Every break, the sky is filled with Colorado College students traveling to and from their homes. For an environmentally conscious school, this large contribution to our carbon footprint seems to be at odds with our values. However, on Feb. 1, Ellie Wood presented to CC that this form of travel was in the process of radical change and that the airline industry is stepping up as one of the world’s leaders in environmentally innovative technologies.
As a 2010 CC graduate, Wood has since dedicated her life to making environmental progress within large corporations and currently serves as a representative for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. According to international data, airline use accounts for 2 percent of the world’s overall carbon dioxide emissions, with 10 million passengers a day and one-third of global goods traveling via air. Even with a relatively small percentage of overall emissions, Wood explained how “the environment is a business consideration for day one.” The more fuel-efficient planes are, the less fuel is used and fewer fumes are emitted into our atmosphere.
Boeing plans on being entirely carbon neutral by 2050. With the help of biofuels, they hope to accomplish this as well as make air travel more accessible to developing countries, lower the stress of travel, create new technologies for urban mobility, and personalize the experience for each passenger. They have already made huge strides within the sustainability sector by partnering with non-governmental organizations that help grow their biofuels with fair trade practices and hope to incorporate these fuels into an increasing amount of flights. For example, they are currently working with a South African NGO that specializes in turning nicotine-free tobacco into a fuel source. With the decline of cigarette use, this industry had been suffering. Boeing is instead hoping to use their shift towards sustainability as a catalyst for economic growth around the world. In addition, the company is receiving a huge backing from the United States military, as these alternative fuel options are more secure in overseas environments.
Victoria Cutler ‘18 attended Wood’s presentation: “I’m an environmental science major and former economics major, so I’m always looking to find solutions that support the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit,” she said. Ellie is doing exactly that at Boeing, finding creative ways to decrease carbon emissions and increase profits.”
“I was on the Tiger Trek to Seattle and we visited Ellie in her office, so this was the second time I heard her speak,” Cutler continued. “Not only have I felt inspired each time, but I also appreciate how available she makes herself to help out CC students. Being a senior is overwhelming at times, but she’s been willing to talk with me multiple times to help guide me in the right direction.”
Even with the pushback from the current administration in Washington D.C. over alternative energy options, Wood is unfazed. In her “boys’ club” of Boeing, she has managed to climb to the top and is one of the driving forces behind their environmental activism. At the end of her presentation, Wood shared her “principles of success” for the workplace. These pieces of advice include “treating every day like it’s your first 90 days,” “making relationships the currency of doing business,” and keeping in mind “the respect that you get is the respect you’ve earned.” With these principles, as well as reaching out to CC’s vast alumni network, students here have a strong foundation for entering the workforce and making big changes, just as Wood demonstrates.