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Aug 032009

By Harriet Blake
Green Right Now

“Don’t let the vacation ruin the destination.”

These words of wisdom hail from environmentalists who have legitimate concerns about ocean pollution due to cruise ship dumping.

Cruise ship vacations have gained in popularity in the last decade, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which states that the industry has grown nearly twice as fast as any other means of travel during that time frame. And, at the same time, the average ship size has been growing at about 90 feet every five years. Ships used to average about 3,000 passengers, but today some carry as many as 8,000.

So with larger ships carrying more passengers, there is mounting concern about how this growth will affect the ocean’s marine life and water quality.

Recently the World Wildlife Federation’s Baltic Sea chapter recommended that area ports upgrade their facilities to cope with contamination from cruise ship sewage. The WWF said that Baltic-area ports are not keeping their facilities up-to-date in terms of disposing of cruise ship waste and suggested that the money being made by cruise ship tourism be spent upgrading the facilities, according to a report in the Environmental News Service.

“We find it unfair that so many ports are profiting from cruise line tourism but are not prepared to take care of their waste,” said Pauli Merriman, director of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Progamme, in the ENS report.

In one week, a single average size cruise ship can generate about 200,000 gallons of sewage as well as 1 million gallons of gray water (the runoff from showers and kitchens), says Friends of the Earth Clean Vessels Campaign director Marcie Keever.

“That amounts to about 50 swimming pools-worth of polluted water,” she says.

Cleaning up pollution from cruise ships uses technology that separates the solids from the liquids and uses reverse osmosis to get rid of the pollutants. The solids get incinerated with the ashes either being dumped on land or at sea beyond 3 to 12 nautical miles. On land, the human manure can be recycled as nutrients for soil.

In the U.S., says Keever, there are no regulations for dumping sewage from vessels beyond three nautical miles from shore. Beyond three miles, cruise ships are allowed to dump raw, partially treated, or treated sewage.

As for port-side dumping, she says, “the dumping of treated sewage (using 30-year old-technology) is allowed in many ports except for states that have created no-discharge areas or agreements…. California is one of the places with anti-dumping laws, as are Alaska and Maine. Washington and Florida have voluntary agreements with the cruise industry but those agreements don’t go any further that U.S. federal requirements in most cases.”

Mar 092009

When planning a road trip, consider taking the bus instead. We all know that taking mass transit lowers your carbon imprint. So sit back and relax and let the driver worry about rush hour traffic, while you know you are helping the environment. Greyhound is the largest inter-city bus service with 2,400 stations in North America.

– Laura May

Sep 172008

By Clint Williams

Set atop a ridge overlooking the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains, the Len Foote Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls State Park in north Georgia offers a sweeping view of the foothills, the lights of the old gold-rush town of Dahlonega and distant peaks to the east. The 20-room lodge, celebrating its 10th anniversary in October, also offers a close-up view of how thoughtful design and day-to-day diligence combine for low-impact living.

The Hike Inn was built for those who love the outdoors, but aren’t so crazy about sleeping on the ground. Guests arrive on foot, hiking a five-mile trail that takes you through a deeply shaded forest of oak and pine, tulip poplar and maple; through tunnels of rhododendron and patches of pungent galax, a broadleaf evergreen groundcover. Your steps will be lighter, though, knowing that a hot shower and hot meal are waiting for a you at the end of the trail.

The inn, named for the naturalist who inspired the Mark Trail newspaper comic strip, was designed to provide accommodations “somewhere between a tent and a Holiday Inn,” says architect Garland Reynolds of nearby Gainesville, Ga.

Traditional Japanese inns inspire the steeply pitched roofs and deep eaves, Reynolds says. And there are practical concerns: the eaves provide shelter from rain and snow as you move from the bunkhouse to the bathhouse to the mess hall and on to the Sunrise Room, the social center of the inn where guests gather around a wood stove, reading, chatting or playing one another in a collection of board games. The covered deck off the Sunrise Room (pictured above) is the place to stand, coffee cup in hand, to welcome the crimson streaks of daybreak. Continue reading »

Aug 272008

By John DeFore

The changing schedules of fall foliage may be a headache for nature lovers who time their forest vacations to maximize viewing of autumnal reds and oranges. But they could be good for the environment those travelers set out to enjoy.

According to a new article in the journal Global Change Biology, a team led by Michigan Tech forestry professor David F. Karnosky has established that increased levels of atmospheric CO2 “act directly to delay the usual autumn spectacle of changing colors and falling leaves in northern hardwood forests.” Continue reading »