Decades of innovation and creative thinking certainly make it easier for companies to adapt to a changing world — an ability that’s illustrated clearly when it comes to Boeing and the environment. The aerospace and defense corporation is putting its technical know-how to work in cutting its own carbon footprint, making the airline industry greener and expanding public awareness of sustainability.

Creating a Better Future

Boeing has developed a sustainability strategy designed to outline and achieve tangible goals in protecting the environment. This five-year plan, implemented in 2008, includes reducing carbon dioxide emissions from both operations and products through increased airplane fuel efficiency, use of alternative fuels and making improvements to their air traffic system.

“Over the past year, the pace of progress has accelerated even in the face of a global economic slowdown,” Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said in the company’s 2009 Environment Report.

“Boeing has introduced effective new technologies for improving the environmental performance of our products, services and operations. And we continue to apply our resources to the most important areas for improvement.”

Pioneering New Technologies

Boeing’s innovations have already made a sizeable impact on the industry’s environmental performance, but the company says it will not stop there.

Boeing continues to dream up incredibly progressive designs such as the 787 Dreamliner, a plane made with 50 percent lightweight composite materials that is quieter, produces fewer emissions and uses 20 percent less fuel than comparable aircraft. The Dreamliner made its historic first flight in December 2009.

Boeing is working to improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions by up to 12 percent just by making some changes to air traffic management. One of these changes is a program called Tailored Arrivals, which reduces fuel usage and minimizes delays through carefully engineered navigation technologies.

Of course, the biggest impact that Boeing could make is to reduce the industry’s dependency on fossil fuels – and the company is determined to pioneer advancement in alternative energy sources that would make a significant dent in greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainably grown, advanced-generation biofuels that don’t compete with food crops or for water sources are a major focus, with algae holding particular promise. Boeing’s subsidiary, Spectrolab, is also working on new technologies in solar energy.

Setting Goals for Greener Operations

Boeing has committed to environmental and climate change policies that promote environmental stewardship, including energy and resource conservation, pollution prevention, recycling and waste reduction.

By 2010, Boeing is aiming for a 25 percent improvement in solid waste recycling rates, energy efficiency, lowered greenhouse gas emissions and reduced hazardous waste at all of its major manufacturing facilities.

Boeing’s emphasis on environmental stewardship extends to its products as well. The company aims to improve fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions for each new generation of airliners by a minimum of 15 percent, and is directing more than 75 percent of research and development toward better environmental performance.

Measuring Progress on Environmental Goals

Two years into Boeing’s 5-year environmental performance plan, the company has already achieved remarkable results. In 2008, Boeing actually out-performed its plan by increasing its recycling rates from 58 percent to 64 percent. A goal to reduce hazardous waste generation was exceeded by 24 percent, while energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions targets were exceeded by 2 percent each.

A number of energy conservation projects have earned Boeing praise and awards including a Clean Air Award from the city of Wichita, Kansas for reducing annual electric consumption by more than 85 percent at Boeing offices. In addition, Boeing’s Houston facility received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification in December of 2009 for meeting stringent requirements in the design, construction and operation of green buildings.

Other environmental efforts recognized on a local and national level include A Crystal Cabin Award for Boeing’s concept to replace standard aircraft carpeting with 100 percent recyclable carpet tiles and Green Flag awards from the Port of Long Beach for reducing carbon emissions from ships.