Low Carbon Air Travel Pilot

Priority Project of the Sustainable Cornell Council

The Low Carbon Air Travel Working Group has been charged by the Sustainable Cornell Council with recommending solutions for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from business air travel, and create a pilot program for individuals and departments to test strategies for reduction, avoidance, or offsetting air travel emissions. 


The three main pillars of offset strategies our pilot will help departments, teams, and centers tailor to their unique needs.

Pilot Program Details

The Low Carbon Air Travel Working Group has developed a pilot program to assess the patterns of business air travel throughout the Cornell community. Departments, teams, or individuals can participate. Your role as a pilot participant is to examine possible strategies for reducing your carbon emissions from air travel through a combination of three techniques:

  • Avoid Emissions
    Choose remote participation instead of travel, or reduce the number of trips per year

  • Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Travel
    Choose a more direct air-travel flight, or replace air travel with bus, carpool, or train

  • Offset Emissions
    For air travel that does take place, purchase carbon offsets which reduce carbon by providing energy efficiency upgrades in low-income households in our community via the Finger Lakes Carbon Offset Fund 

As a pilot participant, you are not committing to implementing any specific actions (although this is encouraged). 

How to Participate

Download the Pilot Participant Overview and contact Caroline Levine at cel235@cornell.edu or other working group members to get started.

  • Chair and primary contact: Caroline Levine, David and Kathleen Ryan Professor of the Humanities

  • Sarah Brylinsky, Assistant Director, Campus Sustainability Office

  • Simon Allen, Associate Vice President for Asset Management & Financial Strategy

  • Amelia-Juliette Demery, PhD Candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

  • Marianne Krasny, Professor, Natural Resources and the Environment


Background

In 2019, Cornell business air travel accounted for about 12% of Cornell’s annual carbon footprint, or over 25,000 metric tons of CO2e, equivalent to the annual energy use of 3,800 U.S. homes.  Air travel is one of the only areas of our campus carbon footprint that has reduced since setting our goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2035.

Bar graph of all carbon emissions generated by Cornell from 2008 to 2020. 2020 notes a drop in emission from air travel by almost 13,000 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide.
Baseline inventory of Cornell's greenhouse gases in metric tons (MT) CO2e. Notably, from 2019 to 2020 there was a 13,050 MT drop in emissions related to air travel.