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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#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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Hotels, guesthouses and holiday parks have a crucial part to play in #PlasticFreeTravel. They can help guests continue their plastic-free journey, or even inspire them to take their first break away from plastic.

Whether it’s offering water in a glass (instead of in plastic), or phasing out mini toiletries and plastic straws, we want to help them get started.

Our partner Premier Inn has already begun its plastic-free journey:

 ‘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 PLC (owners of Premier Inn)

Why not join Premier Inn and other leading accommodation providers, by taking our Plastic Pledge?

  1. Sign-up to the Refill app
  2. Remove plastic bottled water from guest rooms by end 2020
  3. Remove single use plastic plates, straws, stirrers, cutlery and cups by end of 2021
  4. Remove all single-use toiletries from bathrooms and use refillable dispensers in bathrooms by end of 2021

Get in touch with City to Sea’s Partnerships Manager, Rowen West-Henzell [email protected] to find out more and 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 going 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 carbonfootprint.com or the brilliant atmosfair.de.

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 712.kg 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 Seat61.com 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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Top tips for less plastic

1 - Pack a water bottle

This summer make sure the first thing to go into your hand luggage is a reusable water bottle! We know people buy bottled water when they’re travelling – especially abroad. As part of our Refill campaign, we’re working with train stations and airports to make it easier than ever to access free drinking water. The top destinations for British tourists such as Spain, France and Italy all have safe to drink tap water. If you’re travelling to countries where you can’t drink tap water, you could invest in a Water To Go bottle that eliminates over 99.9% of microbiological contaminants or just boil water in your room – leave it too cool overnight and you’re ready to go the next day!

2. Refill at the airport!

It’s now easier than ever to say no to single-use plastic and stay hydrated when travelling – especially at the airport! Many airports, including Heathrow who we’re working with as part of our Refill campaign, now have an area where you can empty your bottle before security and refill at fountains the other side so you don’t have to buy bottled water before your flight.

3. Say no to travel miniatures

An estimated 980 tonnes of mini-plastic shampoo bottles are being dumped by British holiday makers abroad each year! That’s the equivalent to two-and-a-half Boeing 747s!  Say no to the travel toiletries and instead of buying the super expensive and tiny bottles of shampoo and soap, take your own toiletries from home in refillable travel-sized containers. Or, if you really need to stock up then opt for plastic-free shampoo and soap bars.

4. Don’t use hotel toiletries

Who hasn’t at some point helped themselves to the freebies in hotel rooms? But there’s a growing trend to reject the hotel miniature toiletries many hotels offer. Leading hotel chains like Marriott International have already ditched these miniature bottles of shampoo while Premier Inn, the UK’s largest hotel chain have told us they never have and never will have the wasteful mini-bottles. If you do happen to find yourself in a hotel chain that still gives you these, leave them where you find them and make sure you mention it in your feedback to the hotel. (Even better, snap a photo of all the single-use plastic you can find in your hotel room, share it on social media, tag them (and us!) in with the #plasticfreetravel and let’s make them take notice!)

5. Say no to plastic straws

There are thought to be more than half a million plastic straws used every day around the world. That’s over 180 million being used every single year. While the UK has taken the first step in implementing the EU’s Single-Use Plastic Directive and announced it will ban plastic straws by 2020, there are still many countries around the world where you will still be able to buy them. So, here’s the simple solution. Just say no to plastic straws. If you really want a straw in your Pina Colada this summer, then make sure you remember to pack your own reusable straw. But otherwise, the staff at City to Sea HQ can promise, sipping a Pina Colada on a beach front with a pineapple moustache is just fine.

6. Reuse your beach toys or buy second hand

Last year, a shocking 14,000 bodyboards were abandoned on beaches in the South West of England alone. Now think how many £1 plastic bucket and spade sets or novelty inflatable dinosaurs and flamingos were purchased and thrown away! It doesn’t have to be like this. Take toys to the beach and have fun, but make sure you keep hold of them and reuse them each year.  This top-tip is simple – don’t buy rubbish you don’t need.

7. Carry a reusable cup and refill on the plane and on holiday!

In 2011 around 2.5 billion coffee cups were thrown away each year. When we’re holidaying, it’s easy to slip out of habits like carrying our keep cups - which is why when you’re travelling your plastic waste can spiral. You can be part of the solution by taking your reusable coffee cup with you wherever you go. And it doesn’t have to stop there – you can avoid unnecessary take-away containers by eating in with reusable plates or by taking your own tupperware containers. A really easy example is to pack a sandwich to take with you on a flight rather than buying or accepting the airline food which is nearly always wrapped in plastic.

8. Pack your cutlery set

Most flights and or takeout restaurants will supply you with single-use plastic cutlery. Make it easy to refuse and set an example to other passengers by taking your own bamboo or stainless-steel cutlery set. (Beware of metal though if you‘re travelling by plane – they won’t let you travel with forks and knives!) If you‘re not travelling by plane, just take your own cutlery from home! You may feel like you look silly to the person next to you at first, but we’re sure they’re really just wondering why they didn't think of doing that themselves.

9. Buy sun-cream that doesn’t harm the oceans

The world’s coral reefs are suffering, and chemicals commonly found in sunscreen contribute to the problem. According to the numbers, the problem is daunting: 14,000 tons of sunscreen are thought to wash into the oceans each year; 82,000 chemicals from personal-care products are polluting the seas. As well as coming in plastic, most sunscreen CONTAINS plastic. Dow Chemical makes Sunspheres, particles of 0.0003 mm that are put in other brands’ sunscreen products. It can be between 10 and 100 trillion particles in one single product.You can read more about the problem here.

And remember, even if you don’t swim after applying sunscreen, it will still wash down drains when you shower.

10. Eat a banana. Or an orange. Or an apple. Eat local!

Fruit and veg doesn’t grow in plastics, humans wrap it in plastic. Normally to then ship veg all around the world. When you are travelling take advantage of local produce in local markets. This cuts down on the carbon heavy food miles and it make it a lot easier to avoid the plastic wrapped food we have grown so used to in our supermarkets.


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