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Carrier's green ways show in air, on ground

Air New Zealand's steps reflect the nation -- and the firm's quirks.

October 10, 2008|Peter Pae | Times Staff Writer

The environmental efforts go hand in hand with a company culture that shuns hierarchy and promotes innovation. Fyfe and senior executives, most of them in their late 30s and early 40s, switch jobs with the rank and file for a few days every month. He has worked the aisles as a flight attendant, handled baggage and worked the check-in counter.

Fyfe works behind a desk that is visible from anyone on the floor, which is covered with recycled carpet and wood trims made from trees that came from a sustainable forest.

The five-story office building, which employees like to call "the Hub," is made mostly of glass that allows as much sunlight in as possible to cut down on electric use. There are no cubicle walls to darken the rooms, and lights automatically turn off at 6 p.m. and turn back on at 7:30 a.m. Sensors that detect human movement will turn on the lights but then shut them down if there is no activity for 15 minutes.

Last year, the airline hired the former executive director of New Zealand's branch of Greenpeace International, one of the world's largest and most aggressive environmental organizations, to coordinate the company's various in-house efforts to reduce energy use by 5% every year. They include company bicycles that employees can use to commute to work or to do errands during lunch breaks.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, October 15, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 52 words Type of Material: Correction
Air New Zealand: An article in Friday's Business on Air New Zealand's environmental initiatives included a photo of an office in the airlines' environmentally friendly building, but misidentified the executive shown. It is Ed Sims, group general manager for international operations, not Chief Executive Rob Fyfe, shown in the company's meeting room.

"We grew up thinking this is one of the greatest places on Earth, and we want do our part to preserve it," said Tod, the airline's spokesman and a native Kiwi.

A few weeks ago, the carrier operated a plane from Auckland to San Francisco to demonstrate how a flight could save thousands of gallons of fuel and cut tons of carbon emissions by using new technology and procedures it had developed with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

Sometime before the end of the year, the airline plans to fly a Boeing 747 partially powered by jet fuel refined from the seed of the fast-growing jatropha weed plant. It would be part of the airline's move to find alternatives to fossil fuel that are not harmful to the environment. It hopes to use so-called biofuels, which could also include fuel refined from algae, for about 10% of its needs by 2013.

"For an isolated island destination such as ours, air travel is critical," Fyfe said, adding that 70% of its passengers are tourists attracted by the country's clean waters, beaches and rivers. "It's important for Air New Zealand to be seen operating an airline consistent with what motivates people to come and visit New Zealand."


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