Leadership

From growing garlic to composting, how JetBlue going green

Meet JetBlue's green chief

Sophia Mendelsohn, head of sustainability for JetBlue
Source: JetBlue

JetBlue didn't have a sustainability department until Sophia Mendelsohn came along in 2013. Since then, she's revolutionized the airline's green practices and helped reduce its carbon footprint.The company has offset around 2 billion pounds of greenhouse emissions since 2008 by planting trees in California and capturing methane in Utah among other measures.

Before landing at Jet Blue, Mendelsohn worked in China, helping a furniture manufacturer go green. She is also accredited in fields like green energy and ecology.

Mendelsohn's entrepreneurial spirit drives her success at Jet Blue. Her passion for the environment is matched only by her commitment to protecting it. She is convinced that economic growth and environmental protection can co-exist.

— By CNBC's Josh Weiss

Posted 21 April 2016

Terminal 5 rooftop garden

JetBlue’s rooftop T5 garden
Source: JetBlue

Outside Terminal 5 at JFK International Airport sits JetBlue's sustainable rooftop vegetable farm. The project was the result of a collaboration between JetBlue and the Port Authority, and Mendelsohn's vision.

"I thought, how can we add greenery to the space and make it productive. I was inspired by all these startups growing things all around New York," Mendelsohn said.

Rooftop crops

JetBlue garden
Source: JetBlue

Over 24,000 square feet, the farm's crops include potatoes, kale and garlic, grown in containers. Employees volunteer and then get to pick the crops to take home to their families.

But how do you sustain a rooftop garden at an airport? Hint: it's in the soil.

Composting

Columbia secondary school waste
Source: McEnroe Organic Farms

Composting is another eco-friendly program taking place at Terminal 5. Food scraps are collected by Royal Waste Services and sent to New York-based McEnroe Organic Farm.

Making fertile soil

Columbia secondary school picks strawberries
Source: McEnroe Organic Farms

Food scraps from Terminal 5 and other Royal Waste customers are combined with manure and straw bedding to become fertile growing soil at McEnroe Organic Farm (pictured). The process takes around 7 to 10 months, according to the McEnroe's head of education Andrea Caruso. JetBlue then buys the farm's compost and soil blends.

"Coming full circle, some of the dirt for our farm is purchased through that program," said Mendelsohn.

'Bluebud'

Hot Bread Buns
Source: Hot Bread Kitchen

"Food made in New York has become a huge trend, and we're helping to promote that too," said Mendelsohn.

She launched a program called "Bluebud" that mentors local food manufacturers. The first partner in the program is Hot Bread Kitchen, a non profit that teaches women and minorities how to be "culinary entrepreneurs."

Hot Bread

(L) Sophia Mendelsohn, head of sustainability for Jet Blue in the Hot Bread Kitchen
Source: JetBlue

You can expect to see Hot Bread products served on JetBlue flights in the near future.

"We've taken Hot Bread under our wing, so to speak," said Mendelsohn. "Providing feedback, mentoring on how small businesses can best sell to big ones, increasing their publicity and even their sales."

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