I recently returned from a week-long trip aboard the MSC Poescia, as staff for the music festival Jam Cruise, managed by Cloud 9 Adventures. This was my fourth year on the boat, where my duties include administration of the “Conscious Cruiser” program and Volunteer Management under the nonprofit arm of Cloud 9, called Positive Legacy.
While clearly cruise ships are far from being ecologically beneficial, I continue to be impressed by what Positive Legacy has been able to accomplish in both the social responsibility and environmental awareness arenas. Despite restrictive regulations, the team was able to bring back PLA cups for composting, as well as recycling glass, plastic, aluminum, and for the first time, corrugated cardboard in the Ft. Lauderdale area. The rest of the waste goes to Broward County’s Waste-to-Energy plant (with the exception of food waste, which is discarded at sea).
Social impacts at ports is another issue altogether, and the Positive Legacy team focuses many of its resources on the needs of local populations. All of Cloud 9’s events include some type of social outreach, meaningful carbon offsetting for both the ship and its patrons, and needed donations. In Haiti, the team worked with a local organization and cruise patrons in an interesting intersection between packaging and local issues: 10,000 orange seeds were planted in plastic bottles that were fished out of local waterways. There was great enthusiasm for this endeavor, as one can see in the pictures.
That reminded me of a friend’s picture from Guatemala, where building walls are constructed using plastic bottles filled with other discarded packaging (see picture). There has also been an interesting set of videos circulating, where plastic bottles were used in areas with limited electricity to bring light into homes. The author refers to the interesting term “instinctive design,” which, she notes, is not always the best solution but often the most realistic.
I am torn with these uses and the implications. On the one hand, cruise ships will continue to exist and not all bottles get recycled, so why not continue to seek out ingenious ways to give back and help local resources? On the other hand, clearly cruise ships need to make improvements in many areas, including wastewater treatment, and recycling infrastructures are sorely needed in the types of communities cruise ships visit. The work of Positive Legacy and many organizations like it should not be seen as the perfect solution, but a step in the right direction towards a more sustainable global future.
It is imperative that we draw upon the ingenuity of these local, instinctive designers to help eliminate wasteful practices and litter towards developing sustainable materials management solutions.