How Sustainable Is Southwest’s “Green Plane”?

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines announced recently that it is launching a prototype “green plane,” a Boeing 737 tweaked to include environmentally responsible materials and cut down on fuel use. It’s a nice idea, but is it an honest effort or just greenwashing?

Our favorite feature on the green plane is the InterfaceFLOR carpet, a 100% recyclable carpet installed in replaceable sections. So if one piece of the carpet gets grungy, it can be replaced without having to rip up the whole thing. At the end of the product’s life, InterfaceFLOR takes it back and recycles it into new carpeting.

Beyond that, Southwest’s green tweaks seem to be geared towards reducing the plane’s weight. The seat covers weigh two pounds less than standard covers, the canvas life vests are one pound lighter, and the foam fill behind seats is lighter than traditional fill. Overall, the changes add up to a weight reduction of five pounds per seat, and that means serious fuel savings.

Southwest’s green plane isn’t a huge deal on the scale of, say, a biofuel or natural gas-powered flight, but the airline’s initiative could still cut down on fuel costs. Of course, that all depends on whether the green plane ends up as a media stunt or a prototype for future Southwest flights.

[Southwest Airlines]AS