Sainted: Disney Cruise Lines – While sailing the seas on a cruise ship is far from carbon neutral, Disney Cruise Lines (DCL) started working towards being better stewards of the environment years ago and now routinely score higher than their competitors on environmental sustainability issues. The core of their efforts have taken a simple approach; reducing consumption and waste, obtaining power from cleaner sources, and purchasing offsets. Lots of hotels (and floating hotels) can claim they are being ‘green’ by offering not to wash guest towels daily but DCL has taken this a step further and actually uses the condensation from the air conditioning units to provide their laundry and deck cleaning water supply. Excess heat is used to power evaporators that turn 1,200 tons of seawater in to potable water every day. In addition, they have installed low flow shower heads and toilets, installed high efficiency commercial washing machines, and upgraded waste water purification systems. DCL also attaches to shore based power when in port, sorts all garbage and recyclables, works with vendors to reduce packaging, and has environmental education programs for crew and passengers alike led by an on board environmental officer. To increase efficiency, they have implemented a new non-toxic hull coating which reduces resistance in open water and have adjusted shipping routes to increase efficiency. In staterooms, HVAC systems self-adjust for efficiency and return to guest preferences upon their return. According to the Friends of Earth Cruise Ship Report Card, DCL is the most environmentally responsible cruise line and the first line to score an A on the annual report card.
Tainted: Carnival Cruise Lines – Carnival has the world’s largest fleet of ships (23) and only 2 have advanced sewage treatment capabilities. Carnival also owns other brands of lines, many referenced in the above report card (Seabourn, Cunard, Holland America, Princess Cruises, P&O, and Costa). The remainder of the Carnival fleet take advantage of the law which allows for untreated sewage to be dumped directly in to the ocean when more than 3 nautical miles from shore. The EPA says an average cruise ship with 3,000 passengers produces about 21,000 gallons of sewage each day. In addition, each ship generates and dumps about eight times that much gray water from sinks, showers and baths. Generally, anytime a company’s environmental stewardship policy references adhering to laws and regulations, it is clear they are likely more interested in profit than being a good citizen of the planet. This point was further illustrated in the NY Times by Carnival’s tax status and ability to avoid paying most taxes by leveraging numerous loopholes. Consider that of the 500 big companies on Standard and Poor’s stock index, 115 paid the corporate tax rate of 35% and only 39 of those 500 companies paid a rate of less than 10%. Of the 11.3 billion in profits Carnival makes, they paid 1.1% in taxes. Despite Carnival executives sitting in Miami, they takes advantage of a provision which allows shipping companies to legally incorporate overseas and Panama is a great choice from a tax perspective. When faced with new air quality standards in Baltimore, Carnival acted like a bully and threatened to leave port for good unless concessions were made. Carnival did end up leaving Baltimore and months later after announced a plan to install exhaust cleaning technology on their aging ships to reduce emissions and reached an agreement with the EPA that would allow them to return to Baltimore. This will help mitigate the effects of the dirty ‘bunker fuel’ which is 2,000 times dirtier and more pollutant than diesel fuel sold at everyday gas stations. While there are sites you can go to and send Carnival feedback, the best course of action here is to vote with your dollar and if looking for a cruise vacation, choose a cruise line with tangible environmental principals as opposed to one who does the bare minimum and uses the ocean as their personal sewage plant.