By Sophia Mendelsohn, Head of Sustainability, JetBlue Airways
March 22 is World Water Day which was designated by the UN in 1993 as a day to celebrate water, recognize global water challenges and encourage collaboration to better prepare for a water-constrained future.
This year’s theme, “Water and Sustainable Development,” reminds us of our need to manage this critical resource responsibly as water is fundamental to life, ecosystems economic growth, and in our case, tourism.
As we know, water is an abundant resource. Roughly 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered in water – resulting in the beautiful expansive ocean views on many of our coastal BlueCities. However, the current issue we face lies in the tiny fraction of our water supply that is available for human use, and that population and economic growth have enhanced competition for it. As a result, a growing number of businesses are recognizing water as a central concern, vital to their operations and are pursuing water efficiency and conservation efforts.
At JetBlue, we work to efficiently use water through our operations. For example, last year we launched a trial analyzing the effects of carrying 25 percent less water in the potable water tanks within our Airbus 320 (A320) aircraft. The water in these tanks is used to prepare coffee and tea, and to service our lavatory sinks. Previously, we filled the tanks to capacity before departing and often arrived with plenty of unused water. Following our successful trial, we’ve committed to filling our tanks to 75 percent on our A320s starting in December 2014, resulting in an estimated annual savings of 2.4 million gallons of water. This effort also helps us save fuel and their associated emissions by reducing the weight of each plane, annually saving roughly 288,000 gallons of jet fuel.
Our commitment to water issues at JetBlue extends beyond operational use. Leisure travel to the Caribbean is a key pillar of JetBlue’s business model, with destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean comprising one-third of our route network. We understand that many of our customers fly to these destinations specifically for their clear turquoise waters and paradise-like beaches. If the health and natural appearance of these ecosystems declines, so will our expected revenue in the region. We recognize the link between clean, intact, and healthy waters and shorelines to JetBlue’s profitability in the Caribbean, and have undertaken a specific effort to rally water and beach conservation efforts there.
We have partnered with The Ocean Foundation to demonstrate the economic value of clean beaches by directly tying the importance of nature to our airline’s main economic measure— revenue per available seat mile (RASM). By attempting to attach actual dollar values to unspoiled shorelines, we hope to strengthen interest in protecting destinations’ ecosystems we depend on and promote the economic importance of shoreline conservation. For JetBlue, this is part of our commitment with the Clinton Global Initiative. The interim report, EcoEarnings: A Shore Thing, can be found here.
Our study began by observing a positive correlation between ecosystem health and RASM, though more data is required to statistically prove and validate the model. The goal was to calculate the impact of the underlying drivers of ecosystem health—including water quality, mangrove quality, and waste along the shorelines—on industry RASM. We thus consider every leisure customer who flies JetBlue to the Caribbean and enjoys a pristine beach as an eco-tourist in some capacity. We believe clean, unspoiled beaches should be recognized as the main driver for Caribbean leisure travel.
We also take action to help oceans and beaches remain clean and protected. We have formed a partnership with the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches. Less than one percent of our marine environment has any protected status. JetBlue connects with the Surfrider Foundation through their coastal preservation and special place protection programs, designed to preserve beach environments. JetBlue specifically supports the Foundation’s beach cleanup projects, recycling initiatives, coastal restoration events because we want customers to land on a clean beach, now and in the future.
Through partnerships like the Surfrider Foundation and our continued work on EcoEarnings: A Shore Thing, our ultimate goal is to rally the efforts of policy makers, the tourism industry, and travelers to protect our greatest natural resource—the ecosystem. Our hope is that this work will promote the understanding that without financial investments in the preservation and conservation of the natural resources upon which tourism depends, degradation will increase, tourism will decline, and tax revenues will diminish.
Learn more about these project and our other environmental initiatives by visiting jetblue.com/green.