As travelers become increasingly aware of their impact on the environment, more people are seeking ways to vacation sustainably. In previous articles like Greenify Your Summer Getaway, SaltyLama has discussed options ranging from utilizing carbon-neutral transportation to booking eco-minded lodging.
Of course, cruise ships have a tremendous impact on the planet, generating waste, trash, and carbon emissions during their voyages. Fortunately, they’re also not exempt from the global movement toward sustainability. Let’s explore how this shift in the travel industry is already resulting in positive change.
The environmental impact of cruises
Cruise ships are often associated with luxury, relaxation, and endless entertainment. However, these floating cities can have a significant ecological footprint. The emissions from cruise ships, particularly sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, contribute to air pollution, with a recent study from the University of Exeter finding that the carbon footprint of a large cruise ship can be greater than 12,000 cars. Additionally, the discharge of wastewater and untreated sewage can harm marine life and damage delicate ecosystems.
However, as consumers demand greener vacations, cruise lines have recognized the need to prioritize sustainability. The Cruise Lines International Association, the largest cruise industry trade association, has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon cruising by 2050, while many individual cruise lines have implemented innovative practices to contribute to a greener future.
Picking a sustainable cruise
If you decide to go on a cruise, consider several factors to ensure you choose the most sustainable option possible. Here are three key things to look for:
Reusable alternatives to plastic
Plastic bottles, straws, and packaging all contribute to the growing problem of ocean pollution. Promisingly, cruise lines are taking steps to address this issue. Besides partnering with NGO Conservation International, French luxury cruise line Ponant Cruises has also succeeded in eliminating all disposable cups and cutlery from its fleet. By replacing these single-use plastics with reusable alternatives, Ponant hopes to attain net zero by 2050 and raise awareness among passengers about the importance of responsible consumption.
Waste management systems
Cruise ships generate substantial wastewater from various sources, including showers, sinks, toilets, and laundry facilities. Traditionally, this wastewater was discharged directly into the ocean without proper treatment.
Responsible cruise lines now implement advanced waste management systems to ensure that waste is recycled whenever possible. The advanced wastewater treatment systems of Explora Journeys process wastewater to near tap water quality standards before it is safely dispensed. The ballast water of this cruise line is also discharged on land after strict treatment regimens to prevent cross-contamination from other water sources and ecosystems. These policies work alongside Explora’s environmentally conscious Destination Experiences to minimize the ecological footprint of the cruising industry.
Hybrid battery-powered ships
Reducing emissions from cruise ships is a significant challenge, but some companies are leading the way by adopting innovative propulsion technologies. After investing nearly 100 million euros (about 108 million US dollars) in green upgrades, Hurtigruten Norway launched its first battery-hybrid powered ship, which promises to cut CO2 emissions by 25%. Here, traditional engines are combined with large battery packs, allowing them to operate emission-free for short periods.
This pioneering approach demonstrates that sustainable alternatives to traditional fossil fuel-powered ships are feasible and can be implemented successfully in the cruise industry. Hurtigruten Norway CEO Hedda Felin has said she is optimistic they will build the first emission-free ship in their fleet by 2030.
So if you’re thinking about going on a cruise — or you have been before and would like to again — be sure first to consider these factors and support cruise lines that prioritize sustainability. And whether you’re traveling by land or sea, take along eco-friendly laundry detergent sheets from SaltyLama. This way, you can enjoy fresh, clean clothes on the go while avoiding the harsh chemicals found in regular detergents, which ultimately wind up in our waterways and oceans.
Post written in collaboration with Tommy Cohen