Meet Green Sail, a woman-led Croatian organization dedicated to promoting sustainable marine tourism.

In the Adriatic Sea, the ocean sparkles a brilliant blue, hypnotic DJs line the beach shore, and small boats gently nudge the dock. Young travelers jump from the stony cliffs to their whooping peers, relishing in a Croatia that has become known to many as a slice of heaven.

But this surge in tourism isn’t all good for Croatia. With it comes an alarming toll on the Adriatic’s delicate ecosystem. That’s where Green Sail is stepping in.

View of Adriatic Sea in Croatia
One of the most famous beaches in Croatia: Zlatni Rat or Golden Horn Beach. In summer it’s a party ever day. Photo Credit: Oliver Sjöström | Unsplash

About Green Sail, its people, and its mission

Green Sail is a sustainability focused organization dedicated to looking after, and mitigating, the damage currently wrought by mass nautical tourism in Croatia.

In Croatia, they’re pioneers of maritime environmentalism, blazing trails in the realm of eco-conscious initiatives. This includes beach clean-ups and eco-tours, as well as high-profile events, cutting-edge marine research, strategic government lobbying, and inspiring celebrity ambassador speeches. It’s a grassroots organization that has embraced an ambitious agenda – and triumphed with flying colors.

Their impact is nothing short of remarkable. They’ve influenced the Croatian government to decree that every port must now feature a dedicated pump-out facility for waste, steering away from the detrimental practice of direct disposal into the sea. In a strategic collaboration with major charter companies, they’ve crafted a revolutionary Vessel Environmental Footprint scheme, transforming the landscape of sustainable maritime practices. Not stopping there, they’ve spearheaded the removal of thousands of discarded items from Croatian beaches, leaving a lasting legacy of environmental stewardship. One of the many beach clean ups, Green Sail often gathers volunteers to help in their initiatives.  

“We are facilitating opportunities for stakeholders to become environmentally friendly businesses and engage with their customers to make a real difference in the worsening problem of environmental sustainability,” said Green Sail’s manager,  Ornela Krezić.

Along with the organization’s co-founder and director, Helle Seuren, Green Sail’s team is heavily women-led, consisting of passionate individuals with a deep passion for safeguarding the sea and coastal areas. Their team unites diverse backgrounds, expertise, and skills, all driven by a collective dedication to creating a positive impact.

Ornela Krezić Green Sail Manager. Photo Credit: Green Sail
Ornela Krezić Green Sail Manager. Photo Credit: Green Sail
Helle Seuren, Cofounder and Director. Photo Credit: Green Sail
Helle Seuren, Cofounder and Director. Photo Credit: Green Sail

The Issues with tourism

With the surge in tourism comes an alarming toll on the Adriatic’s delicate ecosystem. For every piece of plastic cutlery thrown overboard, it takes a staggering 1,000 years to decompose. The smaller the small plastic, the bigger the problem. Microplastics are ultimately finding their way back onto our plates.

Lack of regulations means 730 tons of waste are dumped in the Mediterranean everyday, spreading disease and pollutants. This includes Croatia’s renowned city Split where sewage is pumped directly into the ocean.

Even the sunscreen thousands of tourists keep close in summer harms coral, fish and vegetation in the sea, which creates rapidly deteriorating conditions for wildlife. Unfortunately, tourists have left behind a rather large footprint – contributing to losses in biodiversity, overfishing, waste and pollution.  Human activity is warming the Mediterranean Sea 20% faster than the global average.

While tourists may inadvertently contribute to environmental challenges, they also present substantial economic opportunities, constituting 12% of Croatia’s GDP. Travelers foster cultural exchange, enrich city party scenes, and have the potential to exert pressure on governments by incentivizing policy that attracts environmentally-conscious travelers.

Tourists care deeply

Despite the fact that tourism has its pitfalls on the Croatian environment, it’s also true that travelers are more conscious than they’ve ever been before. A Booking.com report from over 33,000 travelers found that 76% of respondents expressed a desire to embrace sustainable travel in their future plans. Organizations like Green Sail aren’t just thinking about tourism as a necessary evil, but rather as an opportunity to educate and align its travelers with sustainable, or even regenerative, tourism practices, creating a result that gives back to the environment more than it takes.

Ornela Krezić Green Sail Manager. Photo Credit: Green Sail
Ornela Krezić Green Sail Manager. Photo Credit: Green Sail

Tips on Traveling Sustainably in Croatia

Nautical tourism is wildly popular in Croatia. 40% of the worlds charter boats are located there, exploring the more than  1200 islands in the Adriatic Sea.

For travelers visiting the Dalmatian coast, it’s important to pick tours that are helping the environment instead of hurting it. 

Here are a few ideas how:

Look for the Dalmatia Green Label

Accommodations that carry the Dalmatia Green label have taken a number of certified ‘eco steps’ like implementing water recycling, solar panels and using local and organic food in their buildings. The initiative is run by the department of tourism in Croatia and the more popularity these accommodations get, the more others will follow suit and strive for certification.

Seek out the Vessel Environmental Footprint program

Green Sail’s VEF program is a first-of-its-kind initiative that tackles recording individual boats’ emissions. Sandra Maraš, Booking Director at Orvas Yachting, called it “the first step in reducing the negative impact generated by nautical companies and goes a long way to help our collective efforts in tackling climate change.” Boats are given a rating from 1-5, and travelers can easily find those ratings when they’re choosing their next nautical adventure.

Ask about sustainable practices when booking a tour

Ask questions like:

  • Do you have a sustainability policy?
  • Do you use single use plastics?
  • Are you making any efforts to reduce your environmental footprint?

At the very least – show companies that consumers care and may influence their policy decisions later.

Share information on social media

Sharing information on social media is another impactful way to contribute. The peer pressure effect is more powerful than we think. Naming and shaming the worst polluters puts pressure on them to change. Opening the conversation with friends and family and making practices like throwing cigarette butts overboard socially unacceptable are other ways to contribute.

Finally, there’s heaps of low-effort things you can do on your trip that help. Shopping locally is not only easy but also culturally enriching. Bringing water bottles instead of buying plastic water will help save you cash and ditch plastic. Recycling and picking up litter is a small action with a big impact.

Photo of a sailboat from Green Sail in Croatia, working to make tourism more environmentally friendly

How to learn more about Green Sail

With seas as clear as blue-tinted glass, it’s a wonder that we continue pouring waste and plastic into the Adriatic. But more and more people are cluing in. Many enjoy sailing because the feeling of being driven by the wind feels clean, pure, and natural. It’s that feeling that we should strive to translate to the entirety of our holidays.

You can learn more about Green Sail from their website or stay up to date on their projects from any of their social media accounts (Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn). If you’re in Croatia you can also book eco–walk tours run by Green Sail that take you through the majestic old town of Split, a UNESCO world heritage site, while underscoring some of the most pressing issues in the Mediterranean Sea. All profits of the tour go directly to supporting Green Sail’s operations.

Green Sail in Croatia