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Carbon offset program FAQs

What is United's commitment to the environment?

At United, we are committed to leading commercial aviation as an environmentally responsible company. We're taking actions today that shape an environmentally sustainable future, while continuing to comply with applicable laws and regulations. We will:

  1. Reduce fuel use and improve fuel efficiency of our aircraft and vehicles through technology and process innovation.
  2. Advance and utilize environmentally responsible and cost-efficient alternative fuels.
  3. Improve the sustainability of products and our facilities, and responsibly manage wastes generated by our business activities.
  4. Work together with our co-workers and partner with our stakeholders — customers, airports, business partners, suppliers, governments and NGOs — to promote accountability and protect the environment while achieving our business goals.

Learn more about United’s commitment to the environment.

What is United doing as a company to lower its impact on climate change?

Fuel burn from our aircraft represents more than 98% of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions footprint. As part of our Commitment to the Environment we are working to reduce our impact on climate change across two fronts.  As a company we have committed to reducing the fuel use and improving the fuel efficiency of our aircraft and vehicles through technology and process innovation, and we are also working to advance and utilize environmentally responsible and cost-efficient alternative jet fuels.  We’re proud of our accomplishments as a company, which include:

  • First U.S. passenger biofuel flight powered with a mixture of renewable algae-derived jet fuel and conventional jet fuel.
  • 32% improvement in fuel efficiency since 1994 through investing in a modern, fuel-efficient fleet and equipment.
  • More than 249 aircraft on order, including Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s that will deliver a 20% improvement in fuel efficiency.
  • More than 330 aircraft in our mainline operations equipped with winglets that deliver up to a 5% reduction in emissions and noise.
  • First U.S. biofuel and synthetic fuel demonstration flights and signed letters of intent with various alternative jet fuel producers in the U.S. to purchase over 50 million gallons of cost-efficient and environmentally responsible alternative jet fuels derived from biomass feedstock.
  • Over 24% of our ground service vehicles are electric or alternatively fueled.

Additionally, we support a global approach to addressing GHG emissions in the commercial aviation industry. Together with other airlines, engine and airframe manufacturers, fuel suppliers, airports, and governments, we’re working toward collective industry goals, including 1.5% average annual fuel efficiency improvement through 2020, carbon neutral growth beginning in 2020, and a 50% reduction in CO2 by 2050 relative to 2005 baseline levels.

Learn more about our environmental initiatives and accomplishments.

Why did you choose to work with Sustainable Travel International?

We reviewed a wide range of carbon offset providers. Sustainable Travel International was the standout because of its international focus, excellence of mission and high standards, which makes the organization a good fit for United and our customers. We also value Sustainable Travel International's policy of only selecting carbon offset projects that have obtained independent third-party verification and are registered with long-standing and well-respected carbon quantification protocols.

Visit the Sustainable Travel International website for more information.

What is carbon offsetting?

Carbon offsetting is a process designed to alleviate the impact of greenhouse gas emissions that result from the use of fossil fuels by reducing emissions from another source. Through this process, our customers now have the opportunity to offset the carbon emissions resulting from their travel by making tax-deductible charitable contributions to a variety of independently reviewed and certified environmental projects focused on forest conservation, renewable energy and avoided deforestation.

How do you calculate the CO2 emissions?

The calculations we use are based on actual fuel consumption of the United Airlines fleet. Calculations are based on a comprehensive carbon footprint of our flight operations, specific to routes, planes utilized, load factors, assumed passenger weight and actual fuel use. The carbon calculator only assigns the emissions associated with individual passenger travel and does not include other emissions generated by cargo transport, crew travel, etc.

Calculations represent the CO2 emitted during fuel combustion and do not account for upstream CO2 emissions from fuel production, refinement and transportation by oil companies. While upstream emissions are difficult to measure precisely, some estimates suggest that they account for approximately 16% of a fuel’s total life cycle CO2 emissions.

How does your offsetting program work?

After you've calculated the carbon footprint resulting from your travel, you will be able to choose from several high impact carbon reduction projects offered by Sustainable Travel International (STI), including forest conservation, renewable energy and avoided deforestation. STI will invest your contribution in the designated project through the purchase of carbon offsets, or units representing a certain amount of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Our projects include:

Forest conservation in California

Your support of the Garcia River Forest Project helps to conserve forestland, restore wildlife habitat and protect local forestry jobs in the heart of California’s Redwood region. Preservation of this forest land allows for the storage of 77,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually and is an independently verified carbon offset project registered with the California Climate Action Reserve.

Renewable energy in Texas

Your support of the Capricorn Ridge Wind project helps to displace fossil fuel-based energy production with clean, renewable wind power. This project produces enough wind-based electricity to power approximately 220,000 homes annually and is an independently verified carbon offset project registered with the Verified Carbon Standard.

Community-based forest conservation in Peru

Your support for Conservation International's Alto Mayo Forest Carbon Project in Northern Peru helps to protect a critical watershed for more than 240,000 people and many threatened species found nowhere else on Earth. Project activity also provides jobs for local families and incentivizes new approaches to farming that support rather than undermine native forests. This project is an independently verified REDD+ carbon offset project registered under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).

What is a metric ton(ne)?

A tonne (t) or metric ton (M/T), also referred to as a metric tonne, is a measurement of mass equal to 1,000 kilograms. 1 tonne = 1.102 U.S. tons, or 2,204 pounds.

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