As the cruising industry continues to grow, and the Port of San Diego seeks to bring a chunk of that new business to our city, I often hear concerns about these ships’ environmental impact. And it’s a valid point of discussion: Are we sacrificing environmental sustainability for vacation indulgence?
In my role as a professional travel agent, I’ve had the privilege of helping clients plan romantic getaways, family reunions and bucket-list itineraries. Studies show the health benefits of spending time away, particularly in the natural world, and cruising is one of my personal favorite escapes to nature because it promises the pleasures of being on the water. However, if the Earth’s incredible variety of land and seascapes is degraded, so is our travel experience. That’s why I’ve found avid travelers are also vocal, dedicated conservationists.
Travel and tourism organizations that rely on our planet’s splendors know that it is in their interest to protect the environment, and cruise lines are at the forefront of corporate environmental stewardship. After all, their business depends on healthy oceans, clean beaches and pristine destinations that meet their customers’ expectations.
Many people are unaware that cruise lines are innovators in environmentally sustainable practices. A few examples:
While cruise ships comprise less than 1 percent of the global maritime community, they develop groundbreaking, responsible environmental practices and innovative technologies that lead the world’s shipping sector in reducing emissions and waste.
Many cruise lines exceed environmental regulatory requirements in a number of areas. Carnival Corp., owner of several popular cruise brands including the eponymous Carnival Cruise Line, recently announced it reached a goal a year earlier than planned to reduce emissions by 20 percent, and revealed an ambitious slate of new sustainability goals to be achieved by 2020.
The cruise industry continuously looks for ways to reduce its impact on the environment and works closely with environmental regulators to protect air, oceans and ecosystems. Cruise lines are investing more than $500 million in new technologies, and even more in cleaner fuels, to significantly reduce ships’ air emissions.
These efforts don’t go unnoticed: Holland America Line, which has more San Diego cruise calls than any other cruise line, received the 2014 Marine Environmental Business of the Year award from the Port of Seattle for reducing its global environmental footprint, for instance.
No matter where on the Earth they are, cruise line members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) must process all sewage through treatment system in accordance with international requirements prior to discharge, and even then it’s only discharged many miles from shore. And here’s a little-known fact: Cruise lines exceed the practices of most coastal municipalities’ water treatment facilities.
Cruise ship waste management professionals recycle 60 percent more waste per person than the average person recycles on shore each day, recycling 80,000 tons of paper, plastic, glass and aluminum cans each year. Disney Cruise Line, which is making 10 calls in San Diego this year, offloads 1,000 gallons of used cooking oil from shipboard galleys for recycling each week at various ports; in the Bahamas, this oil is converted into biodiesel fuel for a fleet of local vehicles.
In U.S. waters, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard oversee rigorous requirements for cruise ships on air, water, power and waste, including provisions of the U.S. Clean Water Act. Environmental performance information is publicly and transparently available.
Engaging over the years with groups like Sustainable Travel International, the Ocean Conservancy, and Conservation International, the cruise industry is fully committed to doing its part to preserve the oceans in which it will transport 23 million travelers this year, as well as the destinations its ships visit. This is both the right thing to do and fundamental to the industry’s future.
It is for these reasons that I have no qualms sending clients on a fabulous cruise vacation, whether that means a few nights down to Ensenada or 120 nights around the world. Let the sea set you free!