Dongfeng Race Team: the small decisions that together help create a more sustainable philosophy

To mark World Environment Day and the fifth Volvo Ocean Race Ocean Summit, which is being staged in the Welsh capital Cardiff today, Dongfeng Race Team is publicising its own efforts to operate in an environmentally responsible manner.

The Chinese-flagged entry in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, which is currently leading the championship, is focused on racing performance on the water. But it is also a sports campaign that aims to conduct itself in a sustainable manner and team managers have put considerable effort into achieving this.

We all know that the world’s oceans face a crisis through plastic pollution and it is because the oceans are Dongfeng Race Team’s racetrack, that it feels a greater responsibility than ever to treat them with respect and to share its sustainable operating solutions.

Dongfeng Race Team has worked hard at changing as many of its operating practices as possible to try to minimise its impact on the natural environment and demonstrate its commitment to clean oceans through responsible resource use, avoiding single-use plastics and limiting the team’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Bruno Dubois, the Team Director, underlines that sustainability has been a key objective of the campaign from the start. “We at Dongfeng Race Team fully support the Volvo Ocean Race’s commitment to clean seas and have worked hard to embed principles of sustainability in all that we do,” said Dubois. “We proudly carry the Turn the Tide on Plastic slogan on our race boat and we hope to continue our work in this area in the future.

“We have always seen our entry in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 as a great opportunity to put new ideas into practice in all the areas that we operate – whether it be on sea or on land,” added Dubois.

“There is no magic wand to wave here,” he continued. “This is about lots of small decisions that come together to create a concentrated area of human activity that operates around the world in a more resource-efficient, less polluting and less wasteful manner than it might have been.”

Tiphaine Turluche, the Dongfeng Race Team logistics manager, explained the details of the various initiatives the team has taken to improve the way it operates during the last 18 months of training and racing.

These include banning plastic water bottles with the purchase of Dopper steel reusable bottles and ending single-use plastic items for team meals through the purchase of Monbento lunchboxes, cutlery and plates.

In September last year the team bought a traditional expresso coffee machine that utilises loose coffee beans instead of coffee contained in metal capsules. All coffee leftovers are now biodegradable and compostable.

“We are still working on how guests who visit the team base drink coffee,” explained Turluche. “We buy cardboard cups and name them but many are thrown away after one use. We are looking for cups for the team to use around the world to avoid buying plastic or cardboard cups and we are also working on food wraps that are not plastic cling wraps,” she said.

When the team and associated families are travelling Turluche and her staff make every effort to block-book flights so that groups can share transfers to and from airports and minimise total journeys. A similar philosophy governs car use where the team tries to avoid single-usage of cars and taxis.

When it comes to organising accommodation at stopover ports, the team has made efforts to promote efficient transport and access solutions. For example in Alicante, Melbourne, Guangzhou, Auckland and Gothenburg accommodation is situated within walking distance of the Volvo Ocean Race village. At Lisbon the team was able to use the existing public transportation infrastructure while in Cape Town, Hong Kong and Itajai group shuttles were used with bicycles on hand at Newport, Cardiff and The Hague.

Even the team’s old racing sails are being re-used, either as banner decorations in the team base or helping to create equipment or in the manufacture of gifts.

Among new proposals to improve the way the team works are plans to use furniture that is eco-friendly and for the pens handed out to visitors to be made of bamboo, not plastic. That theme continues on board Dongfeng where there are proposals for the sailors to use bamboo toothbrushes which are harmless if lost at sea and bio toothpaste and shower gel.

Turluche says she is still trying to improve how the team operates and future campaigns might work. “We are looking at the option of re-buying the team’s carbon footprint, using bio printer ink, recycled furniture, investing in more low-energy use electronics and introducing messaging on our public documents about paper use,” she said.

Jack Bouttell, the British/Australian bowman on Dongfeng who is moving on after the Volvo Ocean Race to his own Vendee Globe campaign, says the experience of working in a “sustainable-aware” organisation for nearly two years has made a big impression on him.

“I think we all have a lot to learn about living in a more resource-responsible way and what we have been doing at Dongfeng Race Team has certainly changed the way I think about my own footprint, if you like,” he said. “I know that in my future sailing campaigns I will be looking to work under the same principles as we have established here and will be keeping them under constant review.”