Staying Green In The Blue, Eco-swims in the 21st Century

Staying Green In The Blue, Eco-swims in the 21st Century

Eco-tourism, adventure travel, sustainable tourism, responsible tourism, nature-based tourism, green tourism have entered our lexicon with multiple meanings and interpretation. As our world gets smaller (figuratively) and the world’s population grows (literally), mankind’s impact on the environment will continue – both for the good and the bad.

From the United Nations’ designation of 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism to the Center for Responsible Travel‘s goal to transform the travel industry as a driver of positive change, eco-tourism has been a building awareness since the term was first used over 30 years.

But with our Earth covered over 70% with water, the global open water swimming community is quietly, steadily and increasingly doing its part on the grass-roots level in this global movement.

We call these efforts, eco-swimming.

The Open Water Swimming Dictionary defines eco-swimming as any open water swim, relay, stage swim, race or charity swim that (1) aims to protect, conserve or call attention to the environment or ecology, (2) improve or protect the welfare of marine life or the local or indigenous area, (3) incorporates education of the natural environment or ecology, (4) is conducted in an ecologically-sustainable or environmentally-friendly manner, (5) is held in areas that are under environmental protection or that protect marine life, (6) aims to create or enhance environmental or ecological awareness, (7) raises money or provides direct financial benefits for conservation, marine life or environmental protection, research and/or education, (8) builds awareness or provides education of a local community or culture, (9) lobbies local governments or officials for access to, protection of or a clean-up of a waterway, or (10) minimizes the impact of mankind on the environment.

The sport has hundreds of examples of admirable solo and community efforts: Lewis Pugh‘s famous 1K solo swim in a glacier lake on Mount Everest that called attention to climate change while Aaron Piersol‘s televised Race for the Oceans in Florida calls attention to the conservation of ocean resources along with the Bonaire EcoSwim, the namesake of this movement.

Randy Nutt, who organizes the Bonaire EcoSwim and was the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, coined the phrase eco-swims after he met Mark Burnett of American television Survivor and Eco-Challenge fame.

Eco-swims are done all over the world from the Clean Half 15K Marathon Swim in Hong Kong that features the carbon-neutral relay option (where outrigger canoes are used instead of motorized boats) to a new multi-race swim in Acapulco that calls attention to the protection of the fragile coastlines of Mexico.

Eco-swims also include charity swims that collectively raise millions of dollars for a variety of causes, such as James Pittar‘s solo efforts on behalf of the Fred Hollows Foundation, Bruckner Chase’s swims to help save ocean sanctuaries and the efforts of the swimmers in the RCP Tiburon Mile who have raised money for Hospice care for the past decade.

We foresee the eco-swim trend not only continuing, but expanding exponentially as the sport grows with grass-roots efforts from the Baykeepers who help fight pollution in San Francisco Bay to the Dialog Across the Sea Project in North Africa.

Those in our global open water swimming community who do their part to stay green and protect the environment – which we all enjoy, utilize and share – are to be commended and emulated.

Photo above shows Lewis Pugh diving into the North Pole.

Copyright © 2008 – 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Steven Munatones