Iceland, with its pure air, clean water and unspoiled countryside, is our home country and our most important destination. One of Iceland’s greatest resources is its untamed nature, and we want to keep it that way. That is why environmental issues represent a cause especially close to our hearts at Icelandair.
We have adopted an environmental policy to serve as the benchmark we turn to as the company evolves and implements new technologies and practices. The overarching goal of our policy is to minimize Icelandair’s total environmental impact and to establish sustainable practices by optimizing the use of the resources at our disposal.
Below you will find more detailed information on specific issues and on the measures Icelandair takes to address them.
Icelandair and Climate Change: Targeting Neutrality
Climate change is the most challenging environmental issue facing the world today and, when considering ways of dealing with it, the impact of the air-travel industry must be taken into account. To understand the situation better, consider the report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC works under the auspices of the UN and shared a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former US Vice President Al Gore).
According to the report, air travel accounts for 2-3% of greenhouse gas emissions. While this may seem a small amount, Icelandair takes its role in reducing those emissions to zero very seriously. In keeping with the goals of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Icelandair will continue its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. We are committed to carbon neutral growth by 2020 and fully support IATA’s vision of achieving zero emissions by 2050.
Icelandair’s Fleet: Greener Aircraft
The key to reducing emissions is having fuel-efficient aircraft and, with this in mind, Icelandair has made use of a number of technological improvements in both aircraft design and aeronautics. As an example, we have installed winglets on our B757-200s. These simple additions reduce fuel consumption by over 4% by diminishing wind resistance, reducing emissions as a result.
We have also integrated new technologies into our fleet, like P-RNAV (Precision Area Navigation) and ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast), which is a navigation system innovation helping air-traffic control. The new system extends surveillance beyond the ground, allowing space-based navigation and precision satellite positioning for aircraft with the appropriate equipment. The new technology reduces the minimum safety separation for such planes from 80 nautical miles to only 5 nautical miles, which opens up far more fuel-efficient routes and, in turn, reduces emissions.
Whenever possible we practice continuous descent as well as noise abatement procedures, which not only cuts down on noise pollution but also conserves fuel and reduces emissions. Icelandair also practices single-engine taxiing wherever possible, variable cruise speeds, routes and cruising altitudes as well as cruise climbing—all measures to keep emissions at an absolute minimum.
A Holistic Approach: Renewable Energy
We are serious about keeping Icelandair green, which is why our efforts aren’t limited to the cockpit and the aircraft design.
On board our aircraft we have decreased the amount of paper carried and the amount of extra water stored in the aircraft’s tank, implemented meal sales on all flights and cut down on pantry items (like glassware, dishes, menus, magazines, etc.). In addition, the cabin crew’s responsibilities have been reorganized to require one less crewmember on board. All of these measures have the end result of reducing unnecessary weight onboard our planes, and less weight means improved efficiency and reduced emissions.
While our on-board efforts have translated into greener flights, we also make every effort to keep our administration and operations environmentally sound as well.
Our office culture makes it a priority to recycle paper, bottles and cans and turn off computers at the end of the day. In addition, we are using more desktop computers to reduce our energy consumption. But as far as energy is concerned, our headquarters in Iceland are way ahead of the curve: we use electricity from 100% renewable sources (hydropower and geothermal power) and have the lights on timers so they don’t stay on all night if someone forgets to turn them off.
We have long offered an e-ticketing option (and hope to go entirely paperless soon), but more and more of our activities have migrated from paper-based procedures to an online format. This format is more convenient for passengers and is clearly far better for the environment, by reducing paper waste.
Iceland Carbon Fund: Planting Trees
The latest addition to our green efforts is a partnership with the Kolviður Iceland Carbon Fund, which brings our customers into the process of making air travel more environmentally friendly. As a part of buying tickets online, all of our passengers can now choose to offset the carbon emissions generated by their portion of the flight.
Carbon offsets go towards planting trees and growing forests in Iceland (the fund also has plans for forestry projects in the tropics). Planting trees is an internationally acknowledged method for sequestering carbon. Forests account for a great majority of the CO2 captured from the atmosphere, producing life-supporting oxygen in the process and effectively acting as the world’s “lungs”.
Forest cultivation is particularly important in Iceland as it helps to combat erosion and restore the balance of the country’s ecology. More importantly, offsetting emissions allows passengers to become part of the effort to counter climate change.
Greening the Ground Crew
Icelandair has worked with Icelandair Ground Services (IGS) at Keflavik International Airport to create one of the greenest ground crews in the industry.
All trucks and trolleys around the tarmac run on the most environmentally friendly fuels available (including biofuel and natural gas). The ground crew has also made a concerted effort to minimize fuel use by limiting on-ramp driving and free-running of handling equipment (two extremely fuel-intensive practices). Moreover, as IGS plans how its operations will evolve in the future, they are migrating from fuel-based equipment to electric equipment (Icelandair’s operations in Iceland are powered by electricity from 100% renewable sources).
Going Green Means Going Global
While we feel confident that Icelandair’s operations are as green as we can make them, we also recognize that there is a need to promote environmentally sound and sustainable practices in the air-travel community around the globe.
Icelandair is starting locally by pledging full support for the Single European Sky (SES) initiative spearheaded by the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL). The program represents a huge step towards creating an efficient and united airspace over Europe by restructuring navigation patterns based on air traffic flow rather than national borders.
In the spirit of building a community of air-travel operators in Europe, Icelandair also supports the creation of an emission-trading scheme in Europe, which is planned for 2012. We feel this scheme is an effective way to curb the environmental impact of emissions and are satisfied that air transport will be included in the system. We feel confident that under this scheme other air-transport operators will follow Icelandair’s example in taking an active role in minimizing our industry’s impact on the environment. By cooperating and coordinating our efforts with our colleagues we can have far greater success in making air travel as green as possible.