Energy tip #27: The best frequent flier miles are those unspent

DomAmong a raft of holiday cards this season, I received one ugly letter from the otherwise nice folks at Continental airlines — my notice of achieving elite status. We try to minimize trips as much as possible at TerraPass, but with partners and board members scattered across Seattle, Michigan, and the east coast, I log a lot of miles on the red-eye.

And every year I make status, it’s a sign I’m not doing too well on the carbon emissions front, with my savings from hang drying my laundry canceled out even before I cross the Rockies. As for the potential free trips, between ridiculous blackout dates and the carbon guilt, most of these miles will never be used.

Some interesting propositions have cropped up that I’m now investigating. Did you know you can donate miles to RedCross, Make a Wish Foundation or the National Marrow Donor Program? Who knows? Maybe soon, you’ll be able to turn them in for a TerraPass and click your heels twice for the double karma points.

Of course status does have some benefits, like early check-in and good seating. For those of us looking longingly at the premier flyers and hoping to achieve their coveted status, think about a lower-carbon strategy — just buy the miles! Josh Kopelman has a great post this week about briefly contemplating a day trip to Rome just to acheive premier executive status. Fortunately, he discovered that four bottles of Dom Perignon would do the trick just as well. Cheers, Josh, for reducing your mileage count a little bit in 2006.

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  1. Cindy - January 3, 2007

    Businesses and organizations that spend significant amounts on reimbursing employees for miles driven or air travel expenses, may want to invest in video-conferencing equipment. Whether it’s saving employees a few hours of driving or eliminating domestic or international travel, it’s a great way to bring people together from diverse locations without ever leaving home (or rather work). Of course the parties on the other end have to have the equipment as well, but there are even set ups that can operate on PCs if you can’t afford the high end equipment.

  2. Jen - January 3, 2007

    Cindy, it’s amazing what can be done with just a conference call and WebEx, and that doesn’t require any special equipment. It’s just a matter of convincing clients.
    I’d love to see a Terrapass program where I could turn my frequent flyer miles into carbon offsetting credits. An automatic offset would be great because I usually don’t go out of my way to buy offsets when I fly.

  3. louise - January 4, 2007

    I’m with Cindy! If one should ask themselves everytime they buy something, “Do I really need this?”, then it goes doubly for something like travel. Is this trip absolutely necessary?

  4. MNWalleye - January 4, 2007

    The real problem with jet travel is it’s too convenient to move vast distances that any other mode which requires more planning and just takes so much more time possibly causing people to rethink whether they should travel in the first place. But jet travel comes at a direct cost to the environment. Some studies make the case that because of the higher altitudes jets typically travel at, the harm to the environment is much worse then automobiles that operate at ground levels where there co-2 can be more easily absorbed.
    So before you get all bent out of shape with the guy driving the SUV pulling his boat to the lake, you might want to look in the mirror and wonder why your using twice as much energy to get you ½ way around the world to lay in the sun thinking your some sort of savoir for the environment.
    Maybe what is really needed is a nice big travel tax like they recently passed in Europe.,,3-2256590,00.html
    Me? I’ll just stay home,

  5. Tom Arnold - January 5, 2007


    You had me until the naval wars…climate change is caused by the buildup of anthropogenic CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, not naval wars.

  6. MNWalleye - January 5, 2007

    Tom the web site about naval wars I looked at said it was theory so I wouldn’t put much faith in it.
    Serousily the biggest problem the enviromentlist movement has is the lack of accountability of it’s leaders. Al Gore is probably the most note worthy but I still remember the Barbra Walters interview with Theresa Heinz Kerry where she admitted she drove SUV’s. The excuse? Well it snows where she lives. Oh yea it snows where I live too and I don’t need a an SUV. Now I don’t really hate SUV’s but how can you critize others for using SUV’s when your doing the very samething? After the interview, I contacted the Sierra Club who happened to be endorsing John Kerry and I asked them if they we going to at least point out that this was not consistent with what they were preaching to their members. They told me they would not comment. Knowing that Theresa Heinz Kerry is a big enviroment donor, I could only conclude that maybe if you pad the palm of the right people in power, you might just get a pass. Bet Mark Foley wished he got this type of treatment.