National Geographic Launches ‘Planet or Plastic?’ Initiative to Reduce Impact of Single-use Plastics on Our Oceans

May 17, 2018 7:15 PM ET

Every year, 9 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans and could remain in marine environments for more than 450 years. This escalating problem deserves our attention, and today National Geographic is kicking off a multiyear initiative to reduce the impact of single-use plastics on our oceans. The comprehensive plan of action called “Planet or Plastic?” launches today and is tied to the June issue of National Geographic magazine, which is available online now and will hit newsstands on May 29.

By launching its “Planet or Plastic?” initiative, National Geographic is leveraging its prowess in storytelling and science to tackle the planet’s plastic crisis. The organization-wide endeavor includes these main components:

  • “Planet or Plastic?” pledge: National Geographic will ask its global audience to join together in a commitment to reduce their use of single-use plastic. Informative content, consumer engagement activities and events will be rolled out in the months and years to come.
  • Scientific research and documentation: The nonprofit organization National Geographic Society will start an expedition in 2019 to study the type and flow of plastic in a river system. Science-based, actionable findings will be shared with local and national governments, NGOs, businesses and the public to help them invest in and implement innovative solutions. The Society also has a “Reducing Marine Plastic Pollution” request for proposal (RFP).
  • Social takeover: For the next three days, National Geographic will “pollute” its popular Instagram feed (@natgeo) with photos and stories showing the global plastic-waste crisis and the impact of pollution on the natural world. Photographer Randy Olson’s photos will be featured today; actress and singer Zooey Deschanel will curate @natgeo on May 17; and National Geographic’s photographers will post their own photos on May 18.
  • Collaboration with Sky: Last month, Sky and National Geographic announced a collaboration to eradicate plastic litter in the world’s oceans. As part of the announcement, National Geographic committed $10 million to support Sky Ocean Venture.
  • Corporate partnerships: National Geographic will partner with like-minded corporations and organizations committed to raising awareness about the ocean plastic issue and finding solutions. North Face and S’well are already working with National Geographic on initiatives.
  • Internal commitments: National Geographic will take steps to reduce its single-use plastic consumption. Starting with its June issue, it will begin wrapping its magazines in paper instead of plastic for subscribers in the U.S., the U.K. and India. This will save more than 2.5 million single-use plastic bags each month. National Geographic will also start a third-party audit to help develop a plan to further reduce its reliance 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.”

Read about the plastic crisis in National Geographic magazine’s June issue, and join the conversation on social media via #planetorplastic.

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