Mindful Growth: Part 2: Progress On Plastic & Preserving A Precious Environment

by Vanessa Lee

Vanessa in Luxembourg on Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways on a quiet river spot

Reducing plastics on Avalon Waterways

Water filling station on Avalon Waterways Mekong ships. Europe ships have similar stations and are expecting to add more


Vanessa Lee recently interviewed senior executives and decision makers from four of North American’s leading river cruise brands and shared her findings with Open Jaw. The interviewees were:

Ellen Bettridge, President and CEO  Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Lisa McCaskill, Vice President Sales and Marketing, Canada -  Scenic Luxury Cruises

Pam Hoffee, Avalon Waterways Managing Director

Rudi Schreiner – AmaWaterways Co-Founder and CEO

The discussion focused on their approach to a maturing cruise market on European waterways and tackled issues including the growing capacity and number of ships, sustainability, docking challenges, new ports and more. The story will be presented in two parts in the coming days. 

Click to read Part 1:

Part 2: Progress On Plastic & Preserving A Precious Environment

A logical follow-on from the points raised in Part One of this story, about taking a sensible and mindful approach to industry growth, is each brand’s efforts and plans regarding sustainability and protection of the rivers. 

There’s significant oversight in Europe with a strict environmental protection code determined by river authorities – and Schreiner says this is always top of mind for him and the other brands. 

“These authorities have developed detailed river basin management plans that oversee and monitor all economic activity related to the rivers (industrial, agricultural, commercial and recreational) including regular testing of the water quality around all ships. 

“To minimize our fleet’s carbon footprint, our modern cruise ships have far more fuel-efficient engines to power the vessels, LED lighting onboard and insulated windows that reduce heating and cooling energy needs. All our ships are equipped with power locks to plug into a port’s power supply instead of running generators. This significantly reduces fuel consumption and noise levels while in port. Our ships have water treatment plants onboard using a membrane technology which provides microfiltration and recycling of all water used onboard.”

Sustainability Is Not A Trend, It’s An Imperative

Bettridge of Uniworld concurs that sustainability is a key issue and always will be.

“We have been leading the way in sustainability for river cruising since 2013 with the launch of our ‘Environmental Sustainability for River Cruising Guide,’ made in partnership with The Travel Foundation and The TreadRight Foundation, our sustainability partner working to #MakeTravelMatter by safeguarding the people, planet and wildlife for generations to come. 

“Uniworld first introduced a clean water program to preserve the world’s rivers and waterways over a decade ago and it’s important for us to raise awareness of the importance of clean rivers.” She further states, “We’re committed to enhancing and protecting communities where our ships visit through diverse initiatives such as fully eliminating single-use plastics throughout all Uniworld ships by 2022; partnering with ‘One Tree Planted’ to plant one tree for every guest who ops for e-docs instead of paper documents; requiring our ships to be built sustainably with special paint, energy-efficient lighting, water cooled air-conditioning and more.”

Schreiner adds: “In 2018, we replaced plastic straws with paper ones across the fleet and on AmaMagna and AmaMora we are testing glass water bottles in the staterooms and Tetra-pak water containers for excursions. We take our responsibility to reduce single use plastics that end up polluting our oceans and waterways very seriously and so do our guests. We all need to step up and play our part in preserving our natural resources.”

At Scenic Luxury Cruises sustainability is also a priority, and McCaskill comments: “We are all working collaboratively both on the rivers and in each and every market office on what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint including the installation of still and sparkling water stations for guests wishing to use reusable bottles and the use of paper straws.”

Uniworld, as part of The Travel Corporation, is a leader in sustainability efforts throughout its brands, and Bettridge comments: “We already reduced plastic waste by 27,374 kg in the last year by removing all plastic straws, water bottles and related plastics from all ships in the Uniworld and U River Cruises line. Also, the onboard laundry service is completely plastic free with reusable fabric laundry bags and return of washed laundry to guests in wicker baskets. We will continue to evaluate each plastic item used onboard in order to implement alternatives and ultimately become completely plastic free.”

Fostering A Sustainability Culture

When asked for perspective on sustainability on her river line’s progress in this arena, Pam Hoffee remarks: “It is up to Avalon Waterways – and other river cruise companies – to preserve this precious environment around us limit our impact. As a result, we have taken great strides to improve monitoring and measurement to reduce our environmental impact, to save water, to limit waste and to foster a sustainability culture among our crew and guests. 

Our goal, by 2020, is to eliminate single-use plastics fleetwide. We are already moving in that direction by: using wooden stirrers, replacing plastic straws with 100% biodegradable starch-based straws, replacing plastic lids on to-go cups with compostable lids, replacing plastic gloves used by waiters when setting the tables with washable fabric gloves and using biodegradable packing in brochure fulfillment, worldwide.  We are also beginning to introduce water stations onboard (to be completed by 2020).  

In addition, Avalon Waterways just announced a partnership with The Ocean Cleanup. As part of this partnership, when our guests choose e-documents over printed ones – eliminating paper and plastic use and waste – the Globus family will donate funds to The Ocean Cleanup to aid in their unprecedented efforts to clean-up the world’s oceans.”

No matter the challenges of growth, finding new ports and keeping a close eye on sustainability issues, these brands and others on the European rivers are operating successfully with a key ingredient of happy guests who plan to return.  

Vanessa Lee

Vanessa Lee Columnist

An internationally-known luxury cruise expert, Vanessa is publisher and editor of Cruise and Travel Lifestyles magazine. She appears with Nina on the bi-monthly video Cruise Factor.

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