We are very excited to welcome Joe Sprague, Senior Vice President of Communications and External Relations at Alaska Airlines as a Keynote at GoGreen Seattle 2015 on April 30th. Joe is the executive sponsor and champion of Alaska Airlines’ sustainability initiatives and chairs Alaska’s Sustainability Steering Committee.
Join us and learn more about how Alaska Airlines Sustainability Steering committee sets their goals and drives sustainability initiatives forward.
GoGreen: How does Alaska come up with goals and metrics and then report back on the success of the Alaska Sustainability Program?
Joe Sprague: We have our executive-level sustainability steering committee which approves and prioritizes the metrics and goals. Before goals get to the steering committee level for approval we have three working groups, representing the three pillars of sustainability (people, planet and performance) that help identify the priority issues in each area. The working groups consists of senior management employees across the company who take into consideration regulatory and policy factors, stakeholder concerns, opportunities for innovation, and peer-based norms when setting our goals. It’s a little like watching sausage being made sometimes, but ultimately it works.
GoGreen: Tell us about your proudest sustainability achievements over the past 5 years.
Joe Sprague: Two stand out in my mind for different reasons. The first one is becoming the most fuel efficient (and carbon efficient) airline in the nation. We’ve decreased the intensity of our carbon footprint by more than 30% in the past 10 years.
We invested millions of dollars in our fleet, so that we are flying the most fuel efficient aircraft available for our type of flying (and we purchase our planes locally, at a little company nearby called Boeing, by the way). We also fly them extremely efficiently – we pioneered Required Navigation Performance in the early ‘90s to fly more precise (and efficient routes). That type of technology is now being used in the Greener Skies over Seattle program which is reducing emissions and noise over the Seattle basis by flying more direct and efficient routes into the airport. The neat thing is, this technology and flight procedures are now available to all other airlines, so that they can reduce their emissions and noise too.
The other achievement I am proud of is our inflight recycling program. Our sister carrier, Horizon, was the first airline in the nation to implement a robust inflight recycling program in the late 1990’s. What started as a grassroots effort by engaged employees has expanded into one of our service standards. Now at both Alaska and Horizon, we capture the cups, bottles, paper, and cans to make sure they are recycled when we reach the next catering location. This program has been an enormously challenging project. At Alaska Airlines alone, we remove (or “deplane”) our inflight waste in about 40 cities throughout 21 states and each city has a different infrastructure and requirements for sorting and recycling. We are especially proud of the flight attendants, who are now separating more than 81 percent (AS & QX combined) of the recyclable materials during inflight service and we give kudos to our catering department and contract flight kitchens who support our recycling goals with 100 percent participation.
GoGreen: How does Alaska stand out against the competition as a leader in the airline and transportation industry around sustainability?
Joe Sprague: Alaska has ranked at the top of the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) U.S Domestic Airline Fuel Efficiency Ranking list for four years in a row (since they began analyzing data). This last year, it was a 3-way tie for first place, but with the fleet improvements we have planned, we’re hoping to recapture the top spot next year.
Today, Alaska and Horizon are the only U.S. domestic carriers to recycle mixed recyclables (including glass, paper, plastic and aluminum) on every flight.
Alaska has implemented many advancements to stand apart from the competition over the years:
- 1st use of sustainable aviation biofuel on regularly scheduled flights
- 1st wind turbine installed at our Nome airport
- We developed and are using the only solar-powered ground support equipment.
- We’ve made concrete commitments to make measurable progress on reducing our environmental impacts
We are proud to support such initiative’s as a transportation company around sustainability.
To find out more about Alaska’s commitment to sustainable practices read their blog post “At Alaska Airlines, greener flying starts from the ground up.”
Event Details: GoGreen Seattle 2015, brought to you by King County, will take place Thursday, April 30, 2015 at the Conference Center located at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle, Washington. Tickets are available at seattle.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 206.459.0595. Early Bird rates are good through Friday, March 27, 2015. Single Admission Early Bird Tickets are $175 and Group Rate Early Bird Tickets are $150 (groups of two or more). Special registration rates for student, government and non-profits are available.