While many of us are aware of the threat that global climate change poses to the natural environment and all the inhabitants of this planet, not everyone may know that the airline industry plays a significant role in causing global warming. In fact, the airline industry as a whole is responsible for 2% of all global emissions, a number that is only expected to rise in the next few years as developing countries find a greater need for air travel. Airlines can be unsustainable in other ways, too, including employing inadequate recycling programs, using wasteful packaging across the board, and even having ground facilities that aren’t very green.
The upside to all of this is that many airlines are aware of the problems they cause through their daily operations. Conscientious organizations are asking individual airlines to reduce emissions, recycle more effectively, and to give back to the communities they serve.
On airline that’s doing their part to make a positive impact on the world is Jet Blue. Their sustainability policy is a thorough and rigorous one, and reflects the extent of their dedication to reducing their carbon emissions, decreasing their reliance upon fossil fuels, and massively reducing waste in all areas of their operations. Their annual corporate responsibility and sustainability report – the Blue Review – is available online here.
Here are a few of the areas where Jet Blue is working to be greener:
Carbon Emissions: Jet Blue partners with Carbonfund.org and the Seneca Meadows Landfill Gas to Energy Project, which uses donated funds to help offset their carbon emissions and to convert harmful greenhouse gases from landfills and turn that into electricity. They also utilize NextGen navigation technology, which employs satellite data rather than radar, to make for more efficient (and lower carbon emitting) flights. The NextGen technology saves approximately 18 gallons of fuel and releases 21 fewer pounds of C02 into the atmosphere!
Fuel Efficiency: As a newer airline, Jet Blue already has one of the most fuel-efficient fleets (the average age of their aircraft is just 7.2 years, so they’ve got some of the best technology out there for eco-friendliness). Of course, they still continue to work with Airbus to retrofit older plane models to make them as efficient as possible, and when purchasing new aircraft and engines, only opt for the most eco-friendly choices. In 2015, Jet Blue began to also equip their A320 fleet with Sharklets, little wing extensions to improve aerodynamics and reduce fuel waste.
Water With drinking water on board to prep coffee and tea, as well as to run sinks, many airlines carry far more than they need. Jet Blue started carrying 25% less water on board, which both reduced water waste and made the plane lighter – a double win. In doing so, they save about 2.4 million gallons of water per year.
Recycling: At Jet Blue, they’ve instituted robust recycling policies that help to divert products both in flight and on the ground away from landfills. In 2014, for example, they were able to achieve an 84% success rate in recycling practices. At JFK alone, they were able to recycle 1,262,522 pounds of cardboard, plastic and aluminum.
Dining: As an NYC-based airline, Jet Blue partners with many local distributors and producers to provide fare for their flights departing from the New York metropolitan area. This included local, healthy fare like kale and quinoa, plus Brooklyn-made ice cream and beer. They also partner with airport vendors on the ground (like Starbucks) to compost food waste, which in the NYC area diverts to McEnroe Organic Farm in upstate New York.
Ground Facilities: It’s equally important for ground facilities to be green, too, a directive that Jet Blue takes very seriously. In one example, in JFK’s Terminal 5, Jet Blue used reclaimed concrete for the floor, low-flow water fixtures, water bottle filling stations, and even “time-of-day lighting controls.”
Charity: Among many other charitable initiatives (including things like lobbying cities to compost waste, and helping out customers in need), Jet Blue has the “Flying it Forward” program, which awards a plane ticket to a passenger in need, who then passes that ticket on to another person. Their Jet Blue Foundation also works to fund STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) research and development, especially with regards to children’s education. They also particularly support women and minorities in aviation fields.