Float by Boat’s ethos emerged from a desire to live slower, simpler lives that are environmentally and socially connected. By their very nature narrowboats are great ways to move towards being off-grid. All resources need to be physically put on or taken off the boat. It’s not a case of simply turning on a switch, leaving it for the bin lorry or flushing a loo. Also moving slowly gives us a better chance of noticing the world around, and hopefully lessening the negative impacts that we can have. Here are some of the things that are important to us, things that we do, and things that keep Float by Boat in line with our principles.
Food & suppliers
Words that are central to our edibles ethos are independent, local and organic. We’re very fortunate to have an independent organic vegetable supplier and health food shop, called Wild & Free, in Rugby. They help us select seasonal vegetables and unprocessed, ethically sourced ingredients. As fastidious label-readers, we’re always on the lookout for products that are Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Soil Association and Vegan Society approved. All food prepared on board Spirited Away is vegetarian and often vegan too.
Spirited Away is fitted with 2 100W solar panels, which cater for almost all of the electricity consumption on board. The rest is generated as a bi-product from running the engine, something we try to only do for movement. Our lighting is all LED and uses minimal electricity. Also, as part of our simple living ethos, we don’t have many electrical gadgets; no TV, kettle, toaster, microwave or hairdryer.
What comes out is just as important as what goes in. We’re very interested in waste and like to keep it to a minimum. Most of our boat-made food is never in danger of being wasted but the small amount that’s unavoidable becomes worm fodder, if it’s raw, or goes through the bokashi bin, if it’s cooked. Either way, it goes back to the earth as compost.
Our mooring is not equipped with recycling facilities but that doesn’t stop us. We collect it up, sort it and take it to recycling facilities whenever we’re passing by. Nowadays we’ve minimised what we send to landfill to the point where we estimate it to be less than 15% of waste produced.
All along the waterways grey water from sinks and showers is pumped back into the water body, though it’s not something that’s often addressed by boaters. We take care to only use natural cleaning and toiletry products, and emphatically recommend that our guests do the same.
The wood for Spirited Away’s log burner tends to be donated by friends and family, or sought on Freecycle, and is usually waste wood of one kind or another.
Mindfulness comes into play with water. It’s a case of not leaving taps running, turning the shower off in between lathering and rinsing, pre-washing the dishes with water from the last wash, and that kind of thing. Our laundry is washed in an ecologically friendly, simple detergent and the waste water is harvested to use on the garden.
A great way of saving money, contributing to charity and reducing consumption is to buy second-hand from charity shops, online and the local ‘tip shop’. Our ethos is to choose second hand wherever possible and only buy items new if necessary for hygiene or a specific fit. Spirited Away wears her mismatched, hotch-potch decor and tableware proudly. When things break, we try to repair rather than replace. And if that doesn’t work, we look for a new purpose or upcycle. At the moment Tor is currently collecting broken crockery and glassware to make a mosaic. It’s also got to be said that the current excitement for disused pallets has not escaped us!
Coming from Rugby railway station by bike it’s possible to reach us with almost no roads at all, along the National Cycle Route 41, the Lias Line. It’s a beautiful route with good surfaces and takes approximately 30-45 minutes from town, covering 5 miles. We also have secure, undercover cycle storage. A lot of our guests arrive by train and, for those who don’t fancy a ride, we help to arrange travel via taxi or a bus and canal walk. If guests are driving, we’ll do our best to link them up and alert them to lift share possibilities.
Though last mentioned, community is a huge part of our ethos. We believe it’s a vital part of human existence. Living, working and practising together helps us to be more conscientious, caring and compassionate. It helps us feel connected with each other and the world around us. So much of modern day stress, misery and anxiety are related to isolation and trying carry life’s burdens alone. We feel that sharing collective experiences helps us to grow and learn, and essentially become better people in the world. Sometimes sharing a space with others takes us out of our comfort zones, which isn’t always an easy experience. Held sensitively with kindness, acceptance and openness, even difficulty is incredibly worthwhile because it’s a great opportunity for learning. Being part of a community shines a light onto many aspects of our inner and outer worlds.
Wildlife, nature and the living world are part of our community too. We encourage guests to “take only photographs, leave only footprints”, quietly observing without causing any harm or interference. In the future, we’d love to run conservation retreats in conjunction with wildlife charities, where there are specific parts of the day for cleaning up sections of the canal or encouraging biodiversity.
Last but not least there’s the inland waterways community. As responsible boaters we’re keen to always demonstrate good canal etiquette, whether that’s reducing water consumption at locks, minimising wear and tear on facilities, travelling slowly so as not to harm banks and habitats, or generally being friendly and helpful with other waterways companions. Unlike aboard self-drive boats, we’re in a lovely position to share our experiences and love for the waterways with all our guests.
And anything else…
This is always a work in progress as there are lots of projects we’re interested in that will help us keep our ethos alive; projects such as putting in eco-toilets and converting to cleaner, more sustainable fuels. Who knows what the future holds?