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  • San Francisco International Airport

SFO becomes 1st large airport in North America to achieve Level 4 Carbon Accreditation

The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) announced a major sustainability milestone Nov. 9, with the award of Level 4 Airport Carbon Accreditation by the Airports Council International, the foremost advocate for airport operators worldwide.

This advanced certification, the first for a large airport in North America, recognizes SFO for greenhouse-gas (GHG) reduction from its own operations as well as collaboration with third parties, such as airlines and service providers, in reduction strategies.

As part of this accreditation, SFO is committing to reach zero net emissions by the year 2030.

“We are honored to be the first large airport in North America to achieve Level 4 Carbon Accreditation,” said Ivar C. Satero, airport director. “This is a major milestone in our goal to be the first zero-carbon airport in the world. My thanks go out to the entire SFO airport community for this accomplishment.”

At Level 4 “Transformation” of Airport Carbon Accreditation, airports are required to align their carbon-management ambition with global climate goals and transform their operations with absolute emissions reductions in mind, while also strengthening their stakeholder engagement.

SFO has achieved significant success in reducing its carbon footprint. Since 1990, the airport has reduced greenhouse-gas emissions from airport-controlled operations by 35 percent.

Reduction strategies include:

  • Achieving a LEED Platinum Community designation from the U.S. Green Building Council, certifying 16 green and healthy buildings including the world’s first net zero airport building (airfield-operations facility), LEED Gold (v2009-Terminal 2) and LEED Platinum (v4.1-Harvey Milk Terminal 1) Terminals, and a WELL Platinum and FitWel-certified Terminal

  • Leading the industry in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) pipeline deliveries by Neste direct to aircraft. SFO is on track to receive 12 million blended gallons in calendar year 2022, avoiding 28,000 metric tons of CO2e, the highest known volume of SAF of any airport in the world.

  • Operating eight electric buses and expanding the AirTrain, an electric-powered light rail system that eliminated over 600 daily bus trips to shuttle passengers between terminals and the rental-car center

  • Decreasing electricity use by 17 percent despite a 27 percent increase in passenger growth pre-pandemic between 2013 to 2021 and generating enough solar power onsite to charge 30,000 electric scooters (4 megawatts)

  • Banning all single-use plastic beverage containers and plastic food-service ware, eliminating 8,000 bottles per year from the landfill, achieving 65 percent diversion from landfill and donating 12,000 meals annually through SFO Unites Against Hunger, its food-donation program

  • Creating a clean-vehicle policy to promote the adoption and deployment of energy-efficient vehicles, by both airport departments and ground-transportation providers

  • Conserving an area of the wetlands the size of 24 Levi’s Stadiums via SFO’s biodiversity program, helping to rehabilitate the California Red Legged Frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake

  • Implementing smart meters, leak detection, green infrastructure and broader building and irrigation conservation programs that have reduced SFO’s water use per passenger by 228 percent from a 2013 baseline

SFO achieved Level 3 Airport Carbon Accreditation in 2016. Administered by Airports Council International, the ACA program is based on the World Resources Institute’s “Greenhouse Gas Protocol” and confirms rigorous third-party validation of SFO's carbon footprint over the past four years. To date, SFO is one of just 10 airports in North America to have achieved such an advanced certification, which recognizes its progress and collaborative commitment to reducing GHG emissions and energy consumption from operations across the airport.


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