Low Carbon Air Travel

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. 

Participate in a 10-minute survey about your business air travel

  • Survey responses will be confidential
  • Eligibility to win one of two $75 Amazon gift-cards!

Indicate your business air travel before and during COVID19 and the factors and people who motivate your choices to travel! Travel and sustainability are key components of Cornell's vision for a better future. If Cornell is to accomplish its goal of carbon neutrality, then we need the unique insights of the Cornell community to paint a picture of sustainable paths forward without sacrificing the mission and values of our institution.

Take the survey

Questions? Reach out to Amelia-Juliette Demery, M.S., at acd254@cornell.edu

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 our recommended partner, below.

As a pilot participant, you are not committing to implementing any specific actions.  Rather, pilot participants are encouraged to test out the ideas and recommendations provided by the working

Guidance on Offsets

Preview of the first page of a report detailing the Finger Lakes Climate Fund's projects, approach, and carbon impact
Learn more about the Finger Lakes Climate Fund's 2022-2024 NYSERDA Grant which will enable additional carbon offset projects, with matching funds from community participants.

Purchasing offsets to account for air travel emissions is an optional part of the pilot program. Cornell is partnering with the Finger Lakes Climate Fund to provide a climate-justice approach to local offsets with benefits in our community.

The Fund uses money from carbon-offsetters to implement implements energy efficiency improvements for low-income families in Tompkins County and across our region, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our commuity.  This climate-justice approach meets Cornell's criteria for pursuing "mission-linked offsets" - keeping dollars and carbon reduction in our community, helping to meet local and state emissions reduction targets while making homes more comfortable and affordable for people in our community.

The fund provides an easy calculator to assess the offsets your air travel will require. 

The cost per MTCO2e offset is approximately $20-30, far less than traditional market offsets, where longevity, additional, and real impact can be difficult to verify.

If you choose to offset your air travel, be sure to indicate your affiliation with Cornell University so we can track the impact of our program:

Offset with Finger Lakes Climate Fund

How to Participate in the Pilot

Download the Pilot Participant Overview and contact Caroline Levine at cel235@cornell.edu to get started.

  • Additional support provided by:

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

  • Marianne Krasny, Professor, Natural Resources and the Environment


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.  Reducing the carbon density of air travel will be necessary to meet Cornell's goal.

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.