The impact that cruise lines have on the environment is not the best in the travel industry but certainly not the worst. While some cruise lines are more environmentally conscious than others, some are cruising along with murky waters beneath them.
The Friends of the Earth’s (FOE) annual report card rates cruise lines on their commitments to air pollution reduction, sewage treatment, and water quality. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that an average cruise ship with 3,000 passengers produces 21,000 gallons of sewage every day, or 50 tons a week. This adds up to more than 1 billion gallons of sewage, but is a low estimate because larger cruise ships hold 8,000 passengers.
In addition to the sewage that each ship generates, they dump about eight times that many gallons of graywater from sinks, showers, and baths which can sometimes contain sewage.
All of this waste and sewage, along with the air pollution and plastic waste, can have many negative short-term and long-term effects on the environment and it is crucial for the cruise industry to continue to make great technological advancements in order to protect the waters that they sail on.
Before choosing a cruise, check what their advanced wastewater-treatment system is on the boat through the EPA. According to the EPA, each day an average cruise ship is at sea, it emits more sulfur dioxide than 13 million cars and more soot than 1 million cars. Cleaner fuel standards, beginning in 2015 in the U.S. and Canada, will reduce the amount of sulfur emitted by each ship to about 97 percent and the amount of soot by 85 percent, which are in addition to the interim cleaner fuel standards already in place in North America.
Choosing a greener cruise is easier with the FOE annual report card, government regulations and new industry standards – make sure you do your research before you book your vacation and you can minimize your environmental footprint.