With United’s Eco-Skies program and the daily efforts of thousands of employees, we continue to realize our commitment to environmental sustainability. From our pilots utilizing more fuel efficient flight plans, to our maintenance teams properly managing materials, environmental awareness is embedded in our business. Our success in the long run means not only continuing the projects already under way, but actively working to develop new ones as well.
In this article, we describe our Eco-Skies program, our carbon offset program and the employee awareness events that we’re launching in celebration of Earth Day.
Eco-Skies represents our commitment to being an environmentally responsible company by taking actions today that help shape an environmentally sustainable tomorrow.
Fuel burn from our aircraft represents more than 98% of our greenhouse gas emissions footprint and our single largest expense, so fuel conservation is a key focus for our company. The fuel efficiency initiatives that we’ve implemented across our fleet have created a 32% improvement in fuel efficiency since 1994.
United has a robust new aircraft order of more than 132 aircraft including the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350, which will improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions by 20% compared to the aircraft they will replace. We’re also working to improve the fuel efficiency of our existing fleet through various measures including using ground power instead of auxiliary power units, washing aircraft engines and making modifications such as winglets. In addition, we continue to replace fuel-burning ground service equipment units with electric or alternatively fueled vehicles.
In fact, more than 3,600 ground service equipment vehicles, or approximately 26 percent of these vehicles, are electric or alternatively fueled.
Advancing alternative fuels
United has a long record of leadership in alternative fuels, making history in 2011 by operating the first U.S. commercial flight powered by advanced biofuel. Prior to our integration in March of this year, Continental performed the first U.S. alternative fuel test flight using algae (2009), and United operated the first natural gas demonstration flight (2010).
In order to have commercial success, biofuels must be produced in large quantities, at prices comparable to traditional fossil fuels. United is actively working with key partners to advance aviation biofuels commercialization to reach their potential for reducing emissions and providing energy diversification. We also have agreements to negotiate the purchase of more than 50 million gallons of biofuel as it becomes available.
Reduction in materials impact
We’re looking at ways to reduce the impact of the materials we buy and use every day. United's recycling and waste minimization programs in-flight, at our airports and at our facilities led to the recycling of more than 20 million pounds of aluminum cans, paper and plastic items during the last 5 years. The green design elements
of our new facilities will help to reduce energy consumption and improve recycling practices.
In 2011, we replaced all of our pilots’ paper flight manuals with Apple® iPads®, resulting in a reduction in paper waste, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Earth Day and employee awareness
We believe that collaboration is the key to successfully reducing our impact on the environment. United has several programs to engage our employees, customers and communities in our efforts to build a sustainable future.
Eco-Teams: We created a system of cross-divisional Eco-Teams based at all of our major stations. These teams work with our professional Environmental Affairs staff to support compliance with environmental regulations, focus on proactive measures to reduce our environmental impact and also partner with our local communities on environmental volunteer projects.
Eco-Ideas: Since the 2011 launch of Eco-Ideas, designed to give United employees a voice in participating in our environmental work, we've received more than 200 ideas, with innovations for everything from energy conservation to waste management. We’ve already translated some of these ideas into practice and continue to evaluate opportunities.
In celebration of Earth Day, United employees will participate in employee awareness events at our airport hubs and other locations. The events will feature booths stocked with educational materials and a video about United’s projects related to the environment and include vendor displays and giveaways.
about Eco-Skies and United’s environmental programs.
Carbon offset program
We invite you to join us in protecting the environment by taking part in our enhanced carbon offset program, which allows you to offset the carbon footprint associated with your air travel and cargo shipments. Through our carbon offset program, you can contribute to emission-reducing projects to help alleviate the impact of travel-related greenhouse gas emissions.
As a United customer, you may use the carbon offset calculator to determine the carbon footprint of your travel itineraries or cargo shipments. You can then choose to support the high-quality emission-reducing projects offered by United’s nonprofit partner Sustainable Travel International (STI): forest conservation near San Francisco, renewable energy (wind power) in Texas and forest and biodiversity conservation in Belize.