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Southwest Airlines One Report: Reducing Our Environmental Impact with Efficient Operations

Explorer B

This is the final blog in a series of posts about our new Southwest Airlines One Report ™—a single report on our triple bottomline of Performance, People, and Planet adhering to Global Reporting Initiative standards.

As an airline, being Green isn’t always easy.  Considering that the majority of our carbon footprint is fuel burn, it’s important for Southwest to not only understand our impact on the environment but to grasp what we can do and are doing to minimize it. 

This is what we do – we help people see the world, so it is important that we do everything in our power that our resources and business allow to preserve the natural spaces around us.  Good stewardship is not only the right thing to do as citizens of our planet, but, because our business is giving people access to see the world, we should want to help preserve it.  Our industry has helped make the world accessible - spending the morning in Africa and the evening in Greece or dipping your toe in the Pacific in the morning and back home in Chicago in the evening to tuck your kids into bed.

If we exist to make the world a smaller place—we need to protect it, which makes the Green focus so important for us at Southwest and why we put a Green filter on business decisions.  How are we operating with a Green filter?  All of our Boeing 737-700 aircraft are equipped with winglets, and we continue to add additional winglets to our 737-300 aircraft.  With an approximate 2.5 to 3 percent in fuel consumption savings, these winglet installations equated to an annual fuel savings of more than 33 million gallons just in 2009.

We also continued our $175 million, six-year initiative to implement Required Navigation Performance (RNP) systemwide.  RNP procedures are designed to conserve fuel, improve safety, and reduce carbon emissions, while simultaneously taking advantage of the high-performance characteristics that exist in an airline’s fleet.  This flight efficiency improvement saved us 4.8 million gallons alone in 2009.  It’s exciting to see us become one of the leading carriers in the industry today with the expectation of being the first major U.S. airline to have RNP sytemwide.

On the ground, we are proactively acting by converting our ground support equipment (GSE), equipment like tugs and baggage carts, to cleaner-burning technologies, such as electricity, before state or federal emission reduction regulations even require us to do so.  With more than 1,000 pieces of equipment in our GSE fleet, we have the industry-leading program using this greener technology, which allowed us to save about 460,000 gallons of fuel and reduced emissions by approximately 4,580 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2009.  In other words, this would be like removing 876 cars from the road.

The numbers speak for themselves.  In 2009,  we saved 8.5 million gallons of jet fuel beyond our already aggressive conservation program, we recycled 210,000 pounds of batteries, we recovered 5.7 billion British thermal units of energy from used oil, filters, and liquid and solid paint, and we recycled 11,000 fluorescent bulbs from facilities and our aircraft.

We know environmental decisions also make good business sense, so it’s in our DNA to take responsibility, be efficient, and continue to find ways to reduce our carbon footprint by operating with a Green filter.  To read more about our environmental efforts in the Southwest Airlines One Report™ CLICK HERE.


Explorer C

I really appreciate the ability to read about how the airlines such as Southwest is going about protecting the environment, even if they do burn fuel which we are told is the biggest contributor to the environmental problems.

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Explorer C
I would love to be able to eat your peanuts on the way to Memphis, TN. How about it? The best airline should be able to march on to victory.
Explorer C
Such a fantastic cause. This definitely makes me want to choose SW over other airlines. Keep up the good work.

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