Delta, Duke University Launch First-Of-Its-Kind Partnership To Offset Carbon Emissions

By Kate Modolo

Commitment also benefits Raleigh-Durham urban areas with 1,000 new trees.

Delta Air Lines, the official airline of Duke Athletics, and Duke University, are expanding their partnership with a first-of-its-kind sustainability program.

Delta and Duke’s combined purchase of 5,000 carbon credits, simultaneously offsets carbon from all Duke University business travel on Delta in 2017, while supporting urban forestry in the Raleigh-Durham area through funding the planting and care of 1,000 new trees. 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 will generate the removal of an additional 5,000 metric tons of CO2 from the air during their lifespan – together, that’s like neutralizing the carbon footprint of around 9,000 roundtrip flights between Atlanta and Los Angeles. The program is being facilitated by North Carolina-based Urban Offsets.

“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.”

Approximately half of the trees being planted will benefit historically disadvantaged Raleigh-Durham neighborhoods identified through a 2016 Duke Nicholas School of the Environment student-led report outlining the red-lining policies of the 1930s that resulted in trees being planted in mostly wealthy white neighborhoods.

Volunteers from Duke University, Keep Durham Beautiful and a local resident work together to plant trees in the Durham, NC Northbrook neighborhood. This was the second of 24 tree-planting events being held through March 2018, in various neighborhoods impacted by the red-lining policies of the 1930’s that resulted in the unfair distribution of trees.

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. This new program builds on the global airline’s efforts to continue the carbon-neutral growth it has maintained since 2012, and builds on its industry-leading program that encourages customers to use the carbon calculator at to estimate their carbon emissions associated with trips and invest in carbon offset projects of their choice.

“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.”

Adding trees to urban areas not only means more shade coverage and wildlife habitat, but also improved air quality, noise levels and storm-water control. Cities and their nonprofit partners often struggle to properly fund urban forestry initiatives. This first-of-its-kind carbon offsets program directly addresses that funding gap, helping to ensure every new urban tree can be cared for while it grows, and providing local volunteering opportunities for Duke University faculty, students and staff, as well as Delta employees.

“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.”

About Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines serves more than 180 million customers each year. It is the only airline to be named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and has earned this position for seven consecutive years. In 2017, Delta was the recipient of Keep America Beautiful’ s 2017 Vision for America Award, was named to Fortune’s top 50 Most Admired Companies in addition to being named the most admired airline for the sixth time in seven years. Additionally, Delta has ranked No.1 in the Business Travel News Annual Airline survey for an unprecedented seven consecutive years. With an industry-leading global network, Delta and the Delta Connection carriers offer service to 306 destinations in 52 countries on six continents. Headquartered in Atlanta, Delta employs more than 80,000 employees worldwide and operates a mainline fleet of more than 800 aircraft. The airline is a founding member of the SkyTeam global alliance and participates in the industry’s leading transatlantic joint venture with Air France-KLM and Alitalia as well as a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic. Including its worldwide alliance partners, Delta offers customers more than 15,000 daily flights, with key hubs and markets including Amsterdam, Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York-JFK and LaGuardia, London-Heathrow, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Salt Lake City, São Paulo, Seattle, Seoul, and Tokyo-Narita. Delta has invested billions of dollars in airport facilities, global products and services, and technology to enhance the customer experience in the air and on the ground. Additional information is available on the Delta News Hub, as well as, Twitter @DeltaNewsHub,, and

About Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative

In 2007, Duke University signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and set a target of achieving climate neutrality by 2024. After aggressively reducing emissions on campus, Duke will still have to offset an estimated 185,000 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2024. The Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative (DCOI) was created as a branch of Sustainable Duke to help Duke University achieve its climate neutrality goals. Since its beginning in 2009, it has developed a variety of innovative carbon offset programs including swine waste-to-energy, energy efficiency, solar energy, and urban forestry. The 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.

About Urban Offsets

Greensboro, N.C.-based Urban Offsets helps corporations and higher education institutions invest carbon offsets in the places and relationships that matter to them. This transforms carbon offsets into assets that help fight climate change, strengthen strategic partnerships, and create climate resilient cities. Using a Sustainability Portfolio approach, Urban Offsets evaluates and grades carbon offsets and bundles them with community development programs that sustainably engage nonprofit partners in each city. Urban Offsets currently operates in 12 U.S. markets and supports more than 10,000 new trees planted in 2017.

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