Posted: July 2, 2015

How airlines are going green in the 21st century
Take a look at some of the airlines that have made great strides in being more eco-friendly.

As we as a society continue to march into the future of the 21st century, environmental awareness has become one of the more pressing topics today. Whether or not you believe in certain environmental issues that are impacting the preservation of our planet, there's no asserting that there's anything wrong about making more green-conscious decisions. The airline industry in particular has something of a responsibility to make more eco-friendly strides, as thousands of flights every day continue to fill our skies with exhausted jet fuel. Fortunately, many of the top airlines have made great progress when it comes to finding innovative ways to figure out everything from reducing carbon footprint to testing out alternative fuels. Take a look at some of today's airlines that are putting an emphasis on going green in the 21st century:

Environmental firsts from airlines

All across the globe, there have been plenty of airlines that have made environmental milestones when it comes to researching alternative way to go green. Back in 2011, Lufthansa became the first airline company in the world to utilize a biofuel mix into their daily commercial flights. The airline also conducted weekly research during this initial trial period that evaluated measurements of each plane's emissions, eventually concluding that the blend of biofuel mix was able to significantly reduce carbon dioxide output into the sky.

Another example of airlines going above and beyond in pursuit of utilizing new alternative fuels was with the Brazilian airline GOL. The company tested out a plane that flew from Florida to São Paulo, Brazil, using a new type of jet fuel that consisted of 10 percent of a liquid called farnesane, which is derived from sugar cane. The trip was successful, and farnesane recently became the third type of renewable aviation fuel approved for commercial usage by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International).

Airlines from Germany to Brazil have taken strides in alternative fuel research. Airlines from Germany to Brazil have taken strides in alternative fuel research.

US airlines also making environmental progress

Efforts in the U.S. for airlines to improve upon their environmental-friendly policies have also been progressive in recent years. Virgin America in particular has consistently been applauded for the strides the company has made in terms of going green. The airline has received top rankings in publications such as Greentopia and the SmarterTravel Editors Choice Awards for being the most eco-friendly airline in the U.S., gaining recognition for a variety of features including its fuel conservation practices, recycling policies, commitment to using alternative fuels, greener food options and reducing its carbon footprint.

Frances Fiorillo, senior vice president of people and InFlight at Virgin America, recently made a statement regarding how the airline's environmental policies are a reflection of the state of California's eco-friendly values.

"As both a Virgin-branded company and the country's only California-based airline, it's in our DNA to make environmentally sustainable practices a priority," Fiorillo said in a press release. "California is known the world over for its spectacular natural beauty and for being the birthplace of the environmental movement, so it is only fitting that we do our part and provide opportunities to our teammates and flyers to help protect our state's most beautiful and scenic natural resources."

"United Airlines recently invested $30 million in alternative fuel research."

In other recent headlines, United Airlines has announced plans on investing $30 million in Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc., an alternative fuel developer that hopes to provide the company with more than 180 million gallons of alternative fuel for commercial flights every year. United Airlines stated that this has been the biggest investment in biofuels made by a U.S. airline yet, and hopes to lead the way for other companies to follow suit.

Alaska Airlines has also made waves in regard to switching to more environmentally aware policies. In November 2014, the company departed 75 flights that all were powered by a 20 percent biofuel blend, one of the highest recorded alternative fuel mixes tested out by any airline in the world. In addition to keeping the skies cleaner and preserving more oil, Alaska Airlines hopes these biofuel-powered flights will help other overlooked areas, such as lowering ticket prices due to decreased oil usage as well as creating new jobs through alternative fuel research.

Bill Ayer, CEO of Alaska Airlines, spoke about how airlines need to be more adamant when it comes to working alongside some of the world's leading alternative fuel developers to create more eco-friendly biofuels. 

"Commercial airplanes are equipped and ready for biofuels," Ayer said in a statement. "They will enable us to fly cleaner, foster job growth in a new industry, and can insulate airlines from the volatile price swings of conventional fuel to help make air travel more economical. What we need is an adequate, affordable and sustainable supply. To the biofuels industry, we say: If you build it, we will buy it."

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