By Eileen Ogintz

Are you ready to invest in the planet? The theme of Earth Day 2023 (April 22) is “Invest in Our Planet.”

To that end, there is The End Plastic Pollution campaign and The Great Global Cleanup which provides opportunities to remove trash from green spaces, urban areas and waterways. Check the live map for nearby cleanups or create your own event! You won’t be alone. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

Sustainable travel is important to 225 million American adults, according to a recent survey from The Vacationer and reported by AAA. Nearly 82 percent of travelers say they will make more sustainable or eco-friendly decisions when planning their trips and more than 78 percent say they would pay more to lower their carbon footprint.

Anyone traveling with kids these days knows that they are especially mindful of environmental challenges and what they might do to be a better environmental steward. Cruise lines are among the tourism companies that are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint while at the same time encouraging their passengers to be more environmentally conscious.

Carnival Corporation, the world’s leading cruise line with nine distinct brands, has just announced it is the only major cruise company producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions today than in 2011, down 15 percent.

More than half of the fleet, which includes Princess, Holland America, Carnival, Costa, Cunard, and Seabourn, are ready to “plug in” to reduce emissions and noise in port. The company continues to work with ports of Miami, Galveston, Barcelona, Savona and Genoa to support their shore power development efforts. Thousands of bridge officers have received special training to protect whales .

Princess Cruises pioneered “plug in” shore power in Juneau more than 20 years ago and since then has introduced this sustainable technology in Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Princess’ state-of-the-art Advanced Air Quality Systems (AAQS) uses salt water to “scrub” 99 percent of sulfur from the ships’ exhaust.

Food preparation on a Carnival ship
Food preparation on a Carnival ship

There are a lot of efforts passengers may not notice. For example, Princess ships have the ability to make their own water through both desalinization and reverse osmosis — up to 474,000 gallons a day. Just one Princess ship, Discovery Princess, recycles nearly 15,000 pounds of glass, 8,800 pounds of plastic and 132 gallons of cooking oil each week.

With so many of the world’s leading cruise brands, Carnival Corporation is committed to reduce carbon emissions and ultimately to achieve a net-carbon neutral operation with technology upgrades, port and destination projects, and partnering with other companies, universities and research organizations.

Mardi Gras, Carnival Cruise Line's Newest and Most Innovative Ship
Mardi Gras, one of Carnival Cruise Line’s Newest and Most Innovative Ships

Carnival reports that 87  percent of fresh water aboard its ships is produced sustainably from seawater. Five hundred million-plus single use plastics have been removed from ships, and there are 30  percent fewer food leftovers, scraps and waste. Programs support biodiversity and conservation, helping the communities the ships visit to maintain and improve their ecosystems.

Carnival Corporation has partnered with port communities and other organizations in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest maritime industry to explore methods to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse emissions. They have planted mangroves in the Dominican Republic, generate tons of compost soil for ports and enable treated wastewater to be used for landscape irrigation. They have orchestrated multiple costal cleanups involving shipboard- and shoreside employees and partners in various locations around the world. Each ship in the fleet has a full-time Environmental Officer on board whose responsibilities include monitoring environmental compliance and implementing environmental procedures.

Bio Digester aboard a Carnival ship
Bio Digester aboard a Carnival ship

“Thanks to the concerted dedication of our onboard food and beverage teams, we proudly
achieved and surpassed our 2022 goal to reduce food waste per person by 30 percent as part of our Circular Economy focus area. Additionally, we established a new goal of a
40 percent reduction by 2025 relative to our 2019 baseline,” said Josh Weinstein, President, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Climate Officer in Carnival Corporation’s 2022 Sustainability report.

Carnival Corporation has led the industry in the development of ships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). Weinstein noted the company continues to take delivery of liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered ships, including the Costa Toscana, the Discovery Princess, the Seabourn Venture and the Carnival Celebration. Four more are expected for delivery through 2025.

Here are a few examples of sustainability efforts among the Carnival brands:

  • All of Carnival Corporation newer ships have comprehensive waste management and recycling and a design to minimize drag with the latest energy efficient technologies.
  • Carnival Cruise Line has enlisted Chief Fun Officer Shaquille O’Neal to encourage guests not to waste food with videos. Guests don’t see the hundreds of bio-digesters installed in the ship galleys, which are basically mechanical stomachs that break down and liquify uneaten food to sustainably release it to nature. Also behind the scenes, the F&B teams are monitoring guest dining flow for real-time food preparation and batch cooking needs, so they only prepare as much food as guests are likely to eat. They are also creating delicious new recipes using leftover scraps and ingredients, like crispy skin-on potato chips that have become very popular with guests.
  • The Costa Toscana has food waste dehydrators. Every dinner served in its new Archipelago restaurant, a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Costa Cruises Foundation to support environmental and social products.
  • Seabourn Venture uses the latest technologies to reduce fuel consumption,
    improve quality of air emissions, treat wastewater, and uses technology that is Marine life friendly with low underwater noise.
  • ARVIA, sister ship to Iona, joined the P&O Cruises (UK) fleet in December 2022 as its second LNG-powered, Excel-class ship, making it one of the greenest members of the fleet and among Britain’s most environmentally friendly ships. It boasts the latest energy-efficient technologies to reduce fuel consumption, improve quality of air emissions, treat wastewater, and manage food waste on board.
Shaq O'Neal's Big Chicken on the Carnival Mardi Gras
Shaq O’Neal’s Big Chicken on the Carnival Mardi Gras

Other changes passengers will notice—the use of reusable water bottles; Holland America has become the first cruise line certified sustainable for Alaska Seafood by Responsible Fisheries Management. “We’ve pledged to buy and serve only local, sustainable, fresh seafood on Alaska voyages, and RFM certification is a crucial step in the commitment to sustainability that we share with our guests and fishing families of Alaska, ” said Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line.

There are many shore excursions that focus on conservation efforts. Cruisers, meanwhile, can be their own environmental stewards with simple efforts- taking shorter showers, turning off lights, reusing towels, recycling on board and in port, and not putting more food on their plates than they can eat.

Happy Earth Day!

This post is sponsored by Carnival Corporation, a trusted company on whose cruise lines we have sailed with throughout the world. Editorial comments are those of the author.