Poster Boy For Unintended Consequences: Rewarding Green with Air Miles

Tyler Hamilton writes about the use of Air Miles to encourage green behavior in Canada. Although the website has a section where the miles can be redeemed for eco-friendly products, most people use Air Miles for free plane trips.

Does that strike anyone else as odd?

To me, it sounds like saying “If you recycle, buy green electricity, and change your lightbulbs, I’ll help you get a free plane flight, which could easily erase the gains from your green behavior change.”


  1. Joy Hughes said

    Maybe the irony could increase demand for biofuel powered flights, turning a perverse incentive into a leverage point.

    So, how many kg of carbon does a redeemable air mile represent?

  2. Tom said

    According to this site (, a round trip flight from New York to LA is worth between .84 and 4.94 metric tons of CO2, with a mean calculation of 1.73 metric tons. Such a flight usually costs 50,000 miles, so that’s between 10,000 and 60,000 Miles per Ton, with a mean value of about 29,000 miles per ton.

    Not sure how many miles people get in the program, which we’d need to know to put this in perspective. I’m guessing they’re not giving out miles willy-nilly, so there will probably be a net carbon reduction.

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