Why travel is good for the environment

Friday, 11 October – 16:10 – 16:30
Workshop area

Description: Just four Asian countries are responsible for half the plastic ending up in the oceans. This makes us feel good as Europeans, where the official recycling rates are among the highest in the world and Aldi just stopped wrapping cucumbers into plastic foil. Aren’t we great? Until we learn that we produce several times more plastic waste per capita than most other countries and much of our recyclables can’t actually be recycled. At least not at home. European and North American waste gets shipped to Asia where parts of it end up in rivers and make their way into the ocean.

Proper waste management is a global challenge. How can travel companies do anything about it? Isn’t travel itself a burden for the environment (“flight shame”)? Can we still consciously recommend young people to travel long distance?

At The Green Lion we put together a team of engineers and researchers to look into these questions and over the course of 6 months we learned a lot. Lessons that we would like to share. For example we found that hands-on educational travel can rather be part of a solution, maybe even is essential to it. Reducing our ecological footprint doesn’t start at the point of recycling, but when designing a product. Bringing together highly qualified young travelers from Western countries – likely the next generation of engineers and decision makers – with the countries that currently process their waste and show its impact, leaves a more lasting impression than a chapter on sustainability in the college textbook.

We developed a workshop where volunteer travelers can collect and process plastic waste, just like recycling companies do. We sort, wash, shred, wash again, then melt the plastic and finally create new and useful objects from it. Once people do all of these steps themselves by hand, they realize the challenges of compound packaging, common recycling mistakes like not ripping the lid of the yogurt cup, and why even high-tech sorting robots currently developed at MIT are years if not decades away from solving what better engineered packaging and more awareness on a household level can do right now.

When talking to young people about recycling, we found an immense interest in the topic and big willingness to learn and to understand what happens to our trash. We believe its the right time to make travel even more educational and emphasize its importance.

Since launch, our concept has gained attention and by now even the support of European high tech manufacturers, supporting our recycling process. One of the inventions of or research team – a low cost device to distinguish different kinds of plastic – is already gaining attention from the international recycling community. Proving once more, that travel companies can have substantial impact.


Francis Altena

Head of International Relations and Projects
The Green Lion

Why attend

  • Over 650 attendees from the global youth and student travel industry
  • 200+ pre-selected buyers
  • Up to 48 pre-scheduled business appointments
  • 92% senior management attendees
  • 30 seminars and workshops
  • Up to 7 networking events