Aaron Stash fused his personal passion with his career, and now we’re all a little better off
Author Ryan Hood
Aaron Stash’s two young children can’t tell the difference between their eco-friendly home and houses where their relatives live. As Stash says, they’re just happy their toys are there, and they know, “Daddy works to save the Earth.”
Stash, a member of United’s Environmental Sustainability team, had saving the planet in mind when he and his wife designed their family’s home to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certified. The ventilation system monitors carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOC) and adjusts automatically to filter the air throughout the house. Finishes within the house are low impact, sustainable or environmentally friendly, such as bamboo flooring, recycled countertops and tiles, and reused brick. The lighting is LED, and the insulation is recycled newspaper. They refrained from using VOC paint. Even the bushes in the landscaping were re-used. Oh, and they don’t have a furnace. In Chicagoland!
“We didn’t want to build another McMansion, cookie-cutter house and divert a bunch of things into a landfill,” Stash says. “We wanted to build our forever house.”
Stash grew up in rural Central Illinois. His family didn’t farm, but plenty of his friends’ families did. His wife lived in Florida as a kid—until Hurricane Andrew destroyed her family’s home, in 1992. So both understood the importance of the environment firsthand.
“The community itself was very connected to the land,” Stash says of his hometown. “Growing up and always hearing about how the crops were doing, the importance of taking care of the environment is ingrained in you, because it affects everyone’s lives.”
A weeklong mentorship at a Mitsubishi plant in the seventh grade and Art in the Woods camps as a child sprouted his interest in preserving the environment, but Stash hasn’t always officially worked to save the Earth. He joined United in October 2000, but until last fall he worked in MileagePlus and advertising, helping to launch the new “Fly the Friendly Skies” campaign.
Stash got a personal win-win last fall when a job on United’s environmental sustainability team became available. This allowed the owner of the LEED Platinum certified house, who volunteers with his local community environmental group, to fuse his personal passion with his career. And this opportunity came at a company that has already enabled him to tour the Road to Hana and the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii, the Ingapirca Ruins in Ecuador, the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco and the English Garden in Munich, among others.
In his new role, Stash helps United create a more sustainable future. United’s recently launched Eco-Skies Vacation program offers environmentally sustainable travel options throughout the customer journey. This spring, the AltAir Fuels refinery will come online and begin supplying United’s Los Angeles hub with aviation biofuel that achieves a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (on a lifecycle basis). United’s collaboration for sustainable aviation biofuels earned the airline and its partners the 2015 WBM Award for Excellence in Advanced Biofuels. AltAir’s Los Angeles facility will provide United up to 15 million gallons of low-carbon aviation biofuel over a three-year period. In addition, United sponsors Eco-Skies Community Grants, empowering our employees to make a positive environmental impact in the communities we serve.
“Who better to help the Earth than the people who look at it every day from 35,000 feet?” Stash says.
And who better than Stash to help lead the way.
“I pinch myself and say, ‘Wow, I really do this,’” Stash says. “I loved my job before, but I had a job and a personal passion. Now, the two have meshed. People tell me this is the perfect job for me, and I say, ‘I know.’ It’s amazing.”