The world’s first carbon neutral airline, Nature Air, has been named the Overall Winner in Conde Nast Traveler’s World Savers Awards in the airline category. Among 32 honorees chosen from 164 applicants for the prestigious award, Nature Air was recognized as an industry leader in addressing issues of global poverty, health, education and environmental depredation.
The Costa Rica-based airline was acknowledged for comprehensive efforts to compensate for its carbon emissions and social initiatives to promote education and the general welfare in the regions they operate.
“Our efforts are aimed at raising the standard of living in the destinations we fly to, while offering an exceptional experience to our passengers” said Alex Khajavi, Founder and CEO of Nature Air. “Awards like World Savers help confirm that we are on the right track, and strengthen a growing community of socially responsible industry pioneers that are on the same path.”
Nature Air offsets 100 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions by subsidizing reforestation and conservation of tropical forests in Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula. Nature Air purchases carbon credits from the government’s National Forestry Financing Fund (FONAFIFO), run by the Ministry of the Environment (MINAET). In addition, Nature Air fuels all ground equipment and vehicles with bio-diesel (a mix of recycled vegetable and cooking oils), collected from airline employees and local restaurants. It’s estimated this biodegradable fuel will reduce roughly 560 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
Nature Air also funds a social and educational initiative called the Nature Kids Foundation. Nature Kids aims to provide English education to the communities Nature Air serves. The program has developed two schools, one in Santa Ana and the other in Drake Bay, with the goal of expanding to the rest of the airline's main destinations. Nature Kids' students range from elementary age to adults. They learn practical English skills for educational advancement and application in the tourism industry, which dominates regional economies where the schools are located.
While some members of the tourism industry have battled tough economic times, Nature Air has continued to grow through eco-friendly cost-cutting strategies. Nature Air continues to invest in its sustainable tourism programs and has increased profits by 22% since 2003.
Alex Khajavi has been invited to speak on a guest panel at the 2010 CNT World Savers Congress on Oct. 20 in Singapore along with representatives from fellow winners: Abercrombie & Kent, Royal Caribbean, Grand Hyatt, and the small Costa Rican hotel chain Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality. He, along with other honorees of the World Savers, will introduce to the heads of the tourism industry – collectively the world's largest industry at $7 trillion in revenue this year – a range of resources to help them implement more effective and sustainable programs.