What an 8,000-mile journey across the Pacific on a boat made out of plastic bottles can us about energy efficiency and phantom loads.
When the expedition leader of The Plastiki, the sailing vessel made entirely of recycled materials and 12,000 CO2-filled plastic bottles, was faced with the option of decking out the boat with the finest, most expensive communications, satellite, IT and navigation gear--and he had the pick of the litter at expedition sponsor HP's company store--or going with equipment that was maybe one step down, but available at your local computer store, he opted for the latter.
"In a way wouldn't it be cooler if we just had stuff that was off the shelf?" expedition leader David de Rothschild told me on Friday as he and the Plastiki crew prepared for the final leg of a 130-day journey across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Sydney.
"It seems real. It makes it attainable."
>>Read more about Plastiki's wired environmental campaign in ecopolitology's interview with David de Rothschild
"I feel good that we didn't go that route. Go down to your local computer store and you can get the technology we have off the shelf, and people are like, really, are you sure?"
De Rothschild says they wanted to look at the Plastiki like a closed system, or as he calls it, a "Floating sustainability station with finite resources." Living on a small boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for four months taught the Plastiki crew how to make the most of what they have. And since they were attempting to bring attention to the scourge of single-use plastics and the throwaway culture we live in, it would kind of defeat the purpose if the boat was only a resource-sucking PR stunt.
"It's simple things like optimizing your battery settings. Making sure you turn it off, not just leave it on standby and let it suck out the power. Making sure you unplug at the socket, at the main so you are not creating phantom loads," says de Rothschild, a self-styled technology geek who proudly adds that everything aboard the Plastiki runs on renewables.
"Not once did we turn on our generators to support our power -- which is no easy feat," he adds.
Now that the Plastiki is safely in port in Sydney, it will be open for public viewings for the next few weeks. After that, it's not entirely clear what will happen with the boat but de Rothschild and crew assembled the Plastiki without glues or resins, so when the trip is over, the entire boat is recyclable.
Photo credit: Plastiki