Eco-Exploration – Responsible Tourism on Greek Island Ferries

The emerald and cobalt seas of Greece house a stunning array of marine life. But if you choose to take a dolphin or whale-watching tour, make sure your chosen operator follows responsible guidelines.

Greece’s dazzling islands are increasingly trailblazers in sustainability. Ferry lines like Hellenic Seaways offer greener engines, fuel monitoring systems and route optimization.

Energy Efficiency

Despite the financial crisis, Greek island destinations still depend heavily on tourism for their livelihoods. However, income from visitors brings its own set of problems such as overtourism in popular sites like Santorini. Cruise ships disgorge tens of thousands of passengers per day, causing infrastructure stress and disrupting wildlife habitats. Barbecue smoke and carelessly discarded cigarettes can start fires that evacuate villages or destroy biodiverse woodland.

To address these challenges, ferry companies are making a concerted effort to reduce their environmental footprint. Both Superfast Ferries and Blue Star Ferries are members of HELMEPA, the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association, which means that their fleets are subject to strict quality certification procedures. They are also continuously investing in environmentally friendly technology to cut energy consumption and emissions.

Additionally, they encourage the use of climate-friendly transportation methods such as trains and electric vehicles for short distances and offer carbon offset programs for long-haul flights. They are also promoting eco-friendly islands as travel destinations, such as Hydra in the Saronic Gulf, Kos in the Dodecanese, and Kosta in the Sporades.

Lastly, they are planning to build the first fully electric Ro-Pax ferry in Greece. It will recharge in Piraeus, and its initial design by C-Job Naval Architects will include state-of-the-art energy-saving solutions and top-of-the-line interior designs for passengers.

Water Efficiency

Greek island ferries are undergoing a major upgrade and their fleets have gotten faster and cleaner. As a result, they are able to run on less fuel and emit fewer emissions. This has been good news for the environment and the islands’ residents alike, who have enjoyed better water quality and fewer sea pollution-related issues.

But it’s not all good news for Greece: the ferries are also more expensive to run than their older counterparts, so ticket prices tend to be higher and finding schedules months in advance can be challenging. Still, if you’re looking to make a greener choice, there are many ways to go about it.

For one, the small island of Sikinos has teamed up with local associations to promote the use of reusable straws instead of disposable plastic ones. Similarly, the island of Donousa has made significant efforts to reduce plastic waste by collaborating with the SeaChange Greek Islands initiative.

Another way to reduce your environmental footprint while visiting the Greek islands is to avoid crowds by traveling out of high season. It might require a bit longer ferry ride, but the benefits are clear: far fewer people around, pristine natural settings and a sense of discovery.

Waste Disposal

Despite being one of the most important industries for Greece, tourism is also a major source of pollution. During peak season, cruise ships disgorge tens of thousands of tourists per day – far more than the residents of some islands. Plastic bottles, discarded cigarette butts and barbecue leftovers degrade the whitewashed villages, Venetian castles and pebbly beaches that visitors come to see.

Fortunately, Greece has taken action to combat this issue. The government is implementing policies that encourage slow travel, authentic cultural experiences and low food mileage, while limiting the number of tourist beds on popular islands.

Ferries are also a crucial element of this plan. They transport the bulk of trade around the world, yet are responsible for only 2% of marine oil spillage and a tiny fraction of carbon dioxide emissions. Additionally, ferries generate far less waste than airplanes.

In addition to reducing energy consumption, ferries make constant efforts to protect the environment. Blue Star Ferries and Superfast Ferries are active members of HELMEPA, the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association, and both companies minimize the use of disposable food and retail packaging on board. They also employ a Staff Captain and Environmental Engineer on each ship, and conduct regular environmental inspections.

If you’re ready to support Greece’s efforts to manage tourism responsibly, consider visiting lesser-known islands and mainland destinations. Traveling outside the summer high season will help spread visitor numbers, and reduce strain on overstretched infrastructure.

Environmental Education

While the three pillars of sun, sea and sand remain a strong draw for many tourists to Greece, sustainability has become a growing concern for island communities. Local residents are taking steps to preserve natural wonders that have become their heritage – from the emerald waters that accommodate a vibrant marine landscape and dozens of shipwrecks to the clifftop fortresses that influenced Byron’s poetry.

Some of the most important conservation efforts are led by individuals, who have a vested interest in protecting their home and have the power to influence others. They’re working to plant trees, observe wildlife without disturbing their natural habitats and maintain traditional ways of life while embracing modern amenities like solar energy and water conservation.

On the larger scale, Greek ferry lines are promoting sustainability through the use of renewable energy and waste management systems on their state-of-the-art ships. For example, MINOAN LINES is an active member of HELMEPA (Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association), a non-governmental organization aimed at safeguarding the marine ecosystem.

Travelers are also urged to participate in eco-friendly activities that minimize their impact on the environment. This could include taking a guided tour that helps to support dolphin and whale research or hiking and walking through nature to appreciate its serene beauty from a respectful distance. It can also mean purchasing locally run accommodation and restaurants, or choosing a tour that supports sustainable fishing or hunting practices.