environmentally-friendly way to travel

Why Taking a Boat Is An Environmentally-Friendly Way To Travel

Environmentally-friendly way to travel

Photo Credit:: Anna_Om via iStockphoto

With the effects of climate change becoming ever more apparent, it is not surprising many people are looking for more environmentally-friendly ways to travel so they can minimize their own carbon footprint. Taking personal responsibility and doing what you can to make a difference is an important step, even if it means giving up or modifying things 

One of the most efficient ways to do this is to avoid flying as much as possible. Climate activist Greta Thunberg famously does all of her overseas trips by boat where possible. So perhaps this can be taken as a good example for those who are looking to make an impact and live a greener life.

But why is taking a boat an environmentally-friendly way to travel – and is this something we should expect to do long-term?

Flying Is Extremely Bad for the Environment

Part of what makes traveling by boat such an environmentally-friendly way to travel is the terrible alternative, which is flying. In fact, taking just one long-haul flight means you are responsible for more CO2 emissions than a whole year in the life of someone in some developing countries

Even a fairly short flight such as London to Rome produces 234kg of CO2 per passenger. This is a higher yearly emission than the average citizen in 17 countries across the world. Flying is absolutely disastrous for the environment and so, if you want to make a difference, reducing the number of flights you take is critical. 

Boats Are Closely Monitored

It is important to realize, part of the reason travel by sea is better for the environment is the fact this form of travel is highly regulated from an environmental perspective. Increasingly, governments around the world are bringing in regulations through legislation to restrict emissions from boats. In the US, this was updated last year

Many ships utilize oily water monitoring services not only to give peace of mind the vessel is running in the best possible condition, but to also ensure that unnecessary spillage of oil is not occurring

The Type of Boat Is Crucial

At the moment, we have spoken in fairly general terms about boats and planes, but it is worth noting it is not quite as simple as saying any boat-based travel is better for the environment than flying. In fact, a study recently revealed passengers on luxury cruise ships have a far worse rate of emissions.

Of course, a sailing boat or one using a combination of wind power and an engine can offer significantly lower emission rates than flying. I mean if the cargo shipping industry is looking to help minimize their pollution through the use of sail-powered cargo ships, no reason travelers can’t do the same. There is naturally a trade-off with time, however, as these types of boat trips do take much longer, and this should be factored in. 

Clearly it is vital for those thinking about going abroad to thoroughly research the available options with regard to emissions. Being aware of the actual amount of carbon you will be responsible for as a part of the trip can have an eye-opening effect. 

An Opportunity to Reduce

The fact boat journeys take much longer than going by plane is a big reason so many of us opt for air travel. But perhaps an important point to note is, if the holiday you want can’t be achieved without significant carbon emissions, perhaps it is a good idea to seek an alternative.

Forcing yourself to take a lengthy boat trip any time you wish to travel can put the need for holidays on a regular basis into perspective. If traveling on the water can offer us anything aside from lower carbon emissions, it is time to think. In addition, if you really want to reduce your travel-related emissions, make the boat trip itself your vacation.

Final Thoughts

Finding a balance is often the key to challenges. You may look forward to holidays abroad, but also want to reduce your carbon emissions, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is a great idea to consider taking a boat the next time you wish to go abroad. Not only will you be utilizing an environmentally-friendly way to travel and one that is better for the environment, but you may also get a broader sense of perspective. 

Remember too, traveling by boat can be extremely fun and adventurous in its own right, and you might find this becomes a great part of the holiday itself. 


  • K McKearney

    Are cruise ships not very polluting for the seas with all there waste products and engine emissions?
    What is the best affordable alternative?
    Can you recommend a great boat vacation?

    • Matej

      Data on “ourworldindata.org” indicates that a long-haul flight has 0.246 KG CO₂eq / passenger kilometer, while a ship has 0.400 KG (energymonitor.ai). The most efficient cruise ships emit an average of 0.250 KG CO₂ per passenger kilometer. It means that it is better to travel long distances by plane. BUT: if you want to travel really ecologically, you should choose a Cargo ship: 0.038 KG (my calculation from available data; statista.com)

      To ship-traveling, we can also add oil-contaminated water…and what diet you would have…

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