JetBlue’s Sustainability Efforts Getting Results

Sophia Mendelsohn Head of Sustainability for JetBlue
Sophia Mendelsohn Head of Sustainability for JetBlue

Metropolitan Airport News had a conversation with Sophia Mendelsohn, the head of JetBlue’s sustainability efforts, and the topics ranged from the now famous JetBlue garden, to the more prosaic subjects of reduced carbon dioxide aircraft fuels, airport service vehicles and all the other improvements airports can make to reduce air toxicity.
The T5 terminal at JFK airport has two gardens, a rooftop garden that is open to customers as a way to relax, rather than continue the pressures of travel in a busy and loud airport terminal. Solving that problem can be defined as human sustainability.

Plants as we all know, are not just nice to have around, and provide a healthy food supply, but also reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air since carbon to a plant is like a sirloin steak to a person. Carbon, along with sunlight and water are the growth engines of plant life. Therefore, a garden is a trifecta of benefits, pleasant to be in, one of our sources of food, and a sanitation system for our air since as part of photosynthesis, they produce oxygen. Something for all of us to think about when we see that unused piece of land in our back yard.

The conversation turned to other environmental steps that JetBlue is engaged in or planning. The more prosaic subjects of wing tips which reduce fuel usage, composite metals which reduce aircraft weight, and therefore fuel usage and the composition of fuel itself are all worth looking at.

JetBlue is also actively engaged in seeking a high quality and reliable source of alternate fuels. These are fuels from vegetable life, or from waste products, that do not burn with the high release of carbon dioxide that are a product of Jet fuels. The mix of high octane requirements to lift a jet aircraft off the ground, coupled with the need to reduce carbon emissions is challenging and takes thorough analysis and testing.

Airborne emissions present an opportunity to reduce carbon; but ground vehicles are also a potential source of reducing carbon emissions. Both Natural Gas Vehicles and Electric vehicles are used at other airports and both can be considered. JetBlue is looking at Electric vehicles and is involved in a joint study with the Port Authority to begin introducing this technology.

There are airports now using electric vehicles for towing, baggage handling, maintenance and supply, and point to point transport of ground staff. The big advantage of electric is that you charge the car during non-peak for the utility company, and therefore, utility emissions are flat while the batteries are being charged.

Ms. Mendelsohn, JetBlue’s leader in these efforts is taking aggressive and creative approaches to improving our environment and is willing to tackle these problems as a “first to the market” as marketing folks like to say. This is usually the most difficult but rewarding place to be.

Mr. Alba was previously Editor of the Airport Press for 12 years covering both local as well as global aviation news. Prior to this, Mr. Alba had Executive positions in Systems Engineering and Marketing with IBM World Trade, and had foreign assignments in the Far East and Latin America earning three Outstanding Achievement Awards. Mr. Alba also directed a new function dealing with Alternate Fuels for Public Service Electric & Gas company in New Jersey and founded a Natural Gas Vehicle Consortium consisting of car company executives and fleet owners, and NGV suppliers in New Jersey. Mr. Alba was a founding partner of ATA, an IT Consulting company which is still active in Central and South America. After leaving the armed forces, Mr. Alba’s initial employee was the U.S. Defense Department as an analyst.

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