#humansofyachting – Lauren Ryburn
The eco yacht stewardess, otherwise known as The Green Stew, on taking small steps to create big change.
“Growing up in New Zealand, I think we have it drilled into us to respect the environment and pick up after yourself. When I started working on yachts, I became aware quite quickly of the amount of waste produced. At home, the rubbish is at the end of the driveway so it disappears and you don’t see it, but if you’re on a boat out at sea, you see the bags collecting up in the garbage locker and it’s quite alarming. After a couple of years on board, I had the epiphany that I wasn’t helpless and that I was in a position where I could create a lot of change and could inspire others to do the same.
I started to make changes on the boat I was working on and was lucky that the owners were very obliging. Together, we started to work towards reducing waste and purchasing consciously. I realised that crew on other yachts might find it beneficial so I started up an Instagram page and a website called The Green Stew and began to share the tips and tricks that we were doing on board. It got a great response straight away, I had a lot of stewardesses reaching out to me and asking questions and a lot of positive reinforcement.
There wasn’t much like that around at the time, and I even felt it was a little controversial, but so much has changed in a short space of time. Now, there are a lot of eco-products out there, there are loads of companies doing eco-initiatives and a bunch of yachts working to remove plastic from the oceans. It’s everywhere you turn and seems to be at the forefront of peoples’ minds; even the companies that are designing and building these boats.
It’s really rewarding when the crew start coming to you with new ideas and you start to work as a team. And being eco-friendly doesn’t have to be something huge. It can be really simple things like stopping using plastic liners in waste paper baskets or switching to non-toxic cleaning products. Inspiring people in the communities that we travel to is another part of it – even little things like going to a beach bar and saying no to a straw and then explaining why. It’s about making people think twice.
One highlight for me was when we stopped in a marina in Spain – they had done a great job of putting out recycling bins, but they weren’t labelled, so I saw people mixing up all types of recycling. I sent an email and explained the problem. A few weeks later, we’d left the port, but my friend sent me a photo and they had put labels on them. It felt like a little win. Just speaking up, no matter how small the problem, can make a big difference.
Being environmentally aware can be beneficial in so many ways – you can actually save money in the long-run, even if it might seem expensive upfront. One of the boats I worked on installed a water filter system as well as a sparkling water tap; it seemed pricey at the time, but not having to go out and buy endless San Pellegrino bottles and finding storage for them was a great benefit. It is also a point of difference for charter boats – eco is the new black – and people are looking to charter yachts that are ahead of the curve in that respect.
The destinations I’ve been to since joining the industry are just mind-blowing. One memory that stands out for me was in Italy; we’d been sailing through the night and when I woke up the next morning, I looked out my porthole and we were in Venice. I honestly thought someone had put a billboard or a poster outside my window as it was just so unbelievably picturesque. The fact you can wake up right in the middle of things like that is surreal. Usually, you’d have to get on multiple modes of transport, but on a yacht, you just get placed there. It’s amazing.
Next on my bucket list is the South Pacific, I haven’t really explored my own backyard by yacht yet, so I’d love to do that. It would be so exciting to get on board a yacht for the America’s Cup in New Zealand next year.”