Flying is not the most eco-friendly way to get from one place to another, but it’s sometimes necessary. As much as people want to green their lifestyle – which means making daily choices that are easy on the planet – air travel is sometimes needed to connect the world and make it a better place. So, which are the most eco-friendly airlines?
There are, thankfully, many eco-friendly airlines in the United States and in Europe.
These carriers do what they can to reduce fuel usage (be more fuel efficient) and to have less of an impact on the environment overall.
The top eco-friendly airlines make use of green design, employ waste-reduction programs, have sustainable food offerings, and provide carbon offset options that air travelers can adopt to lower their footprint.
Here’s what the top U.S. and European airlines are doing when it comes to being green:
- Virgin America – Virgin America earned the title for most environmentally-friendly airline in the U.S. for 4 years in a row, as reported by Greenopia.
Criteria that Virgin met to receive this honor include good fuel conservation practices, progress on alternative fuel types, participation in recycling programs, green food options, green building design, and availability of carbon offsets.
- Alaska Airlines – Alaska Airlines was awarded 3 “leafs” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- United Airlines – United Airlines was awarded 3 “leafs” by Greenopia for its eco efforts. United was actually the most improved airline from last year’s guide.
- Jet Blue – Jet Blue was awarded 3 “leafs” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- Delta – Delta was awarded 2 “leafs” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- U.S. Airways – U.S. Airways was awarded 2 “leafs” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- Southwest – Southwest was awarded 2 “leafs” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- Air Canada – Air Canada was awarded 1 “leaf” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- American Airlines – American Airlines was awarded 1 “leaf” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- Air France – Air France takes the top European spot for most eco-friendly airline. This carrier is praised for its “incredible reporting, strong commitment to biofuels and recycling, and carbon offsets.”
- Lufthansa – Lufthansa was awarded 3 “leafs” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- British Airways – British Airways was awarded 3 “leafs” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- Virgin Atlantic – Virgin Atlantic was awarded 3 “leafs” by Greenopia for eco efforts.
- Easy Jet – Easy Jet was awarded 3 “leafs” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- Cathay Pacific – Cathay Pacific was awarded 2 “leafs” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- Ryan Air – Ryan Air ranked as the most carbon-efficient airline in Europe and was awarded 2 “leafs” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- SAS – SAS was awarded 1 “leaf” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
- Air New Zealand – Air New Zealand was awarded 1 “leaf” by Greenopia for its eco efforts.
Greenopia uses a system of 1, 2, 3, or 4 leafs to present an airline’s green conscious, so to speak.
Receiving 1 leaf means that the airline has a “solid green commitment” and 4 leafs characterizes “best in class.”
Research Director at Greenopia, Doug Mazeffa, praises European airlines for offering carbon offsets more frequently than U.S. airlines.
He also says European airlines have a “stronger commitment to biofuels.”
He does mention that European airlines tended to be weaker when it comes to environmental reporting, however, specifically in terms of recycling rates and carbon efficiencies.
Also, he says their fleets are younger and that “all things considered, the scores were very similar to that of U.S. Airlines.”
Mazeffa said, “Airlines really should be commended for the progress they have made across the board as no company is really way behind the curve unlike most industries we study.”
Mazeffa sees the airline industry as one of the best-improving industries in the world in terms of eco-friendliness.
Now that you have an idea of which are the most eco-friendly airlines, let’s talk about which airplanes are the most energy efficient.
It’s a little difficult to determine how green a plane is, because unlike a car’s fuel efficiency (which can be easily calculated based on MPG for city and highway), there are more factors that come into play for planes.
An aircraft’s speed and weight load, and wind speed among other factors, factor into its greenness.
The following are a few of the airplanes that do stand out, however, for being very eco-friendly planes:
- Airbus A319 – This aircraft is 15% more efficient than the Boeing 737-300, which is similarly sized and one of the most inefficient commercial airplanes.
- Boeing 787 Dreamliner – The Boeing 787 is 20% more fuel-efficient by design than the Boeing 767.
- Other aircraft that are pretty fuel efficient (when fuel consumption per seat and per 100 kilometers flown are measured) include the Airbus A330-200, Boeing 737-900ER, and Boeing 767-400ER.