Delta Airlines Carbon Offsets Now Letting Passengers Fly Green

By Jazmin Murphy | Updated on September 15, 2021

Can Delta Airlines carbon offsets really allow passengers to fly green? Flying is one of the most carbon dioxide-intensive travel methods, although it only accounts for a small proportion of transport emissions.5,6

But is Delta’s plan going to help?

Keep reading to find out…

Delta Airlines plane on tarmack runway.

Fortunately, some airlines are investing in technological and operational innovations to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) output, allowing their passengers to fly green. With these airlines, there is hope yet for a carbon-neutral flight future.

Is Delta Airlines Carbon Neutral?

Airlines are under the microscope as efforts to mitigate the aviation industry’s CO2 impact are ramping up. In May 2021, Airlines for America (A4A) celebrated the passage of the Sustainable Skies Act.1 The new American law marked yet another leap forward in aircraft sustainability, establishing a tax credit for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

This is one of many efforts to get the US airline industry to net-zero by 2050. Delta Airlines is one of the ten participating US airlines, along with the associate member, Air Canada. As Delta participates in this initiative, the company leads environmentally-conscious activities within its own operations, too.

Delta’s sustainability progress truly kicked off in March 2020 at the start of the “commitment to carbon neutrality” effort.2 This is a ten-year plan to mitigate Delta’s global carbon dioxide emissions “in the air and on the ground.”

In February 2020, Delta announced its commitment of $1 billion to emissions mitigation, which included:

  • Innovation in driving technology
  • Advanced clean air technology for travel
  • Improving CO2 emission reduction and emissions balancing
  • Reducing waste

Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO, stated: “There is no substitute for the power that travel has to connect people, which our world needs today more than ever before. As we connect customers around the globe, it is our responsibility to deliver on our promise to bring people together and ensure the utmost care for our environment.”2

How Delta Plans to Reach Carbon Neutrality

Since nearly all the airline’s CO2 emissions come from its aircraft (98%),2 Delta’s push toward carbon neutrality is founded on three pillars:

Carbon reduction: The focus in this category is to improve fuel efficiency and reduce overall jet fuel consumption. To accomplish this, Delta pledged to invest in a fleet renewal program, implement better flight operation protocols, initiate weight reduction practices, and support the development of SAFs.

Carbon removal: Delta has committed to expanding its search for climate solutions outside the aviation industry. In addition to fleet improvements and more sustainable flight practices, the company is also looking for more immediate carbon dioxide removal opportunities. This includes afforestation projects, wetland restoration, and more.

Stakeholder engagement: Part of ensuring global effectiveness in carbon dioxide mitigation programs is community education and involvement. By engaging with its employees, suppliers, colleagues, and partners, Delta helps advance CO2 removal, mitigation, and sequestration worldwide.

Achieving carbon neutrality is a huge feat for any company, and while it’s a long-term plan, Delta is taking huge strides in the right direction. Their recently introduced carbon offset program may certainly expedite their progress.

Delta has already purchased $1.7 million in carbon offsets, and the plan includes to decrease the company’s overall footprint by 16%.

An 8 Billion Trees graphic of Delta airline's journey in sustainability, with 1.7 million carbon offset purchases and expanding recycling to 32 locations, decreasing their carbon footprint by 16% from 2005.

The Basics of Delta’s Carbon Offsetting Program

One of the main aspects of Delta’s sustainability efforts is the new carbon offset program. This ensures that not only the airline, but each flight’s passengers are taking care of their environmental impact every time they travel. Since its public commitment to carbon neutrality over the next ten years, Delta stated last year that it was “addressing” 13 million metric tons of its CO2 emissions between March 1-December 31, 2020.2

As part of this offsetting program, Delta offers flyers the option to enter their individual flight information into the company’s CO2 emissions calculator. The necessary details include:

  • The departure and arrival destinations of your flight
  • Whether the flight is round-trip or one-way
  • How many people are flying

Travelers can also add several different locations, for those tricky multi-city trips. This will give you your individual flight’s CO2, so you have a reference for choosing your offset project. When offsetting your flight, keep an eye out for programs that support the health of wildlife, forest habitats, or communities facing the greatest climate risks.

What Are Delta’s Flight Offset Programs?

Delta’s current available carbon offsetting choices include:

  • Guatemalan Conservation Coast Project: On Guatemala’s Caribbean coast, this conservation project supports the preservation of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. Families living near and within this region face mounting pressure from ongoing deforestation and expanding cattle ranches.
    Kasigau Corridor Redd + Project: This “megaproject” has protected Kenyan forest habitats and wildlife since 2006. Delta reports that it reduces over one million tonnes (1,102,311 tons) of CO2 per year.
  • Southern Cardamom Redd + Project: The Cardamom Mountains Rainforest is one of the most important conservation areas in the world. Within it is one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hotspots.3 Sadly, 27 species in this rainforest are threatened with extinction. This project not only supports the wildlife and forest, but 21 villages that can further enhance biodiversity and generate income.
  • TIST (The International Small Group and Tree Planting) Program in Kenya: This offset directly supports Tanzanian, Kenyan, Indian, and Ugandan TIST farmers. So far, over 90,000 farmers have planted and cared for 19 million live trees.

These offsets are highly affordable. However, as admirable as these projects are, you may fly too often to offset your air travel one flight at a time.

Plus, you may want a broader set of options to offset your flight, such as the option to support more international communities or receive merchandise.

Travelers Can Go The Extra Mile

Delta is one of the most popular airlines in the United States. Thankfully, it’s also one of the airlines that is investigating technological advancements and practical methods to improve the vessels’ climate-friendliness.

The carbon offset programs that Delta works with generate great results for the environment, but there are other options available that help even further. These programs do so by helping communities, restoring habitats and rehabilitating endangered animals. In this way, reforestation and afforestation projects have the ability to do more than simply remove carbon dioxide. These forestry projects establish ecosystems and carbon sinks that the planet needs, in order to regain its equilibrium in weather patterns and biodiversity health.

Offsetting your flight with Delta Airlines can be easy, but you can only do it one flight at a time. Some people must travel for work or have the luxury of exploring the globe for leisure. In these cases, offsetting flights one-by-one can get tedious and difficult to keep track of.

To streamline the process, you can use an ecological footprint calculator to get the big picture of your entire carbon footprint – flights included – so you can offset your emissions all year, flying or grounded. The process only takes a few minutes, and then you can partner with one of the best carbon offset providers to live truly carbon neutral.

The health of earth’s atmosphere and survival of ecosystems is well worth the time spent in investing in making greener choices. Luckily, with airlines like Delta Airlines carbon offset programs, starting to clean up their industry, these tree planting carbon offset initiatives can be another crucial part of the plan in fighting climate change.


References

1Airlines for America. (2021, May 20). U.S. airlines applaud introduction of sustainable skies act. PR Newswire. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-airlines-applaud-introduction-of-sustainable-skies-act-301296418.html

2Delta Staff Writer. (2020, February 14). Delta commits $1 billion to become first carbon neutral airline globally. Delta News Hub. https://news.delta.com/delta-commits-1-billion-become-first-carbon-neutral-airline-globally

3Rainforest Trust. (n.d.). Conserving cardamom’s wildlife. https://www.rainforesttrust.org/projects/conserving-cardamoms-wildlife/

4Ritchie, H. (2020, November 9). Where in the world do people have the highest CO2 emissions from flying? Our World in Data. Retrieved July 3, 2021, from https://ourworldindata.org/carbon-footprint-flying

5European Union. (2017, February 16). Transport emissions. Climate Action – European Commission. https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/transport_en.

6Ritchie, H. (n.d.). Which form of transport has the smallest carbon footprint? Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/travel-carbon-footprint