When buying food for the boat or packing what you have prepared, there can be a tremendous reliance on single-use plastics. A certain amount of that is unavoidable, but with a degree of planning you can reduce the plastic impact as well as the trash content rolling around your boat.
Water: Shun individual bottles. Tank water or at least larger water containers, coupled with individual water bottles, can dramatically reduce both the plastic consumption and the waste of water. A pet peeve of mine is to come on deck at 5 am to find a bunch of water bottles left behind by crew members. Waste of water and plastic. For the reusable bottles, I’ve seen some very nice ones with integral carbon filters, which deal well with the concerns about tank taste. If seeking to reduce weight and cost, one round of disposable bottles reused and refilled for the whole voyage can work well.
Snacks: Another plastic hog. Let’s face it, folks tend to be more welcoming of snacks in little plastic wrappers. It’s marketing and conditioning. If you give both options – bulk and individual – the crew will eat the individually-wrapped ones first, even the Corn Nuts. The work-around is to make a bulk snacks bar, with attractive containers. More importantly, provide each crew with a convenient container for their stash. Recently hitting the market are resealable silicone bags that seem ideal for this. Dog-walkers have reclosable treat bags as well, that may suit, if your crew is not insulted by them.
Main Meals: Purchased freeze-dried meals are pretty much a fixed quantity, though purchasing in bulk sizes can reduce the plastic impact a bit. Home-made/frozen can rely primarily on aluminum foil, or be cooked or delivered in containers (think Tupperware®) with sealable lids. These reusable plastics weigh little more than disposable plastic and, if purchased with forethought, can nest for storage before and after use. Aboard OAXACA, we tend to patronize one Chinese restaurant somewhat exclusively, and find their plastic take-out containers to be lightweight, sturdy, and of the perfect size for crew entrees.
Beverages other than water: Well, a case can be made that you don’t need these. For aluminum canned beverages, you just want to bring those cans to shore. Many other beverages can be made up on the fly from flavorings and mixes. A carbonator (like SodaStream®) makes for an enticing bubbly-water without all the excess packaging.
What about Grocery-Store Frozen Entrees? You can opt toward any that are less package-intensive, if you find them. Pre-recycle any discardable packaging to reduce bulk and waste at your destination. Do be sure to retain any needed preparation instructions, though, as trial-and-error cooking yields great results.
Bottom Line: Plastic is a very useful substance on a boat. It’s light, rugged, and waterproof. Used judiciously, it will enhance your voyage greatly. Reusable containers can serve many of your onboard needs, from water, to stored meals, to midnight snacks.