Aviation is essential to our global community, as it is an engine for economic, social and cultural development around the world. Today, passengers, crew, employees, and regulators are increasingly aware of the environment and GHG emissions. The global aviation industry produces around 2% of all carbon dioxide emissions, with the largest proportion of carbon emissions coming from jet fuel consumption. In 2019, flights produced 915 million tons of carbon dioxide. Therefore airlines take actions to reduce their environmental footprint by integrating sustainability into all their daily operations.

Sustainable fuel and lower emissions

Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, owns the ecoDemonstrator program. The program aims to improve sustainability in the aviation industry and enhance safety, sustainability, and passenger experience. The program accelerates innovation by taking promising technologies out of the lab, testing them on the ground and solving challenges related to airlines, passengers, and the environment.

All flight testing programs included in the ecoDemonstrator use sustainable fuel in order to reduce environmental footprint and benefit the industry now and in the future.

In September 2020, in cooperation with Etihad Airways, the 787-10 Dreamliner flew from Seattle to North Charleston, South Carolina using 50,000 gallons of sustainable jet fuel.

World Energy produces fuels in commercial quantities at competitive prices. The fuel consists of a 50/50 blend of sustainable fuel, made from inedible agricultural waste, and traditional jet fuel. The fuel aims to improve air navigation and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 75% over the fuel’s life cycle.

Etihad Airways promised to halve the total emissions for 2019 by 2035, and to reduce the level of carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

Cleaning aircraft without water

During each flight, dust and dirt accumulate on the aircraft’s exterior, increasing the amount of fuel it consumes by making the aircraft heavier and less aerodynamic. To sustainably wash aircraft, some airlines such as Emirates Airlines have turned to “aircraft dry wash”.

Eco-friendly aircraft dry wash technology has allowed Emirates Airline to stop the waste of more than 11 million liters of water annually. Under this technology, small amount of water, or even no water, is used, and cleaning agents are manually applied to the entire outer surface of the airframe.

No plastic

Airlines continue to strive to reduce the environmental impact of our operations and promote efficient recycling practices. On Emirates Airlines, blankets are made 100% of recycled plastic bottles. One blanket need 28 bottles; this is done by turning plastic bottles into yarn and weaving them to turn into soft, sustainable blankets.

EasyJet, the British airline, is reducing the use of single-use plastics. It has removed plastic from food and beverage products on board. It also encourages the use of reusable cups by offering discounts on hot drinks to customers who bring their cups, in addition to replacing plastic stirrers with wooden spoons.

In 2019, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) worked with partners to create a special edition of the GreeningATL uniform for the Atlanta Host Committee. To fortify their zero-waste policy, 400 tons of plastic bottles generated by airport visitors were collected, then converted into REPREVE fibers, and into sustainable GreeningATL jackets. Each jacket uses six plastic bottles.

Sustainable crew and passenger transportation

Responsible airports are developing sustainable means of transportation for both crew and passengers.

In early October of this year, Emirates Airlines revealed that about a third of its bus fleet dedicated to transporting its crew is currently running on biofuels. This initiative is another step forward in its environmental mission to reduce emissions, as the CO2 emissions savings from this initiative alone are estimated at 75,000 kg annually.

At Charlotte Douglas International Airport, five electric buses have been included in its fleet. The five electric buses will lead to an annual reduction of 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel and will have an annual impact equivalent to removing 2,900 cars from city streets. The airport plans to replace 70 diesel buses with 50 electric buses over the next seven to ten years.

Aviation industry in sustainable development

Although there is no SDG target on mobility, the aviation industry plays a major role in support of the SDGs. Through day-to-day aviation operations, the sector can be empowered to support SDG topics. Working in partnership with governments and intergovernmental institutions will contribute to achieving future growth with the highest levels of efficiency and sustainability. The long-term sustainability of aviation can be ensured, through partnerships focused on addressing aviation’s GHG emissions, developing ambitious action plans and using sustainable fuels.

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

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