Each year, airplane emissions account for about 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Pair that with the water, energy and other resources needed to power airports, hotels and other travel destinations, and the travel industry has a significant impact on the environment.
Many hotels and airlines are making efforts to be more environmentally conscious, and now loyalty programs are offering their members opportunities to share in that mission. If you’re interested in ways to offset your own carbon footprint from travel, look no further than your loyalty programs.
How Travel Loyalty Programs Can Help the Environment
Here are some ways to make the world a greener place by tapping into travel loyalty programs.
Buy Carbon Offsets
Whether traveling for business or travel, your commercial flights can have a major impact on the environment. Through loyalty programs such as United MileagePlus and Delta SkyMiles, you can balance some of this impact by using your airline miles to support environmental projects around the world. United offers the “Eco-Skies Carbon Choice” program, which lets members such as yourself purchase carbon offsets to support greenhouse gas reduction programs. Some programs include forest conservation in Northern California and Peru and renewable energy research in Texas.
Delta started a partnership with The Nature Conservancy in 2013 and as a member, you can use a carbon calculator to view the environmental impact of your travel, then make a donation to forest preservation projects using your earned miles.
Opt Out of Hotel Housekeeping
If you’re staying at a hotel for several days, unless you ask otherwise, the housekeeping staff will change your sheets and give you new towels each day. Likely you don’t do the same at home, so an easy way to save some energy and water is to forego replenishing your towels and linens. As an added bonus, some hotel loyalty programs reward members for opting out of daily housekeeping.
For example, if you’re a Starwood Preferred Guest, you can receive either a $5 voucher at participating food and beverage outlets in the hotel or up to 500 Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints each night you decline housekeeping service through its “Make a Green Choice” program. This means opting out of all housekeeping services for the day, but you can ask the front desk for toiletries and other items as needed. In participating, you’ll be adding to your bank of loyalty points while doing your part to save the environment.
Donate Miles and Points to Charity
Some hotel and airline loyalty programs don’t necessarily have sustainability efforts outlined as a separate feature of their programs and, instead, include environmental organizations in their list of partner charities. Hundreds of charities worldwide benefit from loyalty program members who donate their unused miles or points in an effort to give back or redeem rewards before a fast-approaching expiration date.
JetBlue Airways TrueBlue, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, and Hilton HHonors are a few of the many hotel and airline rewards programs that allow you to donate to a charity of your choice, based on a select list.
JetBlue Airways TrueBlue members can donate to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which conserves more than two million miles of land worldwide, or CarbonFund.org, which is putting forth efforts to make it easier for businesses and individuals worldwide to easily and cost-effectively reduce carbon emissions.
As a Hilton HHonors member, you can have your choice of donating to many sustainable charities including the Arbor Day Foundation the World Wildlife Fund through their Hilton HHonors Giving Back program.
A featured charity of the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program is the Student Conservation Association, which helps build the next generation of conservation leaders.