Delta, Duke Launch Partnership to Offset Carbon Emissions

January 23, 2018

Contact: Tim Lucas, 919/613-8084,



Photo courtesy Delta Airlines

DURHAM, N.C. – Delta Air Lines and Duke University are partnering on a new sustainability program to offset carbon emissions from Duke business travel.

Their combined purchase of 5,000 carbon credits offsets carbon from all university business travel on Delta in 2017, while supporting urban forestry in the Raleigh-Durham area by underwriting the costs of planting and caring for 1,000 new trees.

North Carolina-based Urban Offsets will coordinate the tree-planting program with help from community volunteers, including Duke students and Duke or Delta employees. Tree-planting events will be held through March.

Approximately half of the trees will be planted in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods. These neighborhoods were identified through a 2016 Masters Project by students at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment that mapped the impacts of racially motivated red-lining policies in the 1930s that resulted in trees being planted in mostly wealthy white neighborhoods.

The students who conducted the study were Greg Cooper, Master of Environmental Management/Master of Forestry (MEM/MF) ‘16, Anne Liberti, MF ’16, and Michael Asch, MEM/MF ’16. Nicolette Cagle, lecturer in environmental science and policy, was their faculty advisor.

A single carbon offset is equal to one metric ton of CO2 being removed from the air, while the 1,000 trees being planted locally are estimated to remove an additional 5,000 metric tons of CO2 from the air during their lifespan. That’s the equivalent of neutralizing the carbon footprint of approximately 9,000 roundtrip flights between Atlanta and Los Angeles.

 “Duke’s passion for offsetting their travel with Delta is multiplied by their commitment to use the offsets to improve certain Raleigh-Durham neighborhoods where tree canopies have all but disappeared,” said Tim Mapes, Delta’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Projects that build pride in local communities and expand our global sustainability efforts are what being part of a community is all about.”

“This is a great example of the type of carbon offset project we’re interested in,” said Tallman Trask, Executive Vice President, Duke University. “Rather than seeking out the cheapest available carbon credits, we’re continuing to invest in projects with multiple benefits for our community in North Carolina. We’re happy for the opportunity to partner with Delta Air Lines and Urban Offsets to further catalyze this market.”

“This model unites the sustainability goals of multiple organizations,” said Shawn Gagné, CEO and founder of Urban Offsets. “Cooperation is the key to addressing sustainability challenges, and Delta and Duke are true champions in this regard.”

Adding trees to urban areas not only adds shade coverage, beauty and wildlife habitat, but also improves local air quality, reduces noise levels and enhances storm-water control.

Delta was the first U.S. airline to offer carbon offsets to customers and is the only airline to cap greenhouse gas emissions at 2012 levels by purchasing carbon offsets – more than 2.5 million in 2017 alone, and more than $8 million-worth since it started the voluntary effort.

In 2007, Duke University signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and set a target of achieving climate neutrality by 2024. The Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative (DCOI) was launched in 2009 to help the university achieve this goal through innovative carbon offsets programs including swine waste-to-energy, energy efficiency, solar energy, and urban forestry. DCOI also acts as an academic offset project hub, collaborating with higher education institutions on joint projects and connecting other universities to the resources required for successful carbon offset projects.