It’s hard to believe that just one year ago we were sitting in a conference room, attending the initial brainstorming session for The Good Traveler carbon offset program. We had so many good ideas and there was so much excitement that we ran out of space for Post-It notes on the white board.
The opportunities for San Diego International Airport (SAN) to lead on the issue of carbon emission reduction seemed – and still seem! – boundless. We were imagining all the ways we could engage with airport passengers and work with stakeholders in the travel ecosystem. And more than a year later, that enthusiasm remains as strong as ever.
The Good Traveler program works hand-in-hand with the Environmental Affairs Department at SAN, which is charged with making the airport greener, from cleaning the water that drains off the runways, to helping make the case for the solar panels that now shade the Terminal 2 West parking lot, to encouraging concessions to recycle, to orchestrating the switch to a massive fleet of hybrid taxis that replaced the gas guzzlers previously serving the airport.
Environmental Affairs also provides the resources and enthusiasm to run The Good Traveler. Through a process of begging, borrowing, and working lean, a pilot program was started to see if they could make an impact in the universe. They engaged with over a thousand travelers online and asked them if they would be up for spending a little more to fly green. Nearly 80 percent of them said yes. Given that hardly anyone does so currently, Environmental Affairs knew they had their work cut out for them.
A year later, The Good Traveler has offset 9,779,232 air miles or 1,770 metric tons of carbon dioxide and helped to put 877,894 gallons of water back into the Colorado Delta. It's a great start, but the surface has only been scratched.
As of December 28th 2016 the program has now offset 11,522,720 air miles, 2,042 mT of CO2e and 907,644 gallons
Simple, Affordable & Meaningful
Carbon offsetting is something designed by experts for experts. One of The Good Traveler's goals is to simplify the offset purchase process and to provide ways for all travelers to participate.
In its first year, The Good Traveler worked with two hotels. Paradise Point Resort offers The Good Traveler offsets as a $1 option whenever you book a room on their website. About 500 rooms were booked with that option in the first month. Torrey Pines Lodge, part of Evans Hotels, is developing similar carbon offset strategies for its guests. KPBS, San Diego's public radio station, offers the offsets as a thank you gift when you sign up as a member. KPBS also covered The Good Traveler in an interview during Morning Edition. A local bus company offers The Good Traveler offsets to passengers going on wine tours of the area. In the future The Good Traveler plans to leverage other partner opportunities including universities, ground transportation, convention centers, hotels and tourist destinations that are linked to airports around the country.
Balboa Park, one of the major tourist attractions in San Diego, is offering offsets at one of its museums and at the Sustainability Studio.
Placing low-cost tablet computers at the concessions in the terminals helped explain to travelers what a carbon offset is. Now passengers can buy an organic, fair trade, Ryan Brothers latte with a carbon offset on the side.
Another touch point at the airport is the high definition displays at gates that are closed. These educate travelers and direct them to concessions that are participating in selling tags.
Part of making the purchase process simple is offering a streamlined online experience which works well on smartphones as well as laptops. Our free Wi-Fi login page provides a one-click link to the store. Our store offers options of U.S. and African projects. In the future, we want to offer local projects and projects that support local charities, too.
Other Airports Joining
Airports are the largest gathering places of consumers in the developed world and The Good Traveler is going national. Partner airports can use The Good Traveler as a mechanism to purchase annual offsets to meet environmental commitments. Airports have uniquely cooperative relationships with each other, including working together through the Airports Council International (ACI) – the primary industry group for airports. The Good Traveler has provided the carbon offsets to help balance out the carbon footprint of two recent ACI conferences in North America.
Later this year, other airports will offer The Good Traveler offsets, linking to the website from their web pages and vice-versa. The plan is for passengers to see The Good Traveler when they take off and then again when they land at their destination.
In addition to offering offsets to passengers, airports could potentially pool their purchasing power to cooperatively earn a lower price to offset the impact of their own operations. ACI has established a robust Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) process, to which a large number of the largest airports in the world are committed. This consists of measuring, reducing and offsetting their carbon footprint down to zero.
Request for Proposal
In the near future San Diego International Airport will release a request for proposal (RFP) for vendor services to manage The Good Traveler carbon offset program. Interested organizations can contact us for more information or to can register as a vendor on San Diego Airport’s website to receive a formal notice when the RFP is released.
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