United Airlines today named Sesame Street's Oscar the Grouch as its first Chief Trash Officer as he and the airline celebrate his love of rubbish. United Airlines' new, consumer education campaign is designed to promote the expected benefit of using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) more broadly.
The new campaign – which features Oscar in more than 30 pieces of original video, digital, social and out-of-home content – follows the iconic character's journey from job listing to c-suite office starring alongside real United employees.
SAF is an alternative to conventional jet fuel that, on a lifecycle basis, reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with air travel compared to conventional jet fuel alone. SAF is being made from used cooking oil and agricultural waste, and, in the future, could be made from other feedstocks including household trash or forest waste.† To date, United has invested in the future production of over three billion gallons of SAF – the most of any airline in the world.*
Consumers can take action too – in a first among U.S. airlines, United now shows an estimate of each flight's carbon footprint on a per economy seat passenger basis on its app and website, and travelers have the option to contribute to supplement United's investment in the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, a first-of-its-kind investment vehicle designed to support start-ups focused on decarbonizing air travel by accelerating the research, production and technologies associated with SAF.
"United has invested in more sustainable aviation fuel production than any airline in the world, by far," said United Chief Communications Officer Josh Earnest. "Every airline burns jet fuel to run their business, but no airline will solve climate change on its own. So United has enlisted Oscar to help us educate the traveling public of all ages about SAF and rally them to the cause of fighting climate change. From banana peels to fryer grease, Oscar is uniquely qualified to help us explain why trash could be the treasure that fuels the jets of the future."
Starting today, people can follow Oscar's journey as he stars in videos alongside real United employees. The integrated campaign includes interactive social-first elements, colorful spreads in Hemispheres® magazine and a unique film series, all of which were created to simplify a complicated topic in an approachable and entertaining way. Creative highlights include:
- Film Series: Across multiple videos, United highlights Oscar's work in his new role, such as a "BINtro" film showcasing his first day on the job. The film is part of a series that focuses on the importance of SAF. In an additional 90-second film, United Captain Tomica Adams breaks down how things like waste can help fuel air travel.
- Out of Home: United's out-of-home content introduces the airline's new hire in a larger-than-life format. The playful imagery features Oscar in aviation settings – from tarmac to onboard. The photos will pique people's interest about how trash could one day help us fly toward a lower carbon future.**
- Digital/Social: Providing surround sound to the campaign, storytelling continues on social channels with bite-size edutainment videos, engaging Instagram Story features, emoji-filled Twitter threads and more to raise awareness of the SAF nitty-gritty. The social campaign will live on owned and paid social and digital channels.
As a part of the collaboration, United Airlines is supporting Sesame Workshop through a donation to the nonprofit educational organization's Welcome Sesame initiative. Sesame Workshop will also be included in United Airlines' Miles on a Mission, where travelers will be able to donate miles to help support its global mission to help children grow smarter stronger and kinder.
"This campaign provided a special opportunity to showcase an iconic Sesame Street character, Oscar the Grouch, celebrating what he loves best – trash," said Jennifer Ahearn, VP, Global Strategic Partnerships & Themed Entertainment, Sesame Workshop. "The amazing collaboration helps United Airlines explain in simpler terms the technology of turning trash into fuel in a fun and engaging manner."
United will continue to bring this relationship to life for our customers and for the communities we serve, with more to come in the months ahead. For more information, visit united.com/ChiefTrashOfficer and download media assets here.
United's Commitment to Net Zero Emissions by 2050
United aims to be 100% green by reducing its GHG emissions by 100% by 2050, without relying on traditional carbon offsets. In addition to the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, United has launched a SAF purchasing program called the Eco-Skies Alliance and established a venture fund – United Airlines Ventures – to identify and invest in companies and technologies that can decarbonize air travel. These strategic investments include carbon capture, hydrogen-electric engines, electric regional aircraft and air taxis.
The Federal Government Recognizes the Value of SAF
The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act includes the largest governmental climate change investments in U.S. history - a new blender's tax credit specifically for SAF along with other critical incentives for clean energy and carbon capture – that will help spur an increase in SAF infrastructure and supply while lowering costs for SAF consumers.
The U.S. military currently uses nearly five billion gallons of jet fuel annually and the Department of Defense will use a jet fuel blend containing at least 10% SAF by 2028 because of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.
And according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the country's vast feedstock resources are enough to meet the projected SAF demand of the entire U.S. aviation industry.
* Based on publicly announced airline offtake agreements for future purchases of SAF.
† SAF currently must be blended with conventional jet fuel to meet regulatory requirements for use within the aircraft.
** The use of SAF in combination with conventional fuel in accordance with current blending requirements results in lower carbon emissions on a lifecycle basis than conventional fuel alone. SAF is less than 0.1% of United's overall fuel use.