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by Sarah J.F. Braley | April 16, 2015

If there's one industry that would have a lot of trouble cutting its carbon footprint, it's airlines, where the business model is all about spending fuel. Fully aware of this, JetBlue Airways has launched a number of sustainability initiatives to offset some of its expenditures.

To begin with, for the past seven years, the carrier has partnered with the Carbonfund.org Foundation to offset carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases for all scheduled flights from April 1-30, every year. Through the program, JetBlue has so far purchased more than 350 million pounds in carbon offsets. The airline also is beginning to work with sustainable food companies for onboard food options, and partnered with KaBOOM! and the Irie Foundation to rebuild a dilapidated park in Miami Beach to give local kids a safe place to play. But the carrier has an even higher goal in mind.

"We want to try and find a correlation between the health of an ecosystem of a destination with high seat-miles revenue," says Sophia Mendelsohn, head of sustainability for JetBlue. "Our purpose is to show how dependent tourism companies are on a healthy ecosystem, and to integrate environmental conservation into the business model." To that end JetBlue and the Ocean Foundation have embarked on a study, dubbed EcoEarning: A Shore Thing, which is focusing on the economic value of clean beaches and is expected to take about a year. "Then we hope to bring the report to the governments of the Caribbean locations we fly to," notes Mendelsohn, "to discuss with them how we as a for-profit business can support conservation and bring in more tourists."

Mendelsohn sums up what she and her employer say is paramount: "Conservation and business can no longer be seen as a contradiction."