Continental Airlines flies green

HOUSTON Continental's efforts to green up and help the environment start before you ever step onto a plane.

"This is something that we did before green was cool," Leah Raney, Continental's Director of Global Environmental Affairs, said.

At George Bush Intercontinental Airport's Terminal E, you'll find a building with solid flooring, high ceilings, and special windows. Raney says it is 15 percent more energy efficient than other terminals. The effort extends to the tarmac, with carts and luggage carriers that don't burn gasoline.

"We've replaced a lot of our older equipment with electric ground service equipment," she said. "So, the little tractors you see driving around, many of those are electric. The less fuel you burn, the less greenhouse gas emissions you have."

Continental also credits its newer planes with saving money and fuel -- as much as a 35 percent reduction in the carbon they would have emitted otherwise.

"Just by our fleet renewal process, especially over the last ten years, we have a really great story to tell," Raney said.

And then there are the things that Continental says it is doing that you wouldn't necessarily notice from the ground or from the air.

That something is called carbon offsetting. Whenever you buy a ticket on Continental, you can now find out the environmental impact of your flight. And then, if you so choose, you can pay to replenish the environment: $11 for international reforestation projects or $29 for renewable energy projects here in the United States.

"Particularly our European customers really wanted to have this program," Raney said.

Continental is partnered with Sustainable Travel International, a non-profit group that plants the trees and funds wind farms.

"We see that the volume of people buying these carbon offsets is definitely increasing," Raney said, "although it's still a relatively small percentage of the people who purchase tickets."

In fact, that percentage sits at around one percent of all ticket buyers. Regardless, Continental says it is pushing forward, working hard, and flying green.

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