Gaia, the spirit of the planet, is awakened from a long sleep by Hoggish Greedly, who happens to be drilling above her resting chamber. Realizing that the damage is extensive, Gaia sends five magic rings, four with the power to control an element of nature and one controlling the element of Heart, to five chosen youths across the globe: Kwame from Africa, Wheeler from North America, Linka from the Soviet Union (changed to Eastern Europe after the Soviet Union’s dissolution), Gi from Asia, and Ma-Ti from South America.
These five are dubbed the Planeteers and are tasked with helping defend the planet from environmental disasters and making efforts to educate mankind to keep others from happening. In the beginning of the episodes, Gaia uses her «Planet Vision» in the Crystal Chamber to discover where the most devastating destruction is occurring (in most episodes one or more of the Eco-Villains is behind it) and sends the Planeteers to help solve the problem. The Planeteers use transportation (usually a flying machine called a Geo-Cruiser) based on solar power to avoid causing pollution themselves.
In situations that the Planeteers cannot resolve alone, they can combine their powers to summon Captain Planet, a super hero, who possesses all of their powers magnified, symbolizing the premise that the combined efforts of a team are stronger than its individual parts. Captain Planet only appears in his Captain Planet garb. These are not clothes but elements of the planet that are integral to his composition. Captain Planet’s outfit represents the embodiment of the beauty of a beautiful, better environment; a grass-green proto-mullet, crystal blue skin, earthy brown eyes, a fire-red chest, gloves, trunks, and boots, and a sun-yellow globe insignia. Besides having classical superhero powers such as flight, super-strength and invulnerability, he is also able to rearrange his molecular structure to transform himself into the various powers and elements of nature. On the other hand, he is very sensitive to pollutants, which can weaken him considerably. The Planeteers cannot use their rings while Captain Planet has been summoned.
Once his work is done, Captain Planet returns to the planet, restoring the Planeteers’ powers. When he does this, Captain Planet reminds viewers of the message of the series with his catchphrase, «The Power Is Yours!», which is said to mean that all have the power to end the destruction of the planet if we work together as one world rather than fighting each other as separate nations. Captain Planet is a formidable and valiant hero.
Every episode is followed up with at least one «Planeteer Alert», often connected to the plot, where environmental-political and other social-political issues are discussed and how the viewer can contribute and be part of «the solution» rather than «the pollution».