Friends Of The Earth Grades Cruise Lines, Some Flunk

Friends of the Earth
is a global network of activists from 76 different countries that strive for a more healthy and just world. To make that happen, Friends of the Earth believe reforms are needed and are out to prove their point.

Evaluating cruise lines based on three environmental factors – sewage treatment, air pollution reduction and water quality compliance – Friends of the Earth has some interesting results to share in its 2012 Cruise Ship Report Card.

Presented to give travelers one piece of the information they need to decide which cruise ship or cruise line to sail, Friends of the Earth‘s Cruise Ship Report Card highlights environmental and human health impacts.

Scoring high in the areas of sewage Treatment, air pollution reduction and water quality compliance, Disney Cruise Line came away with top honors, an A-.

Sewage Treatment
Cruise lines came under close scrutiny years ago, when caught dumping raw sewage into the ocean. To see how cruise lines are faring these days, Friends of the Earth asks, “Has the cruise line installed on its ships the most advanced sewage and waste water treatment systems available instead of dumping minimally treated sewage directly into the water?”

Friends of the Earth also compared the number of cruise ships in the cruise line that have installed advanced sewage treatment systems against the total number of ships in the cruise line.

Top three for sewage treatment:
Disney Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Celebrity Cruises

Bottom three for sewage treatment:
Carnival Cruise Lines
Silversea Cruises
Costa Cruises

Air Pollution Reduction
When it comes to air pollution reduction, Friends of the Earth is most concerned with if the cruise line has retrofitted its ships with “plug-in” technology giving the ships the ability to use cleaner shore-side power rather than running its diesel-burning engines.

This is such a big issue that in determining the air pollution Reduction grade, only ships that dock at ports with shore-side power hookups and could plug in were graded.

Top three for air pollution reduction:
Princess Cruises
Disney Cruise Line
Holland America Line

Bottom three for air pollution reduction:
Silversea Cruises
Costa Cruises
Crystal Cruises

Water Quality Compliance
Comparing to 2010 water pollution standards designed to protect the Alaskan coast, Friends of the Earth used the notices issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for individual cruise ships.

Top three for water quality compliance:
Silversea Cruises
Norwegian Cruise Line
Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Bottom two for water quality compliance:
Carnival Cruise Lines
Holland America Line

Friends of the Earth continues its ongoing mission to compare the footprints of 15 major cruise lines and 148 individual ships. See complete details of the Cruise Ship Report Card here and more on the topic in this video:

[Photo Credit- Flickr user NOAA’s National Ocean Service]

Responsible Travel changes their mind, a website known for providing eco-friendly vacation options, has changed their mind about something important. Especially after all our climate change talk yesterday (Blog Action Day), with the topic fresh in our minds, let’s talk about carbon offsets.

A recent report by Friends of the Earth states:
“Carbon offsets distract tourists from the need to reduce their emissions. They create a ‘medieval pardon’ for us to carry on behaving in the same way (or worse).”

Interesting point. So interesting, that Responsible Travel has removed the carbon offset widget from their site. The company has offered travelers the option of calculating their trip’s carbon footprint since 2002, so as to enable them to offset the environmental cost — but no more.

According to Responsible Travel’s Justin Francis:
“We believe that the travel industry’s priority must be to reduce carbon emissions, rather than to offset. Too often offsets are being used by the tourism industry in developed countries to justify growth plans on the basis that money will be donated to projects in developing countries. Global reduction targets will not be met this way.”

So, there’s some food for thought. We certainly don’t want to make anyone feel guilty for traveling, and if you’re going to travel, carbon offsets aren’t a bad thing, but keep in mind that you can make smart choices that will reduce your emissions. Responsible Travel can help.