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Oftentimes, ocean cruise lines get all the attention for their environmental efforts, but river brands are by no means sitting out of the eco-friendly movement. Sure, eliminating single-use plastics, notably straws, is a priority for seemingly every company, but it goes well beyond that.
Consider Avalon Waterways: The brand — along with its parent company Globus Family of Brands and corporate cousins Cosmos and Monograms — is pushing toward greater sustainability and waste reduction. And that starts with simple but effective actions such as asking its guests to select e-documents instead of printed equivalents.
“In the past two years, we have reduced paper waste by 80%,” said Pam Hoffee, managing director of Avalon, in a press release. “We’ve done this, in part, by favoring electronic media. For instance, onboard, we no longer deliver city maps to staterooms each day. Instead, we encourage our guests to use our new AvalonGo app. Off the ship, we prioritize e-brochures over printed brochures.”
More dramatically, Avalon’s Suite Ships are adhering to several eco-friendly standards including the use of LED light bulbs that require 90% less energy than incandescent ones, as well as a high-tech propulsion system that utilizes 20% less fuel than others.
In the past two years, we have reduced paper waste by 80%.
Plus, low-flow toilets and tap-flow restrictors reduce water consumption, and enhanced sewage treatment plants and multifaceted waste processing return clean water back into the river.
Globus Family of Brands is concerned for the sea. The company will donate money to The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting rid of plastic across international oceans. The group’s mission includes cleaning up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in half a decade.
This year alone, Avalon will have replaced plastic straws with 100% biodegradable alternatives and plastic lids on to-go cups with compostable variants. The line will supply guests washable, fabric laundry bags and refillable water bottles along with shipboard stations to tap them off.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection also stresses environmentalism. The brand showcases sustainable shore excursions such as its pre-cruise Me to We voluntourism extensions. Passengers looking to give back can participate ahead of India’s Golden Triangle & the Sacred Ganges itinerary. The five-day add-on contributes to a community development project in tandem with locals.
The line additionally reduces waste and utilizes energy more efficiently. It is doing so in part by banning more than 60 kinds of plastic by 2022 and participating in carbon-offset programs. Also, for every 2020 guest who opts for digital documents instead of printed ones, Uniworld will plant a tree in collaboration with One Tree Planted. By extension, sister brand U River Cruises is also on the path toward eliminating single-use plastics.
Some lines have installed diesel-electric hybrid engines in their latest vessels to reduce emissions. These operate similarly to automotive equivalents ashore and have been enlisted by the likes of Viking and AmaWaterways. Even the latter’s new double-wide AmaMagna only runs four propulsion engines in anticipation of lessening fuel consumption by 20% to 25%.
There’s no doubt that river cruise lines are contributing to a healthier planet, but some concerns remain to be addressed in the future. Overtourism is another issue as more ships come online and stack in duplicate and triplicate at existing dock facilities. Like ocean cruising, the market will have to consider new ports and berths to ease the load on small towns. Thankfully, confidence in the industry’s ability to continually improve remains high.