Air Travel Greenhouse Gas Emissions Information & Reduction Program

Dear Williams faculty and staff,

Over the past couple of years, many faculty, staff, and students have expressed deep interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from college-sponsored air travel.  Such travel accounted for roughly a fifth of the college’s total greenhouse gas emissions in the years immediately preceding the pandemic, making it our second largest source of emissions, after campus heating.

Air travel constitutes much of our indirect emissions (what are known as scope 3 emissions).  We have already eliminated indirect emissions from purchased electricity (scope 2) through our involvement in a solar project in Farmington, Maine, and purchase of renewable energy certificates.  And plans are underway to reduce direct emissions (scope 1) by transitioning the college’s heating plant away from fossil fuels.  To make progress toward our goal of net-zero emissions, the college’s strategic plan also calls for addressing our emissions from travel.

At the same time, air travel is central to much of what we do, from conducting research in geographically distant areas of the world to pursuing professional development opportunities, to recruiting a diverse student body.  Any initiative to reduce air travel emissions should not compromise essential work for the college.

In support of these important commitments, the college is launching on October 1 an Air Travel Greenhouse Gas Emissions Information & Reduction Program.  The program is designed to make us all more aware of how to fly greener and reduce climate damages from air travel.  Each month, air travelers who paid for trips with college funds will receive an e-mail from the Zilkha Center that contains customized information about:

  • the estimated greenhouse gas emissions from each flight;
  • the range of estimated climate damages from each flight, using two figures for the social cost of carbon;
  • strategies for reducing flight-related greenhouse gas emissions.

For more details, please visit the program web page.

The hope is that this information will help each of us make deliberate decisions about flying.  Air travel will be tracked over time to see if the program contributes to meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Please feel free to get in touch with any questions or thoughts about this program.

Yours sincerely,

Eiko Maruko Siniawer
Provost & Class of 1955 Memorial Professor of History

Tanja Srebotnjak
Director, Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives