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Copenhagen's Solar Boats Offer a Fun and Green Afternoon

By Jo Piazza


Few activities are more relaxing than a lazy boat ride through a fun city like Copenhagen.  The concept is especially sweet when the boat is made of recycled bottles and powered by solar energy.

GoBoat is a Danish startup offering affordable, self-guided boat tours through the waterways of Copenhagen, as well as Malmo and Stockholm in Sweden. The hourly rentals cruise along at a modest pace, but it's possible to see most of the city in two or three hours, stopping at watering holes and picnicking as you go.  For kids, and kids at heart, the company hands out nets to pick up trash. Successful "trash pirates" are rewarded with ice cream at the end of the voyage.

TriplePundit had a chance to take a ride earlier this summer.  After our ride, I spoke with co-founder Kasper Eich-Romme and learned a little about where the GoBoat concept came from and why the idea is sustainable.

TriplePundit: How did the idea come about?

Kasper Eich-Romme: We are three guys who started GoBoat in 2014, and we've always shared a great passion for being on water, sailing and the whole "maritime spirit" so to speak. We missed always being able to get a boat and bring friends or family out on the water, and that's why we decided to start GoBoat. We designed the boat ourselves since there was no boat on the market that was able to provide that experience we want to give.

Sustainability is a big part of the concept. But one of the most important other aspects is the social one -- and that's why we designed the boats with a table in the middle. We want our guests to get a new perspective on the city but also on each other. When you are on the boat, you can't just run away from the conversation or hide behind your smartphone. And that is also one of the reasons why we've chosen electric engines -- so that you can actually have a conversation without a big noisy petrol engine making it impossible to hear each other.

3p: Why did you decide to emphasize sustainability?

KER: We're not fanatics in any way. But we felt that if we expect our guests to treat the surroundings and each other with respect, we need to set an example. That's why every time we need to make choice, we (almost) always go with the sustainable solution -- as long as it makes sense. We also believe that we can show people how sustainability can be a great advantage business-wise.

Right now our main sustainable features are:

  • Solar power that charges the boats 100 percent, coming from panels on the roof of our rental building.

  • 99.9 percent of the batteries we use can be recycled when they've served their duty.

  • All the wood used in the boats and to build our terminals is sustainable Norwegian wood from Kebony.

  • The boats are partly built of recycled plastic bottles.

3p: Were there challenges to being so sustainable?

KER: The startup costs gets higher by focusing on bringing sustainability into every part of your company. But in our case, these higher startup costs were rapidly earned back.  Also, we are first-movers on a lot of the technology which caused some challenges in the start.

At the moment, we are working on getting solar panels integrated in the boats themselves -- and not only on the roof of the rental house. We think this will bring people even closer to the sustainability story. We're also working on a new generation of glass fiber for the boats that is more sustainable and made by out of recycled fibers from disused wind turbines.

3p: Are there business advantages to being sustainable? 

KER: There are advantages on different levels.

On the practical level, we can see that by using electricity and solar power instead of petrol we actually save around 200,000DKK ($30,000) a year in Copenhagen alone -- which is remarkable.

If you understand how to use sustainability as a natural part of the values in your company, it can make an impact. But if you want to be sustainable just so that you can brand your company as 'sustainable,' then it can be harder to get an advantage. And furthermore, you will never create a sincere impact on your guests or employees.

In GoBoat, sustainability is a natural way of thinking. And a lot of the things we do ensure that both employees and guests get a good connection with the brand [and] love being a part of GoBoat. A lot of the love comes out of a sustainable and respectful way of thinking.

Hopefully and in the near future sustainability will play a much bigger role and give much bigger advantages than we see today. In GoBoat, we feel confident that we can be a part of this revolution.

Jo Piazza is an award winning journalist and bestselling author. Her latest book How to Be Married will be released in April. 

Jo Piazza is an award-winning reporter and editor who has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the New York Daily News, New York Magazine, Glamour, Marie Claire, Elle and Salon. She has appeared on CNN, NPR, Fox News, the BBC and MSNBC. Her novel, The Knockoff, with Lucy Sykes became an instant international bestseller and has been translated into more than seven languages.

Jo received a Masters in Journalism from Columbia, a Masters in Religious Studies from NYU and a Bachelors in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed If Nuns Ruled the World and Celebrity Inc: How Famous People Make Money.

She currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and their giant dog. Her latest book <a href="http://www.howtobemarried.us">How to Be Married</a> will be released in April.

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