Southwest Airlines Markets Green to What End?

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As more companies enter the green era, it's a good idea to pay
attention to their messages.  Southwest Airlines just announced that it
present a "green plane" at its annual media day.  What does "green
plane" mean to the air carrier? The company is incorporating
environmentally friendly products and materials into a Boeing 737-700,
which will result in reduced weight and waste. The new products
will subtract roughly five pounds from each of its 149 seats, amounting
to 745
pounds per flight. Making the plane lighter will save on fuel use and
cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.  Huh?  Based on the plane's
maximum takeoff weight of 154,500 pounds, this amounts to a .05 percent
emissions reduction.

Southwest also will begin a "more robust onboard recycling" program on
November 1
that will take their existing initiative to a higher level of
responsibility, whatever that means.
What was Southwest doing before this?

Too often, the idea of sustainability is making its way into marketing
departments that are interested in claiming the "green" label, whether
earned or not, in order to give the idea that they're part of the "in"
This is not green washing per se, because some of these

sustainability principles are actually good steps and practices.  But in
reality, how green is this?

Airlines are, and will continue to be, a vital industry in this country.
However, in order to make a true environmental impact, the industry must
also look towards developing much lighter planes with much more
engines. Until then, this is all window dressing. And will Southwest
reduce all ticket prices by .05% now that it's using less fuel?

Jonathan A. Schein is the publisher of and