Flying on wood chips? Done!


A regularly scheduled Alaska Airlines flight flew from Seattle, Washington To Washington, D.C. on Monday burning jet fuel made from limbs and branches left behind from harvests in managed forests.

This was the first time this type of alternative jet fuel was used on a commercial passenger flight and marks another milestone in the march to produce and use sustainable biofuels instead of fossil fuels for aviation.


Solid waste, used cooking oil, corn, and a variety of starch-rich plant waste has also been used to create alternative biofuels that have been mixed with regular jet fuel for test flights flown by Alaska Airlines and other carriers.

This new type of wood-based biofuel was cooked up by the Washington State University-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) and Colorado-based Gevo, Inc.

According to the airline, “while the 1,080 gallons of biofuel used on the flight has a minimal impact to Alaska Airlines’ overall greenhouse gas emissions, if the airline were able to replace 20 percent of its entire fuel supply at Sea-Tac Airport, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 142,000 metric tons of CO2. This is equivalent to taking approximately 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year.”


Earth Day at your airport

Traveling on a fuel-gobbling airplane on Earth Day?

Don’t worry – you can still be green on the ground at many airports.


Boston Logan International Airport is reminding travelers that is has added GobiCab, a fuel-saving, taxi cab ride-sharing app (for iPhones) to the eco-friendly transportation options listed on its website.


BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport is celebrating by christening eight new electric car charging stations.

Wichita Mid-Continent and several other airports will be holding earth day fairs at their terminals

San Francisco International Airport is having a little Twitter contest.

If you tweet to @flySFO between 8 a.m. PDT and 8 p.m. PDT with ideas on how to reduce your environmental foot print when traveling, you may win one of the recycled SFO banner luggage tags they’re giving away.

And Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport kicks off its First Annual Garden Show on Friday, with displays from four area organizations: Openlands, Trees That Feed Foundation, The Conservation Foundation and the Chicago Botanic Garden.  Look for the green beyond the security checkpoints in Terminal 3, between concourses H/K and L through May 13.


(Flower photos courtesy Robin Carlson, Chicago Botanic Garden)

Lots of garbage at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

I prepared for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by spending the afternoon with garbage at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

First up:  an exhibit featuring  artwork by Dorothy Rissman made from trash she found on city streets, construction sites and beaches.

Dorothy Rissman - Snack Pack Dress

Dorothy Rissman - Reflector ball

Next: an introduction to the airport’s six pair of shiny new, computer-monitored trash compactors, set out for use by airlines.

(courtesy Sea-Tac Airport)

Sea-Tac Airport is incredibly enthusiastic about reducing waste and has won awards for the amount of trash it recycles and the wide range of things it recycles. For example, unsold food goes to food banks; spent cooking grease becomes bio-diesel fuel; and organic waste – including tons of coffee grounds, of course – gets composted.

Now the airport is turning its eco-eye on all the garbage that arrives on airplanes.

Instead of letting each airline take care of its own garbage, the airport bought a dozen computer-monitored giant compactors (six for trash; six for garbage) so that it can coordinate and monitor airplane trash.   Airlines that separate magazines, newspapers, soda cans and other recyclable items can get rid of that stuff for free.  And if they do a good job of helping the airport keep trash out of the landfills, airlines can get credit to help lower their annual bill.

Happy Earth Day!

Honolulu Int’l Airport testing wind power

In October 2006, an earthquake knocked out all the electricity on the island of Oahu and closed down the Honolulu Airport, which had inadequate back-up generators.

Now the state of Hawaii is testing a series of wind turbines that should generate enough power to keep the airport operating should there be another emergency situation.


You can read the details of the project in the Honolulu Advertiser.  But even if you’re not at all interested in kilowatts, turbines and voltage, take a look at the photo gallery that accompanies the article.   As you can see from these photos, those wind turbines are really quite pretty.

honolulu airport wind turbines 2

Travel tidbits: Nix the baggage handlers; MSP wind turbines; DTW’s ambulances

Would you load your own baggage?

baggageYou book online, you print out your own boarding pass, why not load your own luggage on the plane? According to a Reuter’s report:

Europe’s largest low-cost airline Ryanair is looking at the possibility of getting passengers to carry their luggage all the way to the plane, cutting out the need for baggage handlers.

“We would say to passengers… take your own bag down through airport security, leave it at the bottom of the steps, we put it in the hold and on arrival we deliver it to the aircraft steps and you take it with you,” CEO Michael O’Leary told a news conference on Thursday.

Good idea or not?

MSP going greener


Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is doing its part to save the earth – and some money – by installing and testing ten 1 kilowatt wind turbines

And the folks at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) had a little party to celebrate the arrival of these new ambulances, which will be put to use on the average half dozen or so EMS runs that occur at the airport daily.

dtw-ambulancesLet’s hope you don’t actually have to see the inside of one of these buses, but if you do it may be comforting to know that the word at the airport is that the stretchers are “awesome. Totally hydraulic. The firefighters don’t need to lift stretchers up and down when transporting a patient.”