By Tania Asnes
June 14, 2008
All Aboard the S.S. Green! Ed's home on Living With Ed may be one of the greenest "ships" around (despite Rachelle's insistence that the house is not a boat), but another type of ship is often considered the anti-green: a cruise ship. A dream-vacation cruise can be a nightmare for the environment. Like most conventional vacation facilities, cruise ships generate huge amounts of waste, from fuel emissions right down to, um, sewage. But if you're set on cruising, fear not. There are ways to green your voyage on the great big blue.
1. Choose a responsible cruise line. Some major four- and five-star lines have greened their ships, and Holland America is one of these. In addition to having low-flow toilets and showers, printing onboard materials with soy-based ink, and using non-hazardous cleaning agents, it provides passengers with tips on how they can do their part. The company has also won several awards for environmental excellence. Another cruise line to consider is Costa Cruises. Its entire fleet received Green Star awards from RINA, the Italian Shipping Register, in 2005. In addition, Costa Cruises has partnered with WWF Italy to protect several endangered marine habitats. One more major cruise line to consider is Royal Caribbean, which has cleaned up its act after a history of infamous eco-blunders. On its interactive Environmental Initiatives webpage, visitors can click on categories such as Lighting and Advanced Wastewater Purification to see the progress Royal Caribbean is making.
2. Consider scaling down the size of your ship. If you raise a green eyebrow to the bigger-is-better attitude, a smaller cruise may be right for you. Unlike larger cruises, which tend to visit well-worn tourist destinations, smaller tours can introduce you to unusual ecosystems off the beaten bath-er-strait. Consider an Arctic cruise with AdventureSmith Explorations, offering carbon-neutral cruising through a partnership Sustainable Travel International's MyClimate program. The company offsets its carbon emissions by funding projects to reduce emissions in developing countries. Small-scale cruises can be particularly enjoyable if they practice eco-tourism, focusing on enrichment as well as enjoyment. For example, Pure Adventures tours, which operates in the Galapagos, devotes one day of every tour to helping with a local conservation project. The downside to these smaller cruises is often the price: guests pay more so the planet need not.
3. Keep your personal routine green. Turn off the lights and water when not in use and close doors and windows to save energy just as you would at home. If your ship has a towel re-use option, take advantage of it and save energy, water, and detergent all at once. When you dock at a destination, remember that you are a guest in a foreign environment and should try to leave it the way you found it. This applies especially to the fragile ecosystems you are likely to encounter on a small-scale tour. Dispose of trash and recyclables properly, tread lightly on natural habitats, and resist the urge to take any natural souvenirs such as shells, rocks, or flowers.
4. Above all, take a tip from Ed and push the envelope when investigating your cruise. It's a good sign when a company is transparent about its practices and addresses your concerns in a serious and timely manner. If you get the brush-off, push off with a different cruise line.