National Geographic Launches Planet or Plastic?, a Multiyear Initiative to Reduce Single-Use Plastics and Their Impact on the World’s Oceans

As the amount of single-use plastic in the world’s oceans continues to grow, National Geographic is announcing a new, global commitment to tackle this pressing problem. Today, National Geographic is launching Planet or Plastic?, a multiyear initiative aimed at raising awareness of this challenge and reducing the amount of single-use plastic that enters in the world’s oceans. Doing so will not only benefit the thousands to potentially millions of marine animals that become entangled in, suffocated by, or ingest plastic each year, but will also contribute to the overall health of the planet’s marine ecosystems and all who rely upon them.

As a global brand with a rich history of scientific discovery and exploration, National Geographic is uniquely positioned to tackle this crisis in a way that only National Geographic can — through storytelling and science. The Planet or Plastic? initiative will leverage the power of National Geographic’s media portfolio around the world and the expertise of National Geographic’s explorers and scientists who are witnessing firsthand the devastating impacts of this crisis. This organization-wide effort will include a major research and scientific initiative; a consumer education and engagement campaign; updated internal corporate sustainability commitments; and innovative partnerships with like-minded corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all over the world.

Today’s launch is tied to the release of the June issue of National Geographic magazine, which takes an in-depth look at the role single-use plastic plays in our society and the impact they are having on our environment. Starting with this issue, National Geographic announced that it will begin wrapping the U.S., U.K. and India subscriber editions of the magazine in paper instead of plastic, with the goal of wrapping all global editions in paper by the end of 2019. The June issue is available online at natgeo.com/planetorplastic on May 16 and on print newsstands on May 29.

Each year, 9 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean. Some estimates suggest this plastic could remain in marine environments for 450 years or longer, and the problem is only getting worse. Addressing a challenge of this magnitude requires an unprecedented approach. In concert with the release of the June magazine, the Planet or Plastic? initiative will also kick off with the following:

  • PLANET OR PLASTIC? PLEDGE: Starting today, National Geographic will ask audiences around the world to take the Planet or Plastic? pledge, a commitment to reduce their use of single-use plastic. By taking the pledge, individuals will become part of a global community working together to stem the tide of single-use plastic polluting the ocean and will continue to receive information and tips to help them in their efforts. The pledge marks the beginning of a comprehensive consumer awareness and engagement campaign that National Geographic will execute across its multiple platforms in the months and years to come. Elements of this campaign will range from inspiring and informative content, ongoing consumer engagement activities, events and more.
  • SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND DOCUMENTATION: The nonprofit National Geographic Society will embark on a journey to better document how plastic travels from source to sea and to fill critical knowledge gaps. Starting with an initial expedition in 2019 to study the type and flow of plastic in a river system, National Geographic will provide science-based, actionable information to help local and national governments, NGOs, businesses and the public more effectively invest in and implement innovative solutions. The Society is also sourcing solutions to the challenge of plastic waste through an existing Reducing Marine Plastic Pollution Request for Proposal (RFP).
  • THREE-DAY SOCIAL TAKEOVER: As the No. 1 social media brand, National Geographic will use the power and reach of its platforms to educate people about the impact of single-use plastic and to encourage them to take the pledge. As the campaign kicks off today, National Geographic will be “polluting” its Instagram feed, @natgeo, with devastating photos and video of ocean plastic pollution taken by Randy Olson, a photographer whose work is featured in the June issue of the magazine. A three-day Instagram story will feature dramatic photos of plastic pollution that will be animated to highlight the true impact of humanity’s pollution of the natural world. On Thursday, May 17, actress and singer Zooey Deschanel (“New Girl,” She and Him) will curate National Geographic’s Instagram account, posting photos of the plastic crisis. On Friday, May 18, Kathryn Kellogg, a writer and public speaker who lives a “zero-waste” lifestyle and focuses on the dangers of plastic pollution, will host a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) about small, actionable eco-friendly steps that people can take in their everyday lives. Kellogg, who is featured in the June issue of National Geographic, has fit all of the trash that she has generated at home in the last two years into a 16-ounce jar.
  • SKY COLLABORATION: Sky Media and National Geographic are to joining forces in the fight to eradicate the destructive impact of plastic litter in the world’s oceans. National Geographic has committed $10 million to support the activities of Sky Ocean Ventures, an initiative launched by Sky Media to seek out investment opportunities in businesses that can help solve the ocean plastic crisis. Bringing to bear National Geographic’s scientific expertise, grants and media reach, the collaboration will identify and champion projects and groundbreaking technologies designed to reduce plastic waste and its impact on oceans. It will also support a series of events with industry leaders, corporations, institutions and foundations, engaging them around the issue of marine plastic pollution. Collectively, this new collaboration will create the largest global media campaign to date to reduce plastic litter in the ocean.
  • CORPORATE PARTNERSHIPS: National Geographic will seek out and partner with a number of like-minded corporations and organizations that are committed to raising awareness about the enormity of the ocean plastic issue as well as to finding solutions. For example, the North Face is partnering with National Geographic to introduce a limited Bottle Source Collection, featuring shirts made from recycled plastic bottles diverted from National Park waste streams. The shirts will be available for purchase at TheNorthFace.com on May 23. S’well and National Geographic will unveil an assortment of co-branded bottles available for purchase beginning in June 2018.
  • INTERNAL COMMITMENT: Finally, National Geographic will be taking steps to reduce its own reliance on single-use plastics. Starting with the June issue and moving forward, those who subscribe to the U.S., U.K. and India editions of National Geographic magazine will receive their issues wrapped in paper instead of plastic. This change will save more than 2.5 million single-use plastic bags every month. By the end of 2019, all global editions will be wrapped in paper instead of plastic. This is just one of many steps National Geographic is taking to reduce its own single-use plastic consumption. Over the next month, National Geographic will initiate a third-party audit of its single-use plastic use and will develop a timeline and action plan to further minimize single-use plastics in the workplace.

“For 130 years, National Geographic has documented the stories of our planet, providing audiences around the world with a window into the earth’s breathtaking beauty as well as to the threats it faces,” said Gary E. Knell, CEO of National Geographic Partners. “Each and every day, our explorers, researchers and photographers in the field witness firsthand the devastating impact of single-use plastic on our oceans, and the situation is becoming increasingly dire. Through the Planet or Plastic? initiative, we will share the stories of this growing crisis, work to address it through the latest science and research, and educate audiences around the world about how to eliminate single-use plastics and prevent them from making their way into our oceans.”

Added Jonathan Baillie, the National Geographic Society’s chief scientist and senior vice president, science and exploration: “By harnessing National Geographic’s scientific expertise, we intend to pinpoint activities on land, particularly near rivers, that contribute to the flow of plastics polluting our oceans — and then use what we learn to inspire change at home and around the world. A crisis of this enormity requires solutions at scale, and National Geographic is uniquely qualified to amass the best in research, technology, education and storytelling to effect meaningful change.”

The efforts announced today are just the beginning of this multiyear initiative. Next month, National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey in New York City’s Times Square, an entertaining and immersive adventure across the ocean from the South Pacific to the coast of California, will highlight this initiative during World Oceans Day on June 8. National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle will also be in New York City for the festivities to raise awareness about the damaging impact of plastic pollution in our world’s fragile oceans. On June 15, National Geographic will host a “Party for the Planet” as part of its annual Explorers Festival in Washington, D.C., a night dedicated to the elimination of single-use plastic.

Get the latest updates on Planet or Plastic? HERE and join the conversation on social via #planetorplastic.

Useful Links:

  • Read more about plastic in the June issue of National Geographic magazine HERE.
  • Take the pledge HERE.
  • Access media opportunities and a summary of magazine content HERE.
  • View the media tool kit HERE.
  • Learn more about the science and exploration efforts aimed at reducing single-use plastic HERE.

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