicken, geese, and donkeys). We even helped plant lettuce!
The rafting we did on the Cetina river – there was a point when we stopped to fill our water bottles with fresh water, perfectly safe (and delicious) to drink, and I realized how fortunate we are to have such a thing because none of them had ever seen a waterfall of potable water before, and I took it for granted.
Cleaning the beach made me realise just how much plastics we produce and has actually made me want to do something about it because the sheer amount of Q-tips, pens, bottle caps, flip-flops, nets, and other random plastic objects we found was unbelievable.
According to Greenpeace Croatia, only 16% of waste in Croatia is recycled, which is very little considering that the EU average is 43%. 80% of the plastic found in oceans comes from land and it takes a hundred years for it to degrade. An estimate 1,455 t of plastic can currently be found in the Mediterranean, which, sadly, means our sea is one of the biggest waste dumps out there. Our cleanups took 20-50 min to do, and Jenny, who has mobility problems and is currently waiting for her knee surgery, was able to do it, so there’s really no excuse for the rest of us not to get involved and help.
You can also help by singing the petition to ban non-recyclable plastic here.