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Environmental Initiatives

Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship is a responsibility that we take very seriously at Southwest, and efficient operations are the hallmark of our Company and the foundation of our environmental commitment. Our planet sustains us all, so we feel it's our responsibility to protect it. This focus on efficiency not only makes good business sense, it is the right thing to do. Read more about our sustainability in our 2013 Southwest Airlines One Report.™

Fuel Savings: Reducing Our Environmental Impact

Southwest is committed to continuing to lead the industry in emissions reductions through fuel efficiency. We have maintained our position as an industry leader in fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions through comprehensive programs of reinvestment in equipment and technological innovation and partnerships with industry and government. Some of our initiatives include:

Flight Efficiencies

rnp demoSouthwest Airlines is continuing our $175 million, six-year initiative to retrofit our fleet with advanced avionics to support Required Navigational Performance (RNP), the cornerstone of the Federal Aviation Administration's Next Generation Air Traffic Control System. RNP procedures are designed to conserve fuel, improve safety, and reduce carbon emissions, while simultaneously taking advantage of the high-performance characteristics that exist in an airline's fleet. This dollar investment to retrofit our aircraft and train our Pilots is the most significant investment in RNP by an airline, and we expect to be one of the first major U.S. airlines to implement such a program.


Southwest operates one of the most efficient fleets in the world, comprised of Next Generation Boeing aircraft (737-700) and the Boeing Classic fleet (737-300 and -500). Our fleet of Boeing 737-700 aircraft are equipped with winglets, and approximately 90% of our Classic fleet are outfitted. Winglets save on fuel consumption by an estimated 2.5 percent.

Green Plane

We recently unveiled the Southwest green planeAirlines Green Plane, a test environment for the latest environmentally friendly cabin materials and Customer comfort products. We test materials that contain a high percentage of recycled content, minimize waste, or are better for the environment in other ways. For instance, the Green Plane tests lighter weight products, which translate into reduced fuel consumption, increases fuel efficiency, and less GHG emissions. We also consider the durability, aesthetics, comfort, cost, and the ability to reuse or recycle these products. The most promising items that emerge from the Green Plane testing will be implemented on a larger scale.
View a video of the Green Plane.

Ground Idle Speeds

We continue to focus our efforts to control ground idle speeds through adjustments to our 737-300 and 737-500 aircraft engines to minimize the amount of fuel consumed in ground taxi operations. These efforts save approximately 3.1 gallons of fuel per hour of idle time.

Engine Wash

engine washSouthwest uses Pratt & Whitney's EcoPower® for its systematic engine wash program for our Boeing 737-700 series aircraft. The EcoPower® engine wash service uses a system that captures and purifies the wash water, allowing it to be recycled and used for another wash--greatly reducing the total amount of water used in the process. Engine washing increases engine efficiency, saves fuel, and reduces carbon emissions. View a video of Southwest's engine washing.

On the Ground

Ground Support Equipment

electric carOur green focus continues on the ground with our ongoing conversions of ground support equipment (GSE) to cleaner-burning technologies including electric, compressed natural gas, propane, and state-of-the-art emission control engine retrofits for diesel. It is important for us to protect the Planet, which has been our focus ahead of state or federal emission reduction regulations. These conversions have not only positioned Southwest Airlines as a sustainable innovator in GSE but have saved us millions in new equipment costs.

Gate Electrification

Gate electrification equipment is available in all cities where Southwest Airlines operates with bridge-based boarding. By providing electric power to our aircraft at the gates rather than jet fuel, we reduce aircraft auxiliary power unit (APU) fuel consumption and reduce emissions generated on the ground with an approximate savings of 46,000 gallons of fuel in a single day. Our focus on immediate hookup within 90 seconds of parking at the gate has aided in additional fuel savings.

Load Planning

Substantial improvements were made to our load planning processes to balance the cargo loads more effectively. Our load planning processes have resulted in fuel savings, better loading for efficient bag removal, more productive ground operations, and improved ontime performance. 

Recycling & Waste Reduction

southwest airlines greenMinimizing and eliminating waste is not something Southwest has undertaken alone. By working with the airports we serve, informing our Customers, and carefully selecting our suppliers, we achieve efficiency in waste minimization and elimination. We work with suppliers that have the same environmental values we have. Together, we have implemented active programs to recycle the materials we use both on and off the aircraft to eliminate inefficiencies and excess waste where possible.

We have continued our commitment to moving toward the elimination of paper tickets and smaller volumes of crew paperwork. Elimination of paper flight schedules and the introduction of electronic updates to Customers' cell phones and e-mail also contribute to reduced paper consumption.

In November 2009, we launched a more robust co-mingled onboard recycling program that builds on the success of our already established recycling program at our facilities. We selected Republic Services, Inc. as our partner since they allow for the collection of co-mingled waste (paper, aluminum, and plastic). Even though a co-mingled waste stream (versus aluminum alone) can reduce potential rebates, it has given us the opportunity to increase the total volume of material collected for recycling onboard, the key objective for this program.

Employee Involvement

green teamAt Southwest Airlines, we bring environmental issues to the forefront by way of our Green Team. Comprised of Employee volunteers across the Company, the Green Team offers recommendations to augment environmentally responsible business practices. The Green Team works cooperatively with our professional environmental staff and Green Ambassadors in each Southwest Airlines city to answer environmental questions from Employees and to consider suggestions for improvement. View our Who I Am video and learn how our Employees work with a Green filter.

Green Team projects and participation include:

  • Implementation of a robust, Companywide, co-mingled recycling program
  • Participation on committees to help identify areas of our operations where emissions can be reduced
  • Development of Employee outreach programs on environmental issues so individual Southwest Employees can reduce their personal environmental footprints
  • Development of external outreach programs to support Employee volunteerism addressing environmental issues
  • Encouraging alternative transportation options where Southwest operates, including the investigation of Employee commuter programs
  • Implementing "Green Tuesdays," which provide tips each week to Employees on how to live and work green
  • Development of a Green Ambassador program in each individual city Southwest serves to foster Environmental Stewardship

Green Team Goals include:

  • Identify environmentally responsible efforts already in place
  • Search for areas for improvement
  • Make recommendations for environmentally responsible business practices
  • Put a "green" filter on future business decisions

Each and every Southwest Employee remains committed to making our Company and our world a great place to be. All Employees are encouraged to actively participate in our recycling programs and provide outreach to our Customers on these programs. In addition, our Employees work hard to support our Environmental Stewardship commitment with volunteer projects and support of community initiatives across the country.

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