Texas is BIG—268,597 square miles, featuring the most roadway in the United States at 314,000 miles, the largest share of rail lines at 10,400 miles, and 400 airports, including 2 of the top 15 busiest airports in the nation. Leaders in transportation are reducing emissions, becoming carbon-neutral, and recycling tens of thousands of tons annually. In an industry not typically synonymous with conservation, Texas transportation companies are driving sustainability advances for others to follow.Southwest Airlines started in 1971 as a low-cost, no-frills airline that flew only in Texas. Today, the Dallas-based carrier ranks first for carrying the most domestic passengers of any airline per the Department of Transportation, with service to 101 U.S. cities and ten additional countries.
Along with that growth has come heightened attention to conservation. Southwest ties for second among U.S. airlines for the greatest fuel efficiency, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, and it has in place a number of environmentally oriented initiatives.
“We recognize the importance of being good environmental stewards and take our commitment to doing the right thing seriously, including looking for ways to consistently improve our conservation efforts – like through our Repurpose with Purpose initiative,” says Laura Nieto, Director of Community Outreach, Southwest Airlines.
Southwest’s Repurpose with Purpose program upcycles, downcycles, and recycles discarded items like seat covers, blankets, life jackets, and aircraft engines into useful products. The program is aided by several different partner organizations, like Arise Veteran Foundation that uses leather from Southwest seats in veterans’ rehabilitation programs. Southwest has repurposed and kept more than one million pounds of discarded material out of landfills since 2016. The program also recycled 3,000 tons of cardboard, paper, plastic, and aluminum in 2018.
“Teamwork has always been at the heart of Southwest, and we believe that conservation should be a collective and collaborative effort as well,” Nieto says. “As Southwest continues building relationships with organizations around the world, we hope to share our framework and experiences so that they too can affect change within their organizations and where they operate, and join us in preserving the planet’s resources for future generations.”
Southwest’s conservation initiatives are guided by a multi-tiered, cross-functional internal framework. An executive-level steering group representing departments within the organization designs strategies for corporate-citizen stewardship. Initiatives cover all areas of daily operations and strive to promote conservation, its measurement, and the awareness of its benefits.
“Robust resource conservation would not be attainable without our employees,” Nieto says. “Southwest’s unique culture encourages collaboration across teams, fostering successes and promoting an advanced collective for our conservation efforts.”