Most people think of airlines as being among the largest contributors to global warming in the travel industry. Combine their significant consumption of fossil fuels with extensive CO2 emissions, wasted food and water, and inconsistent recycling practices, and you’ve got what seems to be one massive resource hog.
Fortunately, airlines around the world are beginning to realize the importance of trying to reduce their negative impact on the environment, and to search for ways to improve air travel so that it doesn’t cause so much harm. A number of airlines are working to produce eco-friendly policies that address everything from their fuel consumption to recycling in the hopes of becoming a greener carrier. After all, eco-travelers don’t want to choose an airline that doesn’t make an effort to leave the world a better place!
An airline like Virgin Atlantic is at the forefront of working towards an eco-friendly solution to the air travel problem. They’ve got a unique sustainability program called “Change is in the Air,” which encompasses green policies that have to do with things like researching alternative fuel sources, reducing waste, and buying green. They also offer a yearly sustainability report (produced in a very timely manner) to showcase their efforts.
A few of the areas where Virgin Atlantic is working to be the greenest airline in the world:
Fuel Consumption: Through building lighter, more efficient aircraft, Virgin both uses less fuel and creates less noise pollution – especially important in natural environments where noise can disrupt wildlife. By 2021, they aim to have a fleet comprised entirely of twin-engine planes, which are 30% more efficient than most commonly used aircraft.
Alternative Fuels: Virgin spends a significant amount of time and money on researching alternatives to the traditional jet fuel, looking for more sustainable, renewable sources of energy. Their premier partnership with LanzaTech allows them to continue cutting edge research into sustainable fuels.
Emissions: This category comes hand in hand with consumption and design, and it’s the biggest problem facing airlines right now. Not only has Virgin reduced their CO2 emissions by a significant amount since 2007 (a full 15% reduction), they’ve managed to do so a little bit more each year, which shows how they’re improving. They even offer a program for their customers to offset their carbon, which means that travelers can donate money to programs that research sustainable alternatives to help compensate for their part in producing carbon emissions.
Sustainable Purchasing: Working across the board with suppliers, Virgin aims to improve the environmental and social standards of the products they buy and serve. They have a “Responsible Supplier Policy” which all of their vendors adhere to, meaning that they are held to the same high standards of sustainability and responsibility as Virgin. They’re also members of Sedex, which provides a model for maximizing efficiency in their supply chains, which reduces waste in everything from energy to water to packing supplies.
Dining: In 2013, Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to strike up a partnership with the Sustainable Restaurant Association to make the millions of meals they serve to passengers each year more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Charity: Virgin also partners with a number of charitable organizations to give back to the communities they serve, including their own Virgin Atlantic Foundation, which “supports projects designed to benefit the welfare of children in the UK and in [Virgin Atlantic] destinations around the world.” They also work with WE, a community organization which benefits children across the globe, especially in developing countries.