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United Airlines Names Oscar the Grouch First Chief Trash Officer

United partners with a green, shaggy Muppet for a first-of-its-kind consumer education campaign focused on the benefits of sustainable aviation fuel.

By Todd R. Berger

3.22.23_ILME_BlogPost_United Airlines Names Oscar the Grouch as First Chief Trash Officer
Oscar the Grouch in his United Airlines chief trash officer C-suite office in Chicago CREDIT United Airlines

United Airlines named Oscar the Grouch of “Sesame Street” as the air carrier’s first chief trash officer while noting that he and the airline celebrate his love of rubbish. United Airlines’ new consumer education campaign is designed to promote the expected benefits of using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) more broadly.

The 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.

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 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 3 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 startups 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,” says 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.”

As of the beginning of March, people can follow Oscar’s journey as he stars in videos alongside United employees. The integrated campaign includes interactive social-first elements, colorful spreads in Hemispheres magazine, and a unique film series. United Airlines named Oscar the Grouch to be featured in this campaign 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,” says Jennifer Ahearn, vice president of global strategic partnerships and themed entertainment at 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 plans to continue to bring this relationship to life for customers and for the communities we serve, with more to come in the months ahead. For more information, visit united.com/ChiefTrashOfficer.

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