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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Southwest Greens Travel with Eco-Friendlier Plane

Air travel has gained a reputation of being an environmentally detrimental method of transportation, guzzling petroleum-based fuels and emitting an array of harmful gases into the atmosphere.  While solar planes and biomass jet fuel may still be wishful thinking, a number of airlines are taking initiative and doing their part to minimize the impact of flight.  Southwest's eco-friendly policies are on the forefront with the introduction of a new green plane that promises to improve fuel efficiency and cut emissions.
The Green(er) Jet
Rather than invest in bio and algae-based fuel research like some airlines, Southwest is implementing eco-friendly materials that reduce the weight of their aircraft, thus saving fuel, while also reducing waste and minimizing interior maintenance.  
The test plane, a Boeing 737-700, features:
  • Smaller life vest bags made of canvas instead of metal, reducing weight by a pound per passenger and providing increased leg room and storage space;
  • Lighter weight foam fill in passenger seats that reduce weight while improving comfort;
  • Recyclable aluminum seat rub strips rather than plastic to maximize durability and minimize waste;
  • Recycled carpet, installed in sections for easy localized replacement - also reducing waste as well as labor costs;
Two new eco-friendly seat covers are being tested on the green plane: e-leather, a synthetic scuff-resistant leather alternative made of post-consumer waste, and IZIT Leather, a long-lasting, lightweight alternative to premium leather.  The combined changes offer an overall weight reduction of nearly 5 pounds per seat and could save the airline as much as $10 million per year in fuel and maintenance costs.
Other Eco Initiatives From Southwest
Like many airline companies, Southwest has already switched to paperless tickets.  Styrofoam cups have been replaced with eco-friendlier paper and winglets have been installed to improve fleet efficiency.  A better onboard recycling program will also be underway for all Southwest flights, beginning this November.
Green Standards From Other Airlines
I'm sure we'll see more eco initiatives hitting the runways as competition heats up between the airline companies.  Some programs already in place include:
  • Organic meal options from Virgin America;
  • Energy efficient terminals and extensive recycling from JetBlue;
  • New fleets with increased efficiency from American Airlines.
Visit Greenopia's airline sustainability rankings to see how other airlines are going green.
Source: PRNewsWire
Images: lrargerichAComment

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