Green Alternatives to Cruising • Friends of the Earth

Green Alternatives to Cruising

Green Alternatives to Cruising

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No matter what way you travel, you’ll leave a wake of pollution along your journey. From a car or plane’s carbon emissions, hotels that use extensive amounts of water and electricity, food packaging trash along the way, and more — you can really leave a blemish on the earth unintentionally. But there are some forms of travel that are far worse on the planet than others. Cruise ships fill the air and water full of pollutants. And the noise from these floating cities disrupts wildlife in their path.

We’ll explore the green alternatives to cruising, impacts of cruising on the planet, and other green travel tips. 

How Bad are Cruises for the Environment?

When looking for green travel options, you might be wondering if there is such a thing as eco friendly cruises. Unfortunately, the majority of cruise ships destroy the planet with pollutants. Cruise ships run on a heavy fuel oil which fills the air with toxic emissions of particulate matter. One mid-sized cruise ship uses on average 150 tons of fuel a day — even in port! Why? Because the cruise ships do not just shut off. Even in ports they still must be operational 24/7 to serve their guests. And the environmental damage doesn’t stop there. 

Cruise ships are toxic for the oceans as well. They utilize scrubbers to clean their exhaust system. These scrubbers were created to “remove harmful particles and chemical byproducts” from smokestacks. But what they failed to mention is that once that water “cleans” the smokestacks, the toxic wastewater is dumped directly into the oceans. 

Add in the noise from cruise ships, their constant spreading of bacteria and viruses, and you can see how dirty the cruise industry really is. 

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Most Environmentally Friendly Cruise Lines

Friends of the Earth has ranked the largest cruise lines for their environmental footprint over the past year in our cruise ship report card.

Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, many failed miserably. AIDA Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Costa Cruises, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Cunard Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise Lines all failed the air and seas – and committed criminal environmental violations! MSC Cruises and Crystal Cruises also failed, but did not have any criminal complaints in the US. 

Only one company on the list received a grade higher than a C. Disney Cruise Line squeaked in with a B-. While their sewage treatment has a ways to go, their air pollution reduction, water quality compliance, and transparency give them a barely passing grade. 

But Disney isn’t perfect. They are currently working on a new port in Eleuthera, Bahamas – at Lighthouse Point. This port will fatally disrupt iconic coral reefs and the migration patterns of several marine species and should not be built in this marine protected area! 

Instead of looking for an eco-friendly cruise, Friends of the Earth recommends you look into other eco-friendly tourism options until the cruise industry cleans up its act! 

Eco Friendly Tourism

Eco friendly tourism does not mean that you have to sacrifice a luxurious experience for a tent in the woods and a solar powered stove — unless of course you prefer the solitude of a quiet remote location, and then you absolutely should take advantage of the beauty of nature. However, if you prefer a more traditional tourist vacation route, sustainable travel can help you lessen your impact on your desired travel destination. Fun fact: almost two-thirds of travelers are becoming more inclined to make environmentally friendly choices with their travel, so you’re in good company! 

The first thing you should be aware of is that “greenwashing” is very real. Companies will use disinformation to create an eco-friendly image to the public, pushing them to believe that the company is eco-friendly when they are not. It’s all tricky marketing strategies. But don’t fret. There are plenty of green travel options available that are truly eco-friendly! 

Green Travel Tips

You can still see the world while reducing your carbon footprint. The more you want to see, the more you should consider sustainable solutions — including how you get there and what you’re going to pack. Consider these travel tips.

  • The closer you are to home, the less your carbon footprint will be.
  • If you choose to travel to a different country, consider a destination where the cities are committed to protecting natural resources, heritage, and local peoples.
  • If you prefer to visit a popular tourist destination, avoid peak summer months, and find activities that give back to the residents and not mega-tourism corporations.
  • Use an eco-friendly booking site that allows you to calculate your carbon footprint for each night.
  • Check for third-party verification that the hotel you’re looking at meets sustainability standards and isn’t just greenwashing.
  • Try to find non-stop flights if you can. Takeoffs and landings are one of the most carbon-intensive parts of the flight.
  • Pack as light as you can, don’t bring more than you need.
  • Consider renting a hybrid or electric vehicle for a road trip.
  • Bring a glass, metal, or other refillable water bottle with you to use over and over again throughout your trip.
  • Do not request your hotel linens and towels be rewashed daily (unless soiled).
  • Keep the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door for your stay. This will cut down on the cleaning agents sprayed in the room and energy used to clean the room.
  • Bike, walk, or take public transportation around town if possible.
  • Buy locally made products instead of those shipped or flown in from other countries. They’re much better souvenirs and support the local economy.
  • Do not utilize irresponsible, exploitive animal tours — like elephant rides, dolphin swims, or walking with lion tours. Instead, find a local sanctuary to help animals in need. 
  • When on tours and excursions, travel with small groups to lessen the environmental impact to the habitat.
  • Do not touch or step on fragile eco systems or use tours that chum the waters.

There you have just a few ways to make your vacation as eco-friendly as possible. None included a dirty, polluting cruise! Instead, you have plenty of options to enjoy the beautiful planet we call home, while still having an incredible memory you’ll cherish forever. 

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