This blogger was on vacation last week, sailing away in the blissful warmth of the Caribbean. It was quite beautiful, the blue waters and green grass. I even got a touch of organics when I discovered the ship I was on served Stonyfield Farms Organic Yogurt (yum!).
I came back to work, all ready to brag about my cruise and how great it was. I was even ready to pull out my cute organic yogurt anecdote. But then I started thinking (uh-oh) about how bad cruises must be for the environment, occasional organic food notwithstanding. The things I was in awe of on the boat (the amount of food, the giant pools, the flashy shows) began to terrify me with their individual carbon footprints, and the amount of waste they must create. In fact, according to Oceana, the average cruise creates the following amounts of waste every day:
– 25,000 gallons of sewage from toilets
— 143,000 gallons of sewage from sinks, galleys and showers
— 7 tons of garbage and solid waste
— 15 gallons of toxic chemicals
— 7,000 gallons of oily bilge water
To be fair, these amounts account for about 2,500 passengers and 1,000 staff members, who would also have waste if they were on dry land. But many cruises still dump sewage into the ocean.
Cruise ships are aware of these problems, and in what is most likely an effort to attract green travelers, many are trying to improve their carbon footprints. Celebrity just unveiled a cruise ship with solar panels. And many ships are plugging in while in port, instead of idling their engines. The cruise line I recently traveled on received a B- from the Friends of the Earth environmental group for its sustainability, which is somewhat comforting (the highest score was a B for Holland America, the lowest were Royal Caribbean and Disney with F’s).
Unfortunately, even the most environmentally conscious passenger can’t really do much to create a smaller footprint while on board. Taking shorter showers and using less electricity can help, but on a boat so big, it would hardly make a dent. Is it possible that if I really want to be sustainable (or at least not terrible to the environment) when I travel, that I need to just avoid cruise ships altogether? Organic Gardening is getting into the world of green travel, so maybe I need look no further than the pages of our magazine for my next vacation idea. As long as it’s somewhere I can tan.