Today’s guest has voyaged across oceans to raise awareness of plastic pollution. Sound familiar?

I first met Jo Royle when she was preparing to skipper the Plastiki – a boat made out of 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles. (Just to clarify, this was not the JUNK Raft that I met up with on the Pacific, which was the cheap and cheerful version.) The Plastiki was an altogether more ambitious project, created by David de Rothschild, to showcase cradle to cradle design philosophies.

In 2010 they sailed the Plastiki from San Francisco to Sydney, taking 5 months. Since then Jo has continued passionately working for the environment.

Earth to Earth, Plastic to Plastic


Jo Royle
Jo Royle


“[I became aware of] the interconnectedness of all the oceans and how our lifestyle choices are impacting them.” (Jo Royle)

It is fitting, maybe, that I am writing this blog post as I sit in the new Whole Foods Market store in Richmond, Surrey. I wonder how many of the shoppers in here, if any, think about the many places, plants, and animals that have been involved in the production of this cornucopia of food. Or where the plastic packaging, bottles, plastic-lined cans and tetrapaks will go after they are discarded.

We really need, urgently, to be more mindful about such things, and develop technologies and materials that will dramatically reduce our consumption and our wastage. So I applaud the Plastiki project and other forward-looking initiatives such as Dame Ellen MacArthur’s circular economy, that are seeking to promote a genuinely sustainable future.

And yet I still worry. We are a very, very long way away from these sustainable initiatives and technologies having any perceptible impact in the marketplace, while dramatically UNsustainable industries continue to increase in size and output.

I should know better than most that progress is not linear. Whether you’re a salesman, a parent, an athlete, a teacher or an ocean rower, you’ll probably know that feeling that you’re working hard but going nowhere. And then you’ll hit a sudden purple patch when the stars align and everything falls into place. And so I keep the faith, while still recognizing that hope is not a strategy.

We need to support these new concepts by voting with our wallets as ethical consumers (how I hate that word “consumers”!) and by enshrining principles of sustainability in our everyday lives.

The Plastiki
The Plastiki

If you want inspiration and ideas on how you can reduce your footprint, I highly recommend:

Zero Waste Home

No Impact Man

Plastic Manners

Plastic Oceans

Common Seas (Jo’s organisation)

Finally, a challenge for you: can you think of a word that we can use as an alternative to “consumer” that will remind us that we can’t maintain our present linear patterns of consumption, but rather need to return to a sustainable position in the web of life?

“My life as a Trans ocean sailing skipper taught me about our intimate relationship with the sea and the barriers that have built between society and the natural world.” (Jo Royle)


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Show Notes

Voyage of the Plastiki
Voyage of the Plastiki

1:45 Jo’s early years as a sailor

2:30 The ocean, a lifelong teacher

3:25 Ocean adventuring and how Jo got involved with the Plastiki

4:30 Jo’s work with Pindar and Earthwatch to reduce environmental impact

7:30 [I diverted my career toward] understanding what is our relationship with nature and how can we live harmoniously with our natural environment and how can we make sure that our activities in the marine environment restore and help to create a resilient and a productive ocean rather than this take-take relationship that we have at the moment.

8:40 What does Jo love about the ocean? Simplicity, and living very presently – within your resources. Plus working with a team to achieve a shared goal.

11:30 The ocean: reality, or an escape from it?

13:00 Why do ocean storms always happen at night?!

Jo in her element
Jo in her element

14:20 The Plastiki: adventures in boat design to create the world’s first closed loop vessel

19:00 Introducing the merry crew of the Plastiki

22:30 The spirit of Plastiki – mastering a new design and new materials

26:00 The route of the Plastiki across the Pacific

27:35 The legacy of the Plastiki – corporate and public

29:30 Lessons to be learned for the environmental movement – including enabling local communities to protect their surroundings

31:15 What did Plastiki expedition mean to Jo?

32:00 Jo’s work with Common Seas

35:00 book recommendation: The Wave. To claim your free audiobook, please follow the Adventure Podcast affiliate link.





Jo with David de Rothschild
Jo with David de Rothschild

Jo Royle’s website

Common Seas

Jo at TEDxExeter

Video of Jo for Biotherm

And a topical story on the missing Malaysian plane and trash in our oceans




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