By Matt Leedham @worldofleedham05 Jun 2018Officially, World Environment Day happens on the 5th of June every year, and is ‘the United Nation’s principal vehicle and celebration for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of our environment.’ While today and other notable dates such as Earth Hour (24th March) offer an opportunity to raise awareness of our planet’s environmental plight, it’s the other three hundred odd or so other days of each year that are the ones where we can all make a positive difference. This year’s World Environment Day focusses on the theme of beating plastic pollution and particularly ‘Single-use plastics’. The good news is that in 2018 this topic feels more relevant than its ever been for the travel industry. What are single-use plastics? There’s nothing artistic about this By definition, ‘Single-use plastics’ are the plastic bottles, straws, bags and takeaway containers that we use just for a few minutes, yet are made of a material that is designed to last forever. Americans for example, throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year and it’s estimated that 50 percent of the plastic we use gets used just once and then thrown away. And the result? Experts say one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans. Did you hear the one last week about the whale in Southern Thailand that ate 80 plastic bags? It didn’t end well. If we continue on our current devastating trajectory, it’s suggested that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. All of these stories and statistics are utterly depressing. So what is the travel industry doing about it? Pic: Greenpeace The positive change is that over the last year, or so, we’ve seen a groundswell of travel business’ create ‘zero single-use plastic’ initiatives to take the first step in reducing the strength of their footprint. From Royal Caribbean to Trafalgar, Buffalo Tours and Intrepid, single-use plastics are now being phased out of company offerings and being replaced with more recyclable materials which are suitable for everybody. The hope is that more and more brands follow suit to kick-start a revolution of change. And when it comes to booking travel, the bottom line is this – travellers are now searching out companies with responsible values to book with. When the 2018 Luxe Report surveyed its travel advisors on ‘sustainability’ as a factor when booking travel, the results showed more significant demand for it than ever before. And guess who is leading the charge? Millennials. The Plastic-free whale created by Greenpeace in the Philippines Take a bow Millennials because Virtuoso revealed that your generation is three times more likely than second-place Generation X to seek out and support travel companies committed to sustainable tourism. Baby Boomers followed next, with Generation Z close behind. As a combined group, Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z are the travelling wave of the future, and Virtuoso advisors say they represent over 80% of those most likely to book travel that benefits local people and helps protect the planet. “Sustainable tourism represents a transformative movement, and our goal remains to support our travel partners in their best practices, from saving endangered species to supporting community development projects around the world.” Virtuoso Sustainability Ambassador Jessica Hall Upchurch. How can you play your part? Attend a beach clean up like this one in Hawaii. Let’s get real here. The growing plastic free movement is not about getting rid of all the plastic in your life, as that would be impossible for most of us. Instead, it is about trying to break our reliance on new items that contain plastic or are packaged in plastic, particularly these single-use throwaway plastics. Some simple tips to follow at home or on your travels include; – Choosing to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. Cloth bags and metal or reusable glass bottles are available locally at affordable prices. – Refuse single-use packaging, excess packaging, straws and other ‘disposable’ plastics. Try carrying reusable utensils in your bag, backpack or car to use on the go. – Reducing everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons by replacing them with a reusable lunch bag/box that includes a thermos. – Taking your ‘Keep Cup’ or re-useable drink bottle with you to the coffee shop, smoothie shop or on your travels, which is a great way to reduce lids, plastic cups, and plastic-lined cups. – Going digital! There’s no need for plastic CDs, DVDs and jewel cases anymore when you can buy your music and videos online. – Volunteer at a beach cleanup. There’ll likely be one near you if you live close to the beach and if not – why not start one?! – Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends and clients about why it is essential to reduce plastic in our lives and the nasty impacts of plastic pollution. Check out our World Environment Day story for more tips on how to travel more responsibly. Still think you don’t need to care? Bali’s looking good… NOT. Sure, you can sit back and say “That’s not my problem”. But I’m guessing you probably chose to work in the travel industry because you wanted to see the world, experience its wonders first hand and then share that knowledge and passion with others? The challenge now is that as you’ve read, those places and environments we (and our clients) all want to visit are under serious threat of being destroyed by a lack of education and care for the beings that inhabit them. None of this currently is sustainable. The way we’re going, you’ll have nothing left to sell nor visit. Our opportunity as members of the travel community is to become the change makers and the passionate ones that do provide the education and inspiration to ‘Travel to change the world.’ So start small, integrate into your way of life and gently influence others along the way. It’s the only way to travel. READ: SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL: 6 small yet important changes to make on your next trip READ: GREEN TRAVEL: More travellers are supporting sustainable tourism Are you celebrating World Environment Day? Share your thoughts below. Other stories you may like TRAVEL TO AFRICA: Trafalgar dedicates a full programme to the continent INTO THE UNKNOWN: Intrepid launches a new mystery expedition Chimu and KARRYON present the Revolution Roadshow. Are you ready to join the travel revolution?