United Airlines enhances its passenger carbon offsetting programme and nominates US and Central American projects
United operated the first US passenger biofuel flight powered with a mixture of renewable algae-derived jet fuel and conventional jet fuel (photo: PRNewsFoto/United Continental)
Wed 25 Apr 2012 – United Airlines has extended the focus of its passenger carbon offsetting programme to include offset projects that go beyond climate change to include forest and biodiversity conservation in California and Belize, as well as a renewable energy installation in Texas. Customers when booking flights through United, which now encompasses Continental Airlines, are directed to a dedicated carbon offset website where they can either make a voluntary donation of their choice or enter their flight itinerary and have the carbon footprint calculated. The passenger can then make a choice of the project to be supported and pay a variable amount according to the project chosen. United has partnered on the programme with non-profit organisation Sustainable Travel International, which has reviewed the independently verified projects.
The three projects offered under the programme involve conservation of the 23,780-acre (9,600ha) Garcia River Forest in California, the Boden Creek Ecological Preserve in Belize and the Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm in Texas.
The Garcia River Forest is located in the Redwood region and was purchased by The Conservation Fund, a national non-profit dedicated to protecting America’s most vital landscapes and waterways, and was established as California’s first non-profit working forest. Funds will be used to help conserve forestland, restore wildlife habitat and protect local forestry jobs. Preservation of the forestland allows for the storage of 77,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually and the project is registered with the California Climate Action Reserve.
The Belize preserve is made up of 13,600 acres (5,500ha) of lowland broadleaf forest, said to be one of the most threatened tropical forests in Central America. The preserve serves as a critical wildlife corridor that connects diverse inland terrestrial ecosystems with coastal marine ecosystems and the project is registered with the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS).
Also registered with the VCS, the Texas wind farm comprises of more than 400 wind turbines that are capable of producing enough renewable electricity to power around 220,000 homes annually.
On a round trip from New York to London, the carbon offset website calculates emissions of 1.439 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. The site suggests an offset payment of $28.78 if the passenger opts to support the California project, $14.39 if the Texas wind farm and $17.27 if the Belize forest and biodiversity initiative is chosen.
“Our enhanced carbon offset programme allows our customers to join us in taking meaningful actions that reduce our impact on the environment,” commented Jimmy Samartzis, Managing Director of Global Environmental Affairs and Sustainability for United Airlines on the new initiative, announced to coincide with last week’s Earth Day. “Focusing on the environment is inextricably linked to our business and to our future growth as we continue to make progress in priority areas such as fuel-efficiency and commercialisation of sustainable biofuels, and we’re excited to offer customers a way to contribute as well.”
The airline reports it is committed to the environment through its Eco-Skies programme, which has resulted in a 32% improvement in fuel efficiency through investments in new aircraft and a 5% reduction in emissions and noise through equipping over 300 aircraft with winglets. It also points to its commitment to advancing renewable jet fuels, operating the first US passenger biofuel flight and letters of intent to negotiate the purchase of more than 50 million gallons of sustainable biofuels.
On the ground, more than 3,600 ground service equipment vehicles, or 26% of the fleet, are either electric or alternatively fuelled. During the last five years, United says it has recycled more than 20 million pounds (9,000 tonnes) of cans, paper and plastic items from waste generated in-flight and at its facilities, and has Eco-Teams of cross-divisional representatives at every hub and major maintenance facility.