Quick: what carries 8880 people, burns 1377 gallons of fuel an hour at full power, and is part of an industry that costs society more than $65 billion? It’s the Harmony of the Seas, one of the new and extremely large cruise ships from Royal Caribbean.
Vacation, and especially cruising, with its images of crystal-clear waters and skies, has a squeaky-clean image. But my recent research shows that it’s anything but clean. The cruising industry carries some statistics that are truly staggering. Consider:
- The aforementioned Harmony of the Seas is capable of burning about 66,000 gallons of diesel fuel every day.
- One cruise ship emits as many air pollutants as five million cars.
- The average cruise ship produces about 21,000 gallons of sewage every day. That’s about 10 swimming pools a week.
The disturbing articles go on and on. Basically, the data isn’t as pretty as the cruising websites would have you believe. I might point out here that the major cruise lines aren’t breaking any laws; they’re meeting the standards that are in place. And they do make a large investment in improving the impact their ships have on the environment.
Unfortunately, the problem is going to get worse. In 1980, 1.4 million passengers sailed on a cruise ship. In 2006, it was 15 million, and it’s predicted to be 24 million this year. Of course, none of us are going to stop vacationing. But these numbers have really brought home to me how various factors in dirty air are so interconnected. I know some will read about this and think: Ok, I can’t drive my car to work, I can’t be part of a business that emits anything into the air, now I’ve got to worry about how I vacation, too?
Clean air is going to be tough to achieve. It’s going to call for sacrifices. But I think that in order to see real change, we’ve got to convince a lot of people to make small changes. With that in mind, take some time before you plan your next trip to consider the environmental cost. Do you have to drive or fly so far? Is there another trip that would get you what you want out of a vacation at a lower environmental cost?
Or if you really want a cruise, take a look at this report card for the major cruise lines. As you can see, there’s quite a bit of difference between the different providers. Even that small choice, multiplied by many vacationers, would result in a significant reduction in pollution.
Being willing to make these small changes shouldn’t be too hard for any of us. But it does require a desire to be willing to adapt, to avoid burying our heads in the sand in regards to pollution. Hopefully, as people make more of these kind of changes, we can enjoy vacation photos guilt-free, instead of just pretending they don’t have pollution in them.