At Delta, we’re committed to operating in a sustainable manner and are always looking for new ways to reduce our environmental footprint. Some of our most recent efforts include improving fuel efficiency of our aircraft and ground support equipment, reducing and recycling operational waste, evaluating alternative fuels, providing commute options for employees, and creating opportunities for customers to offset greenhouse gas emissions associated with their flights.
Aircraft emissions account for 98% of our carbon footprint. In an effort to increase transparency and help identify ways to reduce our overall environmental impact, we calculate our complete greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory annually and have it externally verified.
In 2012, we were the first major U.S. carrier to receive verification of our 2005-2011 GHG emissions under The Climate Registry. All verified emissions reports can be accessed on the TCR Member Reports website.
Compared to our 2005 baseline, we have reduced annual GHG emissions from flight and ground operations by 7.9 million metric tons – a 17.2% decrease over eight years. We achieved these reductions through fleet restructuring – replacing older, less fuel-efficient jets with more modern planes – as well as:
- Strategic Flight Planning
- Removing Unnecessary Weight
- Improved Operations
- Upgraded Aircraft Software
- Adding Winglets
Impact of Fuel Savings Initiatives in 2014:
Fuel Efficiency Goal
We are a proud member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an industry organization that established a voluntary goal of improving aircraft fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% each year from 2009 to 2020. This means reducing the amount of fuel it takes to transport passenger and cargo by 1.5% each year through 2020. Our fuel efficiency calculations include data from both mainline and regional carriers.
In 2009, we used an average of 43.39 liters to transport 100 RTK. At the end of 2013, we were using in average of 41.55 liters, a 4.24% improvement over 4 years. This means our average annual fuel efficiency improvement since 2009 is 1.06%, which does not meet the IATA goal. Retirement of less efficient, smaller aircraft and delivery of new aircraft in 2014 will improve our environmental performance.
Environmental Compliance Goals
We comply with all applicable federal, state and local environmental laws and continue to track and set goals for spills, notices of violations, fines and waste.
In 2007, we became the first airline to launch a carbon offset program. Today, we work with The Nature Conservancy to offer passengers the opportunity to voluntarily offset the carbon emissions incurred from their flight through an online calculator available at www.delta.com/co2 and when booking a flight. Delta's year-round carbon offset program allows customers to purchase and retire carbon offsets on delta.com to reduce the carbon dioxide associated with their travel. Retired offsets are tracked on Markit Environmental Registry.
The Tensas River Basin Project in the Lower Mississippi River Valley, funded in part by a $1 million donation by Delta, was the first project in the program and is part of the Conservancy's forest carbon initiative. The project allowed the reforestation of 406.3 acres, which over time is estimated to sequester a net of 74,177 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Money raised through voluntary carbon offsets purchased by passengers (which will be retired by the Conservancy on their behalf), as well as funds raised through a matching program during April in honor of Earth Month, was directed to the project. Through 2012, we added almost $275,000 to this initiative..
After achieving success at Tensas River, the project has been retired from the Voluntary Carbon Offset Program in order to provide donors the opportunity to support new carbon offset projects where financial support is needed more urgently. In 2012, we renewed our commitment to provide passengers the opportunity to offset flight emissions using a new Conservancy project designed to generate carbon offsets, the Rio Bravo Climate Action Project. The Rio Bravo Climate Action Project is a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and Programme for Belize. The 6,296 hectare Avoided Planned Deforestation project, located in north-west Belize, reduces GHG emissions through the acquisition and protection of forest lands threatened by agricultural conversion. The project achieved successful verification of 1,660,260 carbon offsets in 2011.
Additionally, in 2013, Delta enrolled a new Conservancy project into the Voluntary Carbon Offset Program, located in the Appalachian Mountains.The Clinch Valley Conservation Forestry Program protects and manages 22,000 acres of working forestlands in the rural countryside of southwestern Virginia. These forests support iconic wildlife species like black bear, provide clean water for people and globally rare aquatic species, and sustain local timber jobs and economies. On Rich Mountain Farm, one of the nation’s oldest continually operated cattle ranches, the Conservancy’s improved forest management on nearly 6,000 acres has thus far sequestered more than 150,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
More recently, a project in Chile was added to our Offset Program. The Valdivian Coastal Reserve, owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, is a 125,000-acre protected area located on Chile’s southern coastline. In 2003, TNC purchased this temperate rainforest property, halting the threat of deforestation from construction of coastal highways as well as conversion of native forest to exotic plantations. This prevented more than 350,000 tons of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere. The Reserve is home to biological treasures such as Olivillo and Alerce trees, whose lifespan stretches between 400-3,000 years, as well one of the world’s smallest deer called the Pudú.
Delta’s Award Winning In-Flight Recycling Program
In 2007, we launched a comprehensive in-flight recycling program to collect and divert aluminum cans, plastic beverage cups, plastic bottles, newspaper and magazines from landfills in 28 U.S. airports and one international location. Rebates from in-flight recycling are donated to the Force for Global Good Habitat for Humanity program.
Between 2007 and 2013, more than 8.5 million pounds have been collected, earning more than $500,000 in rebates -- enough to fully fund five Habitat for Humanity homes.
Employee Recycling Center
We have had an on-site Employee Recycling Center at our headquarters in Atlanta since 2007. The center was created to provide recycling services to those living in communities with a limited ability to recycle materials generated at home.
Rebates from the Atlanta Employee Recycling Center benefit the Delta Employee and Retiree Care Fund. Since this program launched, more than 4 million pounds of material have been recycled, raising more than $44,000 toward this fund
Aircraft Carpet Recycling Program
Aircraft Cabin Maintenance has recycled 363 tons of worn aircraft carpet since 2011 through Delta’s Aircraft Carpet Recycling Program.
Office Paper Recycling
Employees in the U.S. have recycled 866 tons of office paper since 2011. Sensitive documents are shredded and recycled by Iron Mountain. In 2013, 506 tons of paper were recycled through this program.
Corporate Responsibility Reports
Our current and previous Corporate Responsibility Reports can be viewed here.
Our annual responses to the CDP’s Investor and Supplier questionnaires can be viewed on the CDP website.
Dow Jones Sustainability Index
We’ve also been included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for North America for the second consecutive year, and are the only airline selected from the top 20% of the 600 largest U.S. and Canadian companies in the Dow Jones Global Total Stock Market Index.