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United Airlines Makes Eco-friendly Commercial Flight

The flight combined the use of biofuel, zero waste measures and carbon offsets to minimize impact on the environment.

United Airlines on World Environment Day departed on what it called the Flight for the Planet, an eco-friendly commercial flight. On the Flight for the Planet, United said it became the first-known airline to demonstrate all of the following key actions on a single commercial flight: utilization of sustainable aviation biofuel, zero cabin waste efforts, carbon offsetting and operational efficiencies.

United is using the Flight for the Planet to evaluate key measures of flying as sustainably as possible using the airline's current technology, resources and fuel-saving procedures. The flight departed from United's hometown hub of Chicago O'Hare for its "eco-hub" in Los Angeles, where sustainable aviation biofuel has helped power all the airline's flights from the Southern California hub since 2016.

"The historic Flight for the Planet showcases United's philosophy of working together to find new and innovative ways to lead us into a more sustainable future," said Scott Kirby, United's president, in a statement. "As an airline, we see our environment from a unique perspective every day, and we know we must do our part to protect our planet and our skies."

The Flight for the Planet further illustrates United's commitment to its bold pledge to reduce its carbon footprint by 50 percent by 2050.

United powered the flight using a 30/70 blend of low-carbon aviation fuel provided by Boston-based World Energy and traditional jet fuel. United recently renewed its contract with World Energy, agreeing to purchase up to 10 million gallons of aviation biofuel over the next two years.

In the economy cabin, United swapped traditional snack options with a complimentary plated service featuring fully recyclable or compostable serviceware, including a test of an industry-first, recyclable-paper, hot beverage cup.

In the premium cabin, United is continuing to use reusable service ware and swap plastic lids for beeswax food wrappers. The airline is also removing the paper wrapping from silverware roll-ups. United has already eliminated non-recyclable stirring sticks and cocktail picks on aircraft systemwide and replaced them with an environmentally friendly product made of 100 percent bamboo.

United also offset the remainder of the flight's emissions via the airline's new carbon offset provider, Conservation International. Conservation International now partners with United on the airline's consumer carbon offset program—Eco-Skies CarbonChoice.

Additionally, 40 percent of United's eligible ground service equipment (GSE) is electric powered, with more than 70 percent of the airline's ground operation at its Los Angeles eco-hub utilizing electric GSE equipment. United is the first airline to use new ITW 7400 electric ground power units that reduce workplace noise pollution and cut carbon emissions by 90 percent. United is also using electric powered ground equipment to service the Flight for the Planet at the departure and arrival gates.

Investing more than $30 million in California-based sustainable aviation fuels producer Fulcrum BioEnergy, United's agreement to purchase nearly 1 billion gallons from Fulcrum BioEnergy is the largest offtake agreement for biofuel in the airline industry, the company said.

In addition, United has partnered with Clean the World to donate hygiene products to those in critical need.

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