SFO Highlights Industry-Leading Sustainability Efforts

Climate solutions Infrastructure Circular economy

In celebration of Earth Day, the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) highlighted its industry-leading sustainability initiatives for a “triple zero” campus to achieve carbon neutrality, net zero energy and zero waste. For its latest initiative, it also announced the purchase of six 40-foot battery-electric zero-emission buses, with start of service beginning as soon as December 2019. The use of battery-electric buses will be the first in the City and County of San Francisco and will reduce both operating costs and carbon emissions in support of SFO’s goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2021.

“Earth Day serves as a call to action; an opportunity for us to reaffirm our commitment to the environment,” said Airport Director Ivar C. Satero. “SFO is an airport industry leader in sustainability, and we have set big goals to achieve zero net energy use, zero waste, and carbon neutrality. By deploying San Francisco’s first public battery-electric buses, we’re on the path to zero emissions in our ground transportation services, leading the way in our quest to be the world’s most sustainable airport.”

SFO has achieved significant success in reducing its carbon footprint and is aiming to achieve carbon neutrality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from a 1990 baseline, all by 2021. Already, SFO’s carbon dioxide emissions are more than 39% below their level in 1990, as to be reported in SFO’s tenth annual Climate Action Plan to be released next month.

SFO’s Five-Year Strategic Plan actually sets the goal of becoming a “triple zero” campus, achieving not just carbon neutrality, but also net zero energy and zero waste, as well as being an operator of healthy and water-balanced facilities. Some of the efforts SFO has engaged in to operate more sustainably while reducing its carbon footprint include:

  • Achieving the world’s first Zero Net Energy (ZNE) facility at an airport with SFO’s Airfield Operations Facility, and holding all new construction to similarly high ZNE standards.
  • Purchasing 100% carbon-free electricity from SFPUC’s Hetch Hetchy reservoir.
  • Installing over 1.5 MW of solar capacity at buildings and parking facilities across the Airport.
  • Providing air conditioning and electrical power for all parked aircraft, avoiding over 18,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and saving 1.8 million gallons of jet fuel annually.
  • Eliminating nearly 220,000 annual bus trips by constructing the AirTrain, an all-electric train system to ferry passengers to the Rental Car Center, and soon, Long Term Parking.
  • Driving the use of next-generation sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by convening a multi-sector working group and activating gateway projects to deliver alternative fuel to our airlines.
  • Expanding drought-tolerant landscaping across the campus, cutting SFO’s water use for irrigation in half to save 6 million gallons of water annually.
  • Deploying a Zero Waste Concessions Program, reducing wasteful single-use plastics by moving all tenants to 100% compostable food ware.

In its latest step towards a carbon-neutral campus, SFO purchased six new Proterra Catalyst E2 battery-electric buses, designed and built by Burlingame-based transit manufacturer Proterra. The buses will have 27 seats with luggage racks to comfortably accommodate all passengers. Since battery-electric buses have no combustion engine, passengers will experience a quieter, smoother ride.

In addition to the passenger benefits, the all-electric buses will replace six aging diesel buses, eliminating more than 23.7 million pounds of greenhouse gas tailpipe emissions over their lifetime. With powerful batteries built to last the entire daily route on a single charge, the Proterra Catalyst E2 buses can be fully charged overnight in under 4.5 hours, with a range of up to 231 miles. Lower fuel prices and reduced vehicle maintenance costs are anticipated to save roughly $4.5 million over the lifespan of the buses.

These buses are just one piece of SFO’s ongoing, and future, efforts to reduce the Airport’s environmental footprint and create a healthy campus. For more information on SFO’s environmental efforts, please visit