To celebrate World Environment Day, United Airlines operated a first of its kind “Flight for the Planet.” The environmentally friendly journey from Chicago to Los Angeles neatly tied together nearly all of the carrier’s sustainability initiatives, including using aviation-grade biofuel, producing near zero cabin waste and taking advantage of existing carbon offset programs.
United Airlines chose World Environment Day on June 5th to highlight all of its various sustainability programs in a single flight. The aptly named “Flight for the Planet” departed from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
The flight is fueled with a 30/70 blend of low-carbon, sustainable aviation-grade biofuel provided by Boston-based World Energy and a mix of traditional jet fuel which United spent . According to the airline, the unique fuel blend reduces greenhouse emissions by as much as 60 percent.
United has used a biofuel blend to power all of its flights departing from LAX since 2016. The legacy carrier has pledged to reduce its overall carbon footprint by at least 50% by 2050.
Recyclable and Compostable Plates (and Cups and Silverware)
Environmentally friendly jet fuel wasn’t the only advancement on display on Tuesday. The flight was also designed to produce near zero cabin waste. This feat was accomplished by serving snacks and meals on recyclable or compostable plates and silverware in the economy cabin. Even the coffee was served in an airline industry-first recyclable hot beverage cup. In the premium cabin, reusable plates were sealed with beeswax rather than plastic lids and even the swizzle sticks were sourced from sustainable and recyclable bamboo.
Electric Ground Vehicles, Scimitar Winglets and More
Kirby also touted United’s less visible environmental efforts, including investing more than $30 million into biofuel research, employing more electric and alternative ground equipment than any other carrier in the world and partnering with Audubon International to protect birds at and around the airline’s hub airports. The carrier is also the single biggest user of Boeing Split Scimitar Winglets (of course featured on the World Environment Day Flight) which promise to reduce jet fuel consumption by up to two percent.
“The historic Flight for the Planet showcases United’s philosophy of working together to find new and innovative ways to lead us into a more sustainable future,” United Airlines President Scott Kirby said in a statement lauding the venture. “As an airline, we see our environment from a unique perspective every day and we know we must do our part to protect our planet and our skies.”
The flight also took advantage of a unique carbon offsetting program which allowed the airline to claim a completely carbon neutral cross-country journey. Like the bamboo service items, the carbon offsetting scheme is already available to all passengers on every flight through the airline’s Eco-Skies CarbonChoice program operated with Conservation International.
[Featured Image: United Airlines]