Alaska Air Group Sustainability Report: CO2 Intensity Drops 4%
Alaska Air Group – the parent company of both Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air – reduced its greenhouse gas intensity by 4 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to the company’s latest corporate sustainability report.
In 2010, the company produced a carbon intensity rating of 164.3. In 2011, this figure dropped to 157.6. The report does not say what measurement exactly the the figures refer to, but its a calculation of carbon emissions per revenue miles.
Air group has reduced its carbon intensity by 30 percent since 2004.
The group’s total carbon emissions rose 3.7 percent year-on-year, from 3.75 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2010 to 3.89 in 2011. Since 2004, the company has reduced its total emissions by around 2.3 percent.
About 99 percent of our Alaska Air Group’s carbon emissions come from burning aviation fuel – the company uses more than 1 million gallons each day. The company describes fuel consumption as its “biggest environmental and financial challenge.” The company targets fuel efficiency through such measures as buying efficient airplanes, removing unneeded weight, route, speed and landing pattern optimization, limiting idling time and engine maintenance. Alaska is currently the most-efficient domestic carrier in the United States in terms of fuel per revenue passenger mile, the report says.
The two airlines operated 75 passenger flights powered by a 20 percent biofuel blend in November 2011. These flights demonstrated the viability and need for an adequate, affordable and sustainable supply of alternative aviation fuel. The biofuel project grew out of Alaska Air Group’s involvement in Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest, the first US regional group of its kind to study alternative aviation fuels.
Alaska Air Group has also been working with the FAA in creating and using a process to land aircraft more efficiently. Optimized profile descent changes the pattern of an airplane’s landing approach from a traditional route in which the airplane reduces altitude in a piecemeal fashion on a decent route that resembles a staircase to a more direct diagonal descent. The diagonal route reduces fuel consumption, emissions and noise over the traditional step-down approach, the report says.
Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air inflight recycling programs diverted more than 800 tons of inflight waste from landfills last year, including some 230 tons of aluminum and 185 tons of paper. That’s enough aluminum to build three new airplanes and enough paper to replace 3,100 trees, the company says.
Alaska Airlines increased its recyclables collection rate from 44 percent in 201o to 49 percent in 2011. Horizon increased its collection rate from 85 percent to 90 percent over the same time period, but its recycling rate dropped from 64 percent to 49 percent year-on-year, the report says (see chart below).
Contributing factors to the drop in Horizon’s recycling rate are believed to be: removing individual plastic water bottles now that all on board water is poured from a larger bottle (a net benefit to the environment overall, the company says); the addition of buy-onboard snacks and picnic packs cabin service; and outside food and beverages brought onboard by passengers, the report says.
Among other efforts to reduce landfilled waste the group has replaced non-recyclable polystyrene main cabin coffee cups with recyclable paper coffee cups and begun providing compostable plant-based cutlery in lieu of plastic cutlery to its main cabin passengers.
The company’s water consumption stayed static at 18 million gallons from 2010 to 2011, the report says. The group says that water consumption “is not a material environmental impact” for it. At the airlines water is used mainly for sanitary purposes, with relatively minor amounts used for maintenance, washing and landscape irrigation, the report says.
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