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Anytime we step into a powered transporting device of any kind we are likely contributing to an increased carbon footprint.

For a long time, cruise ships were major polluters, not just from the fuel that it used or left in its wake, but from its handling of the waste it created on board.

But in recent years, there has been a major awakening of responsibility in the companies whose ships sail the world’s oceans.

Driven by public pressure and their own environmental consciousness, the last decade has seen huge improvements.

Interestingly, these changes are not just forthcoming from the major cruise lines.

One of the smaller cruise lines, Orion Expedition Cruising, won the internationally recognized Responsible Tourism Award for 2010 in the cruise category.

It is the singular cruise company that has been honoured with the Earthcheck certification, granted only after thorough independent audits of environmental procedures and practices.

They have shifted from using plastic containers to recyclable cardboard and switched from plastic to aluminum bottles.

Bigger cruise companies are in on the movement as well. They recognize it also good business as young educated families insist on eco-friendly options when planning vacations.

Celebrity Cruises uses solar panels for some of its power, as well as energy-saving LED lights. Royal Caribbean Cruises have a ‘nothing goes overboard’ program that has proved very successful in decreasing ocean pollution. And all their new ships have cut emissions by at least 50 per cent.

Disney Cruise Lines uses the water that is left behind from air-conditioning systems for laundry and captures generated heat to turn sea water into on-board drinking water as well.

Holland America has introduced dozens of recycling and operational changes to create a more environmentally friendly cruise in areas passengers don’t ever see firsthand.

As passengers, we also have a role to play.

Most cruise lines today ask passengers to forgo the frequent changing of bedding. They ask for our co-operation in turning off lights each time we leave our cabins.

We can still be comfortable in cabins that are not air-conditioned to the extreme. And the food we waste needs to be processed somehow.

Cruising continues to be the growth industry. We need to take personal responsibility while keeping pressure on cruise lines to keep improving their systems, as well.

By doing so, we can create a genuinely sustainable tourism product for the future.

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