A report referenced in the UK based Telegraph has called for an airplane based ecolabel to “inform passengers how much carbon their journey is producing, enabling them to make informed choices about how they travel.”
Would it be better to focus on carbon or look at the overall environmental footprint of the airline (would being organic make the food taste better)? While developing a carbon label might be the shortest path with the best impact, if the standard was capped with carbon customers might assume a low carbon airline is making its best total effort toward the planet.
Further, merely disclosing the amount of carbon would do little to inform consumers, most of whom are not carbon accountants. One solution could be a graded label, like the one used for energy consumption in Europe.
Another more difficult option used by many product ecolabels could be simply setting the highest standard feasible and raising the grade over time “good vs bad”. The Marine Stewardship Council and the Forest Stewardship Council follow this path. Their current challenge there is how to handle their brand in a rapidly changing industry.
Making those decisions would seem like an ideal job for the the International Air Transport Association (IATA) perhaps in partnership with the ISEAL Alliance, a group that promotes consistent ecolabel standards.
IATA’s environment section states that one of their goals is to develop industry positions on key environmental issues. So far they do not appear to have considered an ecolabel. Their homepage is covered in lovely green leaves though.