Eight jet contrails from exhaust vapor mess with radiation balance. Photo by Jasmic via Flickr
No, we are not saying air travel is green. But some airlines are a lot greener than others. In fact, in this arena, the difference between 'eco savvy' and 'who cares' is much more drastic than in most industries--you're looking at 418 billion pounds of carbon emitted annually by airplanes, enough aluminum cans from beverage services to build an entire new fleet each year, and contrails causing "climate forcing. The good news is some airlines, like Virgin America, are making strides to green the industry. Greenopia ranked U.S. carriers' environmental record, noting big differences with older fuel-inefficient fleets. There are also times planes can be greener than car or train trips. So who's not up to snuff? Here's the offenders, with number seven being the worst of the worst.
1. US Airways
One engine taxiing decreases fuel consumption/emissions. Photo by GTarded via Flickr
US Airways' 12-year-old fleet has lousy fuel efficiency, though some of its winglets do reduce fuel consumption and emissions. It's the only airline that doesn't publish any environmental policy (too many secrets: that's a big no-no), so there's no public information available even on recycling. There are no green building efforts or offsetting offers for customers, so forget organic or fair trade food items. However, shareholders recently requested a sustainability report for the future, so we'll see what the obligatory posting says.
2. United Airlines
With 13-year-old aircraft, United Airlines isn't running efficiently and hasn't pursued alternative biofuels. Ok, so points for signing up for Renfrew's green waste fuel, like most airlines, but that's years away. The company did start to incorporate some recycling on flights, installed winglets on some aircraft, and added some alternative fuel-powered vehicles on the ground. United does exhibit some (the operative word) environmental transparency, but sadly has no offsets program for passengers or green meal options. You've got a long way to go, United.
3. American Airlines
Boasting one of the best sustainability reports in the business,American Airlines recycles and researches alt-fuels, but it has no green building, no natural/organic food, and its so-called "Be Green" offset program seems seriously misguided, geared towards frequent fliers and buying green gifts -- not carbon emissions. While much of its equipment is 15 years old, American recently purchased 76 new Boeing jets, improving a quarter of its fleet's fuel efficiency and improving mileage by 28 percent over last year. Therefore, this one could move up Greenopia's list next year.