How many of you design airplanes? Not many, I suspect, and those that do aren’t likely paying a lot of attention to environmental issues. Airplanes have a terrible environmental reputation, deservedly so. As the least energy-efficient mode of travel, they spew a huge amount of carbons emissions and provide we the passengers with lousy interior air.
However, last week Southwest Airlines announced the debut of its “green plane” with environmentally friendly interior materials. Straight from the press release:
Southwest has designated one aircraft, a Boeing 737-700 to serve as a test for eco-friendly products, which include:
• InterfaceFLOR Carpet – this carpet reduces labor and material costs because it is installed in sections, thus eliminating the need for total replacement of areas such as aisles where Southwest currently uses one single piece of carpet. The 100 percent recyclable carpet is returned to the manufacturer at the end of its service life and completely re-manufactured into new carpet; the process is completely carbon neutral.
• Seat covers – two new products that will be tested on the aircraft seats, offering more than twice the durability than the current leather seats as well as a weight savings of almost two pounds per seat.
• On one side of the aisle, e-Leather is an eco-friendly, lightweight and scuff resistant man-made alternative to traditional leather. It is made from recycled materials that have been discarded by the leather industry. It is then upgraded utilizing eco friendly technology, resulting in composition leather, a man-made material.
• On the other side of the aisle, IZIT Leather, a new breed of premium leather alternative, is an evolutionary step beyond calf skin that offers a lightweight product that is both economical and durable, but with the genuine appearance and touch of luxurious leather.
• Life Vest Pouch - more environmentally friendly because it offers a weight savings of one pound per passenger, replacing the current metal container with lighter durable canvas. The smaller pouch also creates more room under the seat for carryon items and offers productivity improvements due to design change.
• Foam Fill - A lighter weight fill from Garnier PURtec in the back of the seats that reduces weight while providing increased customer comfort.
• Passenger Seat Rub Strips - switching from plastic to aluminum will help with durability, which reduces waste, as well as being recyclable.
In addition to the green plane, Southwest also announced the November 1 kickoff of its more robust onboard recycling program, which is a co-mingled system that will allow the airline to capture more recyclable material and divert it from the waste stream.
According to Southwest, all of the initiatives being tested on this Green Plane, when combined, will equate to a weight savings of almost five pounds per seat, thus saving fuel and reducing emissions, along with adding recyclable elements to the cabin interior and reducing waste.
It is now greener to move about the country.