modern wooden boats: the ecological footprint

“you can’t promote wooden boat building in 2017, forests are disappearing, the ecological impact of your projects is devastating !!!!”

oh, man , really ????

Peruvian amazon rainforest in Tambopata reserve

pluvial forest in south america, picture form

now, let’s take a look at the big picture ….

  • the alternatives: in my range of projects, there are two realistic alternatives to build boat in wood & epoxy :
    • aluminum alloy,  the first one is a very good choice and allows us to use recycled aluminum, in theory…. in the real world practice I searched for recycled aluminum sheets suited for boat building (they are particular corrosion resistant alloys, they’re called series 5000 and 6000 alloys)  and found …. NONE , plain and simple, recycled aluminum alloys are not suited for boatbuilding, ao we’ll use new aluminum alloys, aluminum industry is one of most energy eating industry in the world, not a so green choice as it may seems ;
    • glass reinforced plastics involving carbon or glass fibres; glass reinforced plastics are simply a total nightmare for environment, from their production, almost entirely based on chemical heavy industries , to the huge problem of how to dismantle them in a environmentally friendly way, which is literally the BLACK HOLE of boating industry, a subject that no-one likes to talk about.  So, summing up, the alternatives are definitely not “greener” than wood & epoxy building
  • a wise choice of plywoods and solid woods:  this is what REALLY matters. Avoid rare exotic woods derived form wildly scrapping the last equatorial forests,  choose only FSC compliant plywoods and wood boards and battens (means they’re taken from sustainable cuttings of forests dedicated to wood production, see the link), select plywood producers basing your choice on their history and reputation of how they manage their wood supply.
  • less wood is better: modern building systems allow us to use lighter scantlings and definitely less woods and less top quality ones than traditional wood boatbuilding systems. This is an established fact.
  • zero kilometers woods: use local woods, whenever you can, especially if you live in an area with a good wood industry; modern building system based on epoxy bonding and protection are really tolerant to soft wood that are prone to being devastated by shipworms and fungi , so you can use strong, light and flexible woods coming from the local wood industry and form sustainable cuts, instead of super rot-resistant rare and precious  woods.
  • resins: a new  family of epoxy resins produced by organic chemical materials instead of oil is rising on the market; you may google “epoxy resin green environment” or something like that and you’ll discover few brands of low environmental impact epoxy systems ; this resins are currently 25-30% more expensive of standard epoxies but it may be worth the extra cost.
  • glass fabrics and paints: this is something that is similar both for GRP and wood&epoxy buildings, with a huge difference: you need 30 kg of glass fabric to build a modern wood & epoxy 22 footer sailboat, while you’d need 300 kg to build the same boat in glass reinforced plastic , and as a russian leader used to say “quantity has a quality of its own”.

all this involves spend a little bit of extra time to catch informations and maybe extra money to select the stuff we’re going to buy using a “green” point of view , but I think you’ll agree with me that it definitely worths !


edit: you can find the same post in italian here