Plastic Free Christmas presents

Plastic-Free Christmas

Here at City to Sea, we believe in enjoying the festive season without the unnecessary excess. To make having a Plastic-Free Christmas just that little bit easier (because life’s complicated enough), here are our top tips for a Christmas that doesn’t cost the Earth.

The true cost of Christmas

For some it’s still the most wonderful time of the year…but it’s also possibly the most wasteful. In the UK, we get through a whopping 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging over the Christmas period – and that’s just for presents! When it comes to Christmas cards, we send enough that if we put them side by side, they would wrap around the world a dizzying 500 times.

Sparkly or shiny wrapping paper might look exciting, but most of the time it’s not recyclable. Every 1kg of wrapping paper is associated with 3.5kg of CO2 emissions! As a nation we use 227,000 tonnes of decorative paper every year, which amounts to as much carbon as around 250, 000 return flights from London to Australia. Try swapping wrapping paper for scarves or use brown wrapping paper and string for a greener alternative.

Plastic-Free Christmas presents

Plastic-free Gifting

While Christmas is undoubtedly a magical time for children, that magic often doesn’t make it into the New Year. Research suggested that by March, 41% of toys will be broken or kids will have become be bored of them – this means they’ll either end up in the back of a cupboard somewhere or worse, in landfill.

Swaps are an amazing thing to do all year round to reduce your waste, but especially come in handy around Christmas. Whether it’s toy swaps, clothes swaps or anything in between, you can avoid buying new and make sure you aren’t adding clutter to your house all at once. It’s simple – just bring along any unwanted items and swap them for something that you can give a new home. If you can’t find any near you, why not take it upon yourself to start your own? At work, at school or at a local community centre, spread the word and get swapping!


Give the gift of presence instead of presents

We think that being there to spend time with your family and friends is the greatest gift that you could give at Christmas, and making memories together goes a lot further than a shiny new present. In return let your loved ones know that their presence is all that you want for Christmas and that you or your kids don’t need any novelty items, gadgets, bath sets or toys under the tree this year.

Another great way to have a plastic-free Christmas is to give experience gifts instead of items, which can also be a great way of trying out something new (although avoid the high carbon race track days and flying experiences).

You could always give something back while you gift with a charity gift or donation? If that takes your fancy then consider a donation to City to Sea to help power our planet protecting campaigns!

If you still want to buy something brand new, why not go for the planet-friendly option and check out our plastic-free shop. You could encourage that stubborn family member to start their plastic-free journey with a lovely zero-waste set. If they’re still hooked on plastic drinks bottles, why not get them a stylish Chilly’s bottle? Did you know that when you buy a Chilly’s X Refill bottle, Chilly’s donate £10 towards our work here at City to Sea? It’s a gift that keeps on giving!

Plastic-Free Christmas Dinner

Plastic-free christmas Feasting

Mince pies, mulled wine and Brussel sprouts…It wouldn’t really be Christmas without all of the amazing food and drink would it? This year plate up a flavoursome feast but ditch the plastic that usually comes along with it.

Stock up on your dry goods at your local zero waste shop. Just take along your containers and fill them up with nuts, grains and whatever else you might need. Not sure where to find your local shop? Take a look at this store locator to find one near you.

Who doesn’t love boxing day leftovers? Make sure to cut down on food waste and keep all of your uneaten food. Remember – forget the cling film and go for plastic-free reusable food wraps such as these ones made from bees wax.

Eating and drinking seasonally, locally and organic are also fantastic ways to take care of the planet in your daily life, but especially at Christmas. Why not try visiting your local greengrocers for your fruit and veg, or find an organic box scheme.

You could also stock up on some organic booze to really get the party going. We love Vintage Roots because with every crate purchased, 10% of profits will be donated back to City to Sea.

Plastic-Free Christmas Wreath

Deck the halls

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, but remember to steer clear of plastic decorations whether it’s tinsel, plastic baubles or an artificial Christmas tree. If you already have some from previous Christmases got themsome second hand then not to worry, but avoid buying any of these new.

Crackers at the Christmas table are a pretty wasteful tradition that results in huge amounts of waste. Most Christmas crackers are non-recyclable and are by definition single-use. The toys inside often will just get swept straight in the bin – talk about a throwaway culture. In the UK alone we get through a whopping 154 million crackers. That’s a lot of plastic. So, if you don’t feel like they’re essential, perhaps you could give them a miss. Alternatively you could have a go at making your own or go for a greener brand.

If you are buying a new Christmas tree, go for a real, locally grown one. To save buying a new one every year, you can make sure the tree still has roots so that it can stay alive for years to come and keep it in the garden in between Christmases. If you do get one that will die after it’s been used, make sure you dispose of it sustainably by either making sure it’s composted or in a chipping scheme. Alternatively you could try and get your hands on a second-hand artificial tree and give it a new home.

Plastic-Free Christmas Food

Party time

Christmas means it’s party season! It’s the time to get together with friends, family and colleagues to let your hair down. Having a plastic-free Christmas doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on fun.

Scroll back up to the ‘Plastic-Free Feast’ section to recap on eco-friendly booze and food.  When it comes to serving up your food and drink, avoid using disposable items. Swap plastic plates and cutlery for proper chinaware or go for food that you can hold while you eat such as wraps. Move away from plastic cups and go for proper glassware instead. For larger parties where this may be more challenging, not to worry - Waitrose offer a free glass hire service  and if you purchase your drinks from Majestic, they lend out glasses for free as well.

If you’re having your party catered, try to choose a sustainable caterer or if you’re not sure where they stand give them a ring and ask for your food to be free of cling film and other single-use items.

Want to dress to impress? Go second hand and check out your local charity shops, vintage shops or sites like Depop to give someone’s old party dress or shirt a new lease of life. Remember to avoid buying any new clothes, especially those on the cheaper, low-quality side or items with sequins or glitter. You could also get hands-on and have a go at crafting your own plastic-free Christmas jumper!

The golden rule is to buy less and value what you already have a bit more.

Material things aren’t what makes Christmas so brilliant, it’s the beautiful moments spent with people you love that make this time of year so special. Let’s make this festive season really fantastic by cutting down on needless plastic!

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Plastic bottles

City to Sea’s position on the proposed Scottish Deposit Return Scheme

City to Sea have responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on their proposed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and would strongly encourage others to do the same. The consultation remains open until the 10th December 2019.


The Scottish Government have said they recognise that fresh interventions are needed to bring about the systemic and behavioural change necessary to fulfil the aspiration of creating a more circular economy. Scottish Ministers have announced legislation to establish a Deposit Return Scheme. This would enable consumers to take single-use containers back and redeem a 20p deposit from any retailer selling drinks covered by the scheme. Including plastic bottles made from PET plastic, aluminium and steel cans and glass bottles.

Why They Are Consulting

The regulations for Deposit Return Scheme are subject to the super-affirmative procedure and will be laid in Parliament for a 91-day consultation period. This will allow industry experts, interested stakeholders and MSPs the opportunity to comment on the details of the regulations and allow us to refine the legal approach further– this follows on from a consultation in 2018 on the overarching principles.

You can read the specific consultation documents here.

City to Sea’s position:

City to Sea is an award-winning not for profit, campaigning to prevent plastic pollution at source. We are reducing the need for recycling in the first place, by advocating reuse and providing practical solutions to single-use plastic water bottles, through measures such as our Refill campaign.

We’re however also hugely supportive of Deposit Return Scheme (DRSs) as a principle. They have been shown to be an effective way of capturing the plastic bottles in use and ensuring they don’t make their way into our oceans. From a social-economic perspective, a DRS is also a powerful tool for empowering people to value plastic and has a knock-on effect of connecting people with the extrinsic value of other single-use plastic products.

However, we would always advocate reuse rather than single use and would encourage legislators to prioritise this consideration.

Image of plastic bottle pollution in water

With regards to the current Scottish government consultation for a DRS, we consider this an opportunity for Scotland to lead the way in the home nations in delivering an effective DRS. We know it is popular with 77% of Scots saying they back the scheme. We also know it could be effective with an estimated 31,000 fewer plastic bottles littered every day. Moving this captured plastic towards a circular economy will slow – although not stop – the flood of plastics heading to our waterways. We consider that the success of this DRS should, at least in part, be measured by the plastic prevented from going to landfill and the plastic pollution prevented from entering our waterways. We would encourage the Scottish Government to report on these factors in an open and transparent manner.

Crucially – this DRS embeds into domestic law an example of extended producer responsibility, which requires producers to be responsible for the packaging (in this case the drinks cans and bottles). City to Sea strongly welcomes this and would encourage legislators to consider how such a principle could be rolled out to other products that cause plastic pollution.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly we would like to stress the potential carbon saving impact that this DRS will have - an estimated 160,000 tonnes every year. There is perhaps no greater threat to our oceans than that of climate change and so any policy measure that limits GHG emissions is to be encouraged.

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Why design agency, Social Ink, partnered with City to Sea

As part of the #PlasticFreetravel campaign, Gareth who is Head of Content at Social INK – a digital marketing and social media marketing consultancy,  tells us why tackling plastic pollution is important and why Social Ink wanted to partner with City to Sea in this guest blog.

Here’s the thing. Beach holidays in the Mediterranean are great. Guaranteed sun. Delicious cuisine. A nightlife and day temperature that make siestas compulsory. Sun. Sea. Heads buried in the sand?

You see, with all these wonderful distractions, it’s easy to forget the impact our travel is having on the environment we seek out to enjoy. Once we’re in ‘holiday mode’ it becomes easier to neglect the responsibilities we are committed to in our normal daily lives.

‘No drinking on a school night’, quickly becomes, drinking throughout the day and well into the night. Because “we’re on holiday”. We eat out every meal. We move a lot less. We enjoy too much sun. We buy water in plastic bottles. Why not? It’s way cheaper than back home. We do things differently because we’re on holiday. Our standards slide. It’s a treat. It’s fine. It’s convenient.

But some of the things we do, when everyone does them, have a compounding ripple effect that contributes to a much larger problem. Plastic waste is filling up the seas, breaking down into microscopic particles and washing up on the beaches we choose to visit on our holidays. The Med sees a 40% spike in marine litter every year because of tourists.

Everyone at Social INK felt we needed to do something to help ‘raise the bar’ on attitudes to travel.

Stop. Collaborate. And Listen.

It all started with winning the #PlasticFreeTravel brief that City to Sea ran with One Minute Briefs on Twitter. Reducing the amount of plastic, we use is a cause close to our hearts, so it was a brief we were keen to get involved with. And it’s an inspiring topic: almost everyone takes a holiday over the summer. Have you considered how much plastic you use when you’re not at home?

In response to the brief, we devised the ‘Raise the Bar’ concept. An advert designed to champion soap bars. Soap bars existed long before plastic-bottled liquid soap, doing exactly the same job at a fraction of the environmental impact. Not only did it make sense to make the humble bar of soap the ‘face’ of plastic-free travel, but we felt it also served as a reminder of small changes we could all make at home to reduce the impact of plastic waste on the environment.

The concept really resonated with the team at City to Sea, and on social media with our own network and the One Minute Briefs community.

The Social INK #PlasticFreeTravel Campaign

To show our support of City to Sea’s #PlasticFreeTravel campaign, we created a series of four concepts in the style of our original One Minute Briefs winning ad, as well as some GIFs for good measure — everyone likes a good GIF on social media!

Keep an eye out for these concepts across City to Sea’s social media channels as well as Social INK’s. If you check the #PlasticFreeTravel streams, leave a message. Tell us, City to Sea, and the wider world how you’re planning to travel plastic-free. Share pics of your plastic-free efforts. And encourage others to do the same.

There are a few competitions where you get a chance to win a #PlasticFreeTravel starter kit, too!

A special thanks at this point needs to also go to designer and fellow One Minute Brief particiapnt, Rich Bayley who came up with the “SPF 12.7” idea used above. 

Every small change. Every little effort. Every conscious decision to bypass plastic helps reduce the impact we’re having on our environment, giving us a better chance of completely cleaning up our act.

Are you ready to raise the bar?

Read more about how you can get involved with the #PlasticFreeTravel campaign here.

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You spoke, will government listen?

Today we handed in our petition calling for government to only send plastic-free period products into schools! Thanks to you, more than 37,000 people signed our petition, and well over 100 teachers declared their support for this premise.

We’ll keep you updated on the response from the newly appointed Education Secretary, but for now you can have a read of the letter we sent him:

Dear Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP,

Please find enclosed a petition signed by 37,112 people and a letter signed by over 100 teachers asking the Department of Education to only purchase plastic-free period products for schools. To save resources we have printed 18 pages of signatures on each sheet of paper, but we have also emailed the full PDF document.

In April 2019 We wrote to the former Education Secretary to welcome the government’s commitment to both tackling period poverty and eliminating single-use plastics in schools. We wrote specifically to seek clarification that the free period products that were to be provided to schools would be plastic-free, especially since government challenged schools to go plastic-free by 2022.

Here in the UK a staggering 4.3 billion disposable menstrual products are used every year! Many people don’t realise that most period pads (including Always, Bodyform and most supermarket own-brands) can contain up to 90% plastic – the equivalent of five plastic bags per pack of pads. Most tampons also contain a thin layer of plastic. What’s more, although no period products should go down the toilet, it’s estimated around 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million pads are flushed down the toilet every day in the UK – many of which block our sewer systems and escape into our rivers and seas.

We were therefore delighted to read the Department for Education’s response to our concerns in an article from Schools Week saying that the successful bidder for the schools contract “will be required to offer environmentally-friendly sanitary pads as a minimum, and are encouraged to provide further environmentally-friendly options (such as menstrual cups or eco-friendly tampons)”.

We were further heartened to read a response from Nadhim Zahawi MP to a Written Question from Alistair Carmichael MP that:

“consideration will be given to the extent to which the materials used in the products are sustainable, whether the products are biodegradable and whether the products are reusable.”

We hope therefore, in light of the Government’s commitment to eliminate single-use plastic from schools, the public commitment to sourcing ‘environmentally friendly pads’ that are ‘biodegradable’, the wide-spread public support illustrated through the 38 Degrees petition enclosed and the call from teaching professionals (as illustrated by the enclosed joint letter), that you will ensure that all period products going into schools will be plastic-free.

We look forward to hearing confirmation from you, and of course, we are willing to support and celebrate your positive work in this area moving forward in ensuring plastic-free period products are rolled out in English schools.

Yours Sincerely,

Jasmine Tribe

Campaigns Coordinator

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Press Release: Welcoming the removal of mini toiletries from Holiday Inn hotels.

The plastic pollution campaigning organisation, City to Sea, are today celebrating the news that all hotels run by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) will remove mini toiletries from their rooms. The move will see hotels chains such as Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels taking the small single-use plastic bottles out of its 843,000 rooms by 2021.

The news comes following the launch of City to Sea’s #PlasticFreeTravel campaign that seeks to make plastic-free travel easier and cheaper for holiday goers and includes working with hotels to encourage them to use refillable dispensers in bathrooms. Plastic pollution from holidays is a major issue with an estimated 40% surge in marine litter entering the Mediterranean during the summer months. Further research estimates that 980 tonnes of mini-plastic shampoo bottles are being dumped by British holidaymakers abroad each year – that’s equivalent to two-and-a-half Boeing 747s.

Responding to the news City to Sea founder Natalie Fee commented,

“This is fantastic news. Holiday Inn has taken a huge step in reducing their plastic footprint and in doing so are sending a message to the hotel industry that removing single-use plastic toiletries is a good business move as well as a sound environmental one. Concern for the environment is at an all-time high, with plastic pollution being top of the list, so they needed to take action to keep customers happy.”

She continued, “The pressure is really mounting now for those hotels who still give out these tiny bottles of shampoo. We’ve been working with hotel chains like Premier Inn who already have dispensers in their bathrooms, Marriott Hotels announced last year they were getting rid of them, and now we have Holiday Inn on board too. Any hotels that still using single-use miniatures need to catch up and get behind our plastic-free travel campaign.”

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#PlasticFreeTravel Case Study – Premier Inn

Helping travellers take a break from plastic

We believe hotels can play a vital role in helping people travel plastic-free. Our partner Premier Inn is the UK’s largest hotel brand, with more than 76,000 rooms and over 800 hotels across the country. It’s doing some great things to reduce plastic pollution & we hope that others will be inspired by its leadership across our four key areas of best practice:

  1. Being on track to meet the EU Single-Use Plastic Directive in 2021

Premier Inn recognises the issue of plastic and packaging across the value chain and has been working to reduce it.

It has already removed all single-use plastic straws from its hotels and restaurants, eliminating over 10 million pieces of single-use plastic in the process. Premier Inn has also removed all single-use plastic stirrers from its hotels and restaurant brands, together with plastic cutlery from its dine-in restaurant brands.  By inviting customers to dine in at their restaurant brands, they also avoid unnecessary plastic by using crockery instead of takeaway food containers.

Yvonne Mason, Environment Manager says: ‘We are currently measuring the amount of plastics and packaging used across our supply chain. This will allow us to identify possible alternatives and understand where we can make the most impactful change to remove avoidable single-use plastic from our business.’

2. Signing up to the Refill app & not offering plastic bottled water in rooms.

Whitbread’s 800 Premier Inn hotels (excluding their 10 ‘Hub’ branded hotels) are signed up to the award-winning Refill app & have a policy of not offering plastic bottled water in guest rooms. The commitment to Refill means customers & members of the public can ask the team for their reusable water bottle to be refilled.

As a natural next step, Premier Inn decided to go above and beyond by issuing all new starters with a reusable bottle in Premier Inn, adding to the 6,000 reusable bottles it had already distributed to its operations & support centre staff.

Rosana Elias, Head of Sustainability at Whitbread PLC says: ‘By offering all staff a reusable bottle we can ensure we’re a Force for Good for our teams, promoting positive behaviour change and reducing single-use plastic waste at work and at home.’

3. Using refillable dispensers in bathrooms

Research commissioned by Direct Line Travel Insurance in 2018 estimates that each year British tourists throw away over 43 million travel minis.

Hotels can ensure they aren’t adding to this problem by providing guests with toiletries from refillable dispensers instead of miniature plastic bottles.

Premier Inn has been leading the way on this from the outset, fitting rooms with dispensers to cut soap waste as well as plastic pollution.

4. Inspiring guests/staff to prevent plastic pollution via comms & marketing activity

Premier Inn regularly updates its teams across the country on its Force for Good initiatives and how it is progressing against nine commitments, including relevant projects, such as Refill. Premier Inn has also actively promoted Refill externally across its social media channels, most recently supporting us with content for LinkedIn on National Refill Day.

Why is this issue important to Premier Inn & the wider hotel industry?

Premier Inn recognises the serious environmental concerns over the use of single-use plastic in the hotel industry and the impact it can have on communities. Rosana says: ‘We have to act now to address this and as the UK’s biggest hotel business and one of the UK’s biggest employers, we recognise our responsibility and opportunity to drive and support this action.

‘By supplying our team members with the means to reduce their own personal use of single-use plastic and by working to continue to reduce the amount of avoidable single-use plastic our guests and customers use as part of their brand experience, we can have a positive impact.

‘As we move forward, we recognise the challenge of interrogating our supply chain and working to understand how and where single-use plastic is used. We’re committed to working together with our suppliers to drive innovative solutions to reduce our environmental impact and are excited to see how much more of a Force for Good we can be.

‘It’s one step at a time, but we have a clear goal and we urge other hotel businesses to follow suit – the more of us who are willing to make a change will only make the transition to a single-use plastic-free world more attainable.’

What’s next on plastic for Premier Inn?

Yvonne says: ‘We’re dedicated to reducing our impact on the environment and whilst we already recycle all recyclable packaging and divert 100% of our waste from landfill, we know there is more to be done.

‘We are currently reviewing our entire value chain to map plastics and packaging across the estate. We’re working closely with our suppliers to innovate new solutions in line with future legislation and our aim to reduce avoidable single-use plastic across our business.’

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How can hotels make #PlasticFreeTravel easier for their guests?  

Hotels have a crucial part to play in #PlasticFreeTravel, helping guests continue their plastic-free journey while they’re away, or inspiring them to take their first break away from plastic.

Yet on many occasions hotels can be part of the plastic problem – offering toiletries in miniature plastic bottles, handing out plastic bottles of water in countries where the tap water is safe to drink or continuing to use plastic straws, cutlery or stirrers.

With our best practice partner, Premier Inn, we’re going to be encouraging the hotel industry to commit to our four areas of best practice this summer:

  1. Being on track to meet the EU Single Use Plastic Directive by 2021
  2. Signing up to the Refill app offering free tap water refills to guests & the public and not offering plastic bottled water in rooms
  3. Using refillable dispensers in bathrooms (or committing to do so by 2021)
  4. Inspiring guests/staff to prevent plastic pollution via comms & marketing activity

‘It’s one step at a time, but we have a clear goal and we urge other hotel businesses to follow suit – the more of us who are willing to make a change will only make the transition to a single use plastic free world more attainable.’ Rosana Elias, Head of Sustainability, Whitbread

Our case study on Premier Inn (the UK’s largest hotel chain) shows that hotels can do their bit to enable #PlasticFreeTravel –  with their millions of guests they are already making a huge difference.

Premier Inn is active in all four areas of best practice in the following ways:

  • Removed single-use plastic straws, stirrers & cutlery.
  • Signed up to the Refill app so guests can refill their reusable bottles with tap water.
  • No plastic bottled water in guest rooms.
  • Refillable dispensers in bathrooms not plastic mini toiletries.
  • Inspiring staff to adopt a refill mindset by given them reusable water bottles.

Get in touch with City to Sea’s Partnerships Manager, Rowen West-Henzell [email protected] to find out how your hotel can join the growing #PlasticFreeTravel movement.

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Plastic Free Transport Hubs

Plastic-Free Travel on the go

Do you want to depart from plastic pollution this summer?

We know travel is one of the biggest barriers to us using reusable bottles and refilling on the go. Almost half of us that regularly carry a reusable water bottle say we are most likely to buy plastic bottled water when at the airport and 36% said the same thing about train stations.

This summer travel hubs from train stations to airports are helping you stay hydrated and prevent plastic pollution when you’re travelling. City to Sea is working with transport hubs like airports and train stations as part of our #PlasticFreeTravel Campaign.

#PlasticFreeTravel taking off at airports

We are delighted to have Heathrow – Europe’s busiest airport and the UK’s largest – signed up as an official partner.  The scale and potential for saving plastic from ending up as plastic pollution by working with Heathrow is huge.  If every passenger in Heathrow departures lounge refilled a bottle instead of buying a single-use plastic bottle, Heathrow could reduce its plastic bottle consumption by over 35 million bottles a year!

We have worked with Heathrow to install over 100 water fountains across the airport. They are signposted and located near toilets for anyone to fill up their water bottles. We’re working with Heathrow to make sure all these fountains can be found on our Refill app!

Not only this, but we’re also engaging with their many cafes, restaurants and lounges to encourage them to be listed on the app and proudly showing the Refill sticker where possible. Anywhere in Heathrow, if you’ve got the bottle, you can Refill it.

But there is still more (much more) to be done.  Raising awareness that you can take an empty bottle through airport security and, usually, refill it at the other end. And we are working with Heathrow to improve their signage and communications to make sure that all Refill points – and drainage points – are clearly signposted.

During our #PlasticFreeTravel campaign this summer we are reaching out to airports up and down the country looking to challenge them to pledge to help their passengers cut out plastics. Simply we are asking airports to:

  1. Provide an empty sink before security, so passengers can empty their water bottles before goign through.
  2. Promote the fact that reusable bottles can be taken through security, through avenues such as signage before security, and working with ticketing and travel companies to prompt passengers to pack their reusable water bottle at the same time as reminding them to check-in online.
  3. Install water fountains or hydration stations around the terminals where passengers can easily and quickly find free drinking water.

To this end, City to Sea will be hosting a roundtable event alongside the Airport Operators Association and the Department for Transport, providing a best practice guidance so all airports can find out how easy it is to roll out the Refill Campaign. The rountable will be held on the 10th September 2019.

This summer, if you do fly (we strongly encourage you not to!) then make sure your water bottle is the first thing you pack into your hand luggage.

Reducing plastic waste at train stations is on track

City to Sea is working with Network Rail to have fountains installed in 19 of Britain’s largest railway stations, which have already saved the equivalent of over a million plastic bottles.

We’re pretty excited about this. And as Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said, “This is a great start and shows that passengers share our passion to reduce single-use plastic…I’m pleased to say we’re making it even easier for people using our stations to refill their bottles too.”

And that’s the name of the game here – making it easy for you (yes you!) to travel with less plastic. With Pret, Starbucks, Costa and so many more high street brands now signed up to Refill there is always going to be a Refill point close by major train stations.

Sadly, not quite full steam ahead

Although a few train operating companies are looking into this, water refills are still not available on any train – so if it’s a long journey I’m afraid you’ll have to pack all the water you need to stay away from plastic bottles.  So, remember to Refill at the station before you leave.

#PlasticFreeTravel campaign

Our #PlasticFreeTravel campaign this summer is demanding every station in the top 100 to have a place to Refill your water bottles and have these logged on the Refill app by April 2020. This is why City to Sea has partnered with Sustain (Sugarsmart campaign) to put together the Drinking Water Fountains ‘How To’ guide, which is the first comprehensive guidance of its kind specifically for the UK.

In addition, we’re challenging a UK Train Operating Company to be the first to offer easily accessible, free tap water refills on board a train. Watch this space and all aboard the #PlasticFreeTravel #RefillRevolution!

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Plastic Free Travel at Hotels

Ethical tourism

The impact that plastics have on our shared oceans and the natural world is a core reason why we created our #PlasticFreeTravel campaign. But for those looking to travel with a smaller environmental footprint there’s more to consider than just our use of plastic. Here are some positive, proactive steps you can take to travel more lightly on the planet.

  1. Fly Less

The problem with flying is that it allows us to travel huge distances cheaply and quickly. Estimates vary, but roughly, one return long haul flight will use about 4 tonnes of carbon. That’s 20 times the carbon saving in doing a year’s worth of recycling. Or to put this another way, every person in the UK is currently using around 8.5 tonnes of carbon per year – and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research says we need to cut emissions by 90% by 2050 – so this means that every person in the UK would need to use around 1 tonne of carbon per year – clearly impossible if you include a flight.

According to the Stern Report, the total annual CO2 emissions from aviation is about 600-700 million tonnes – a 2-3% share of global CO2 emissions. The UK’s CO2 emissions from aviation doubled between 1990 and 2000 and are expected to double again by 2030. Aviation is currently the fastest-growing contributor to CO2 emissions.

Any flights we take contribute to this problem. The best way to reduce your flight emissions is to fly less, for example by pledging not to take any flights in 2020 (a campaign run by Flight Free UK).

For those flights that you do take we would strongly encourage you to look to offset the flight. We would recommend you offset any essential flights through a quality-assured carbon-offsetting scheme, such as through or the brilliant

And remember it’s system change we need to stop climate change, so check out the brilliant “A Free Ride” campaign that looks to change the way flights are taxed to help most of us who don’t take more than one flight a year!

But most importantly keep in mind, life isn’t just about the destination – it’s about the journey!

  1. Give cruise ships a wide berth

It’s thought that The Queen Mary II emits 0.43kg of CO2 per passenger mile as opposed to 0.257kg for a long-haul flight. According to the Telegraph, Carnival, in its environmental report states that its ships, on average, release of CO2 per kilometre. This is 36 times greater than the carbon footprint of a Eurostar passenger and more than three times that of someone travelling on a standard Boeing 747.

In addition to airborne pollution cruise ships also produce a great deal of waste and rubbish. It is estimated that every passenger produces 3.5 kilograms of rubbish daily as opposed to 0.8 kilograms generated by people onshore.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, many people will fly to the start of their cruises. This is a very unsustainable way to holiday!

  1. Alternative ways to travel

By travelling less distance you reduce your carbon footprint and you can make lower-carbon transport more feasible. If you’re travelling to mainland Europe try using the Loco2 app that makes booking trains across the entirety of Europe a quick and easy affair. And if you’re travelling (almost) anywhere in the world, the legendary will tell you how to get there overland.

Or why not make the travel part of the holiday through overnight trains or even a cycling holiday (try Intrepid Travel).

  1. Spend local and eat local

Wherever you holiday, seek out local independent activities and food outlets. A study by the World Tourism Organization found that $100 spent during a trip, only $5 benefits the destination. Food shopping in local markets rather than supermarkets also means it is much easier to avoid pointless plastic packaging.

After all, there are worse things than a sipping a glass of Bordeaux in the Saint-Pierre district of the city, or to nibble a freshly baked waffle marvelling at the Grand Place in Brussels. And by a happy coincidence, you can get to both, and a growing number of destinations directly from London, by high-speed train with Eurostar.

  1. Seek out best practice

There are lots of ethical and green travel companies out there that can help guide you through these dilemmas. And here are some ethical and green holiday essentials to buy before you travel. We’re not suggesting everyone should stay in yurts in the Peak District, but we are saying that some small decisions can make a big difference.

Happy holiday folks! And big up the staycations.

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Plastic Free Travel Bundle


We want YOUR best #PlasticFreeTravel tips.

Enjoying #PlasticFreeTravel isn’t just about doing the right thing, it is about being able to inspire change in others, so we want to know how you’re travelling with less plastic or plastic-free this *summer! Share your best #PlasticFreeTravel tips and tricks with us on social media for your chance to win a bundle of plastic-free travel goodies!

  • Tell us how you’re travelling plastic-free (from filling up your reusable bottle at the airport to switching to an entirely plastic-free toiletries bag, we want to hear what steps you’re taking to make the switch to plastic-free travel)
  • Share photos to show us if you can
  • Include the hashtag #PlasticFreeTravel

It’s easy to enter, just head to the competition posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and follow the instructions.

Full terms and conditions can be found here.

*Competition closes 24th August 2019. Winner will be selected in the last week of August to win a bundle of #PlasticFreeTravel goodies from our shop.

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