On this day dedicated to celebrating and protecting our good Earth, it’s important for those of us in the aviation industry to remind ourselves that we can still be kind to the environment even as we take to the skies. The truth is that aircraft account for very little of total atmospheric carbon. According to an estimate by Cambridge University, aviation contributes only about 2 percent of total global CO2 emissions.

But the industry recognizes its responsibilities. Even if it didn’t feel any moral obligation, economics would dictate action. Just as $4 gas will make you think twice about buying that Hummer, aircraft operators continually push for more efficient machines and for alternative, sustainable fuels.

For Earth Day, a Few Current Initiatives

• Just this week, an Argentinean firm announced that it is close to producing commercially viable jet fuel from microalgae. When you think about it, this is how we got oil in the first place. It just skips the bit about spending millions of years squeezed amongst the rocks.

• Also this week, a Slovenian self-launching glider won the Lindbergh prize as the best electric plane on the market. And yes, there is such a market, as more groups race to build airborne Priuses (Prii?).

• NASA currently is testing a substance it calls hydrotreated renewable jet fuel. Guess that sounds better than processed chicken fat. It’s just one of many biofuels under study.

Meanwhile, every aircraft and aircraft engine manufacturer is devoting enormous resources to making current technologies and fuel sources more efficient. The ones who don’t won’t last long.

We’ll make a bold prediction here: Mankind took to the skies a little over a century ago. A hundred years from now, we’ll still be soaring into the heavens.

Happy Earth Day.