A Legacy of Sustainability in the San Francisco Bay

Red and White Fleet’s long-standing commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly practices runs deep and permeates all aspects of our business. You can see our commitment to keeping the Bay healthy through everyday practices like implementing green purchasing policies, all the way to major fleet decisions, such as building cleaner, more efficient cruise ships. When you choose to cruise with the Red and White Fleet, you’re choosing a company committed to protecting and conserving the San Francisco Bay where we live and work.

History and Length of Red and White Fleet’s Commitment

Red and White Fleet has had a long history of environmental commitment in its operations from general eco-friendly business practices such as green purchasing policies to industry-leading efforts in alternative fuels.

We are a member of the Passenger Vessel Association GreenWaters Program, having implemented many conservation practices throughout our organization from meeting San Francisco’s 100% separation of trash into compost, recyclable materials, and waste to energy, water, paper and other material reduction audits and practices.

Our proactive approach to protecting the fragile Bay ecosystem sets us apart as a leader in the area. We’re making industry-leading efforts in the area of alternative fuels. We continue to seek and implement practices to reduce the amount of energy, water, paper and other consumable products we use as part of our daily operation.

More Sustainable Cruise Ships Through Continuing Innovation

We continually improve the sustainability of our ships years ahead of state regulations. Our research on alternative fuels helps to protect not only the Bay area, but it also helps change the way vessels operate throughout the region. Our hydrogen fuel cell research is one such example.

In the year 2000, the Red and White Fleet received a grant from the Maritime Administration to conduct a feasibility study on converting our existing fleet of steel mono-hull, 350 to 600 passenger vessels to CNG, as our engines had the capacity for dual fuel operation. We followed that initiative with other in-tank alternative fuels, operating for a time on an emulsified diesel fuel designed to reduce NOx emissions and then later running on B20 and B10 from 2008 to 2013.

Years ahead of regulatory compliance dates, we converted all the engines on our vessels to Tier II and Tier III. Since 2014, we have worked closely with Sandia National Laboratories and numerous other partners, with grant funding from the Maritime Administration, on bringing hydrogen fuel cell propulsion into the marine industry.

In September 2016, Sandia National Laboratories published the findings of the study showing both technical and regulatory feasibility of building a 35-knot 150-passenger fast ferry. Today, the team is continuing our efforts by optimizing the vessel to find the best vessel type and operating profile.

Once finished, we intend to use that information to bring the first hydrogen fuel cell powered vessel into service in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lithium Ion Hybrid to Propel a 60% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases

Red and White Fleet is currently building a 600-passenger lithium ion battery hybrid vessel, which will bring 20% fuel efficiencies over our conventional diesel engine propulsion systems. Named Enhydra, the vessel will be delivered in Spring of 2018. We are also working with our fuel suppliers on sourcing and delivering renewable diesel (made from in-cycle carbon sources but processed differently than biodiesel and meeting ASTM 975) which offers a 60% reduction in greenhouse gases as well as reductions in PM and NOx.

We take deep pride in bringing visitors onto San Francisco Bay to experience the natural beauty of our area –from iconic bridges, islands, and architecture to whales, mountains, and the Pacific Ocean– and we do this with great commitment to the stewardship of the environment that makes our home and mission so unique.

Timeline of Environmental Protection Efforts in San Francisco Bay

Development and pollution have been a threat to the San Francisco Bay area for decades. In 1961, three women, Catherine Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin and Ester Gulick, started a movement toward conservation efforts in the Bay when they formed a group called the Save San Francisco Bay Association, now known as Save the Bay. The group pushed for the 1965 McAteer Petris Act, which aimed to regulate filling the Bay to protect natural areas and control development. These women were instrumental in the environmental sustainability movement in San Francisco.

They also supported the development of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), the first coastal zone management agency in the U.S. As part of the McAteer Petris Act, the BCDC became a temporary state agency. A major responsibility of the organization was to create the San Francisco Bay Plan, which established policies related to industry, airports, recreation, ports and wildlife refuges in the Bay in an effort to protect the area. This plan undergoes regular updates to address the current needs and issues of the Bay as its condition changes.

In 1972, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established. It was the first U.S. urban wildlife refuge, and it helped set the tone for an environmental sustainability movement in San Francisco.

The 1970s also brought about several tidal restoration projects in the Bay area. Many of the areas previously established as industrial salt ponds were returned to tidal wetlands and important habitats to support Bay life. These restoration projects continue today, as the Bay still needs help to create a healthy, sustainable wetland ecosystem.

The primary methods of achieving a healthier Bay include halting additional development, improving the quality of the water and restoring tidal marsh areas. These steps will help to keep the water and shorelines clean and healthy, so people can enjoy the area and wildlife can thrive.

The BCDC supports the efforts of improving the Bay’s health by acting as a single organization that looks at the Bay as a whole. The individual cities, districts and other entities that surround the Bay often have a narrow focus on one specific part of the Bay. The BCDC helps to coordinate efforts of those agencies and partner with the different governments to protect the best interests of the Bay.

The environmental sustainability of the Bay has improved significantly thanks to the BCDC and other groups working to protect the wetlands. Much of the Bay has been restored. The shores of the Bay now feature trails, promenades, parks, beaches and other functional and environmentally friendly elements.

Fragility of the Bay and Local Efforts to Preserve It

Estimates suggest that over the previous 150 years, about 90 percent of the tidal wetlands in the San Francisco Bay area no longer exist or have been seriously degraded, according to San Francisco Baykeeper. Development along the Bay is the primary cause of that loss of wetlands. Wetlands were diked for military, industrial and residential development and to create salt production ponds. Developers built structures along the shores of the Bay, which further affected the natural ecosystem.

The physical loss of the Bay is only one aspect of the issue. As the water became polluted and development ate up the Bay, changes began happening in the water. Many fish species that were once abundant in the area are now very rarely caught, according to the Bay Institute. A large number of Chinook salmon eggs aren’t surviving due to higher water temperatures. The bloom of toxic algae poisons many fish in the waters.

Changes in the ecosystem can drastically decrease the amount of native fish and other aquatic animals. This could lead to the extinction of some of those species. Many species in the Bay area are already endangered, including Delta smelt, steelhead trout, coho salmon and tidewater goby. The changes in fish population can also affect commercial fishing in the area.

Recent numbers of Delta smelt and longfin smelt are decreasing significantly. These fish are what scientists refer to as indicator species. When their numbers start to drop significantly, it typically means the other native species are also at risk. Losing one species of fish in the Bay ecosystem throws off the balance and can cause a decline in other species.

After decades of development and pollution, the Bay is becoming healthier than it was, thanks to the action of groups and individuals determined to preserve the ecosystem. While the wetlands are healthier, they still face significant threats, particularly from pollution, development and climate change. Some of the specific threats include agricultural runoff, industrial pollution, storm water runoff and sewage. Efforts to minimize those pollutants aim to reverse the damage already done to the Bay.

The rising sea level is another factor that makes protecting the wetlands challenging. Restoration efforts are supported naturally by sediment deposited in the Bay from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which helps build up the restored areas. Those sediment loads are decreasing, which means that natural sediment build-up isn’t happening as fast as it once did. Areas along the Bay may not have enough sediment build-up to keep up with the rising sea levels. As a result, the restored wetland areas along the Bay may eventually end up underwater.

The revised Bay Plan incorporated policies to consider the potential rise in sea level as it relates to development. Essentially, the types of developments possible on areas that could be affected by rising sea levels are limited.

The Role of Individuals and Local Companies in Protecting the Bay

Individuals and businesses also play an important role in San Francisco’s environmental sustainability movement. Every person and company has the power to support the conservation efforts and reduce pollution in the Bay. By making sustainable decisions yourself and supporting businesses that do the same, you help to protect the natural ecosystem for your own family and future generations.

What Local Residents Can Do to Contribute

Residents and visitors of the San Francisco Bay area have a direct impact on the Bay and its condition. You can make a difference with simple changes in your habits and choices.

One of the biggest threats to the Bay is trash. The trash runoff from city streets is the largest pollution source affecting the Bay, and it’s one of the easiest to fix. Plastic accounts for up to 90 percent of floating debris in the Bay. Plastic bags, in particular, are a problem in coastal areas, with as many as 1 million plastic bags polluting the Bay alone each year. They can smother the wetlands and kill animals. Plastic never biodegrades, so it’s always a problem.

Reducing trash starts with the residents of the San Francisco area. Ensure your trash is disposed of properly. Recycle as much as possible, and reduce your overall waste to minimize how much trash leaves your home. By choosing reusable products, you eliminate trash that could eventually end up in the Bay.

Another major issue that residents can help improve is cigarette litter. When people toss their cigarette butts on the ground, they often end up in the Bay, which pollutes the water with the toxic remnants. If you’re a smoker, dispose of your cigarette butts properly instead of tossing them on the ground.

Here are other ways local residents can contribute to improving the health of the Bay:

• Take the Zero Trash pledge to help reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in the water.

• Carry reusable grocery bags to replace one-use plastic bags.

• Never put anything in storm drains other than water. Even things like pesticides and fertilizers can run off your lawn and into the storm drains. Those chemicals enter local waterways, which end up in the Bay and harm the ecosystem.

• Dispose of old medication, household chemicals and other toxic materials appropriately. Never flush them down toilets or pour them down drains, as they may end up in the Bay.

• Follow regulations at all parks and natural areas around the Bay area.

• Volunteer with Save the Bay or similar organizations. These groups often use volunteers to help with restoration work and conservation efforts.

• Support local businesses like the Red and White Fleet that employ sustainable business practices.

• Clean up your community and the shores of the Bay. Organize your own cleaning day, or join an organization that hosts regular cleanups.

• Educate your neighbors, colleagues, friends and acquaintances about the importance of contributing to the cause.

• Support local agencies and groups working to clean up the Bay and restore the wetlands.

Choose Red and White Fleet as Your Environmentally Friendly Cruise Partner in San Francisco

Choosing the Red and White Fleet for your cruising needs in the San Francisco Bay area means you’re choosing a sustainable and environmentally friendly cruise partner. Whether you’re a resident looking for a relaxing way to enjoy the city or a visitor taking in the beautiful city sights, we help you do it with minimal impact on the fragile Bay ecosystem.

When you step aboard one of our eco-friendly vessels, you can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that we use B-20 biodiesel to minimize our environmental impact. The Red and White Fleet has been awarded the State of California’s WRAP award for our progressive environmental efforts for over 13 years in a row. We continually update our historic fleet with energy-efficient engines and maritime technology. By doing so, we keep guests of all ages safe and comfortable while also minimizing the impact of our operations on the ecosystem that makes up the beautiful San Francisco Bay.

Our cruise options give you the chance to explore San Francisco history and landmarks in 12 languages on our eco-friendly vessels. Our frequent departure times and efficient cruise itineraries let you fit in a sightseeing cruise around your schedule. Cruises depart from Pier 43 ½, located at the end of Taylor Street directly in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf, right behind the famous Fisherman’s Wharf sign.

Choose a cruise itinerary that fits your interests. The Golden Gate Bay Cruise is a popular option when you want a traditional Bay cruise option. For a different experience, try our Bridge 2 Bridge cruise, which is the only cruise in the area that takes guests under both of the iconic bridges in the city. If you’re looking for an amazing way to view the San Francisco sunset, hop on our California Sunset cruise featuring appetizers, live music and a casual, relaxed environment.

We invite you to share this article, so others can learn about our commitment to sustainable cruising in the San Francisco Bay. You are welcome to explore all our cruise and charter options on our environmentally friendly cruise ships.