Airports are little cities unto themselves. Many are even large enough to have their own zip codes. With so many people coming in and out, cars dropping off and picking up, and planes departing and landing, airports produce a whole lot of air pollution and physical trash. But, many are making an effort to reduce their environmental impact by implementing new green features. Here are some of the coolest green initiatives at airports around the world.
Using Alternative Power
Last July, Boston Logan Airport installed 20 wind turbines that will offset about 3% of the building’s annual energy needs (doesn’t sound like much, but consider the amount an airport uses), and it’s not the only airport investing in alternative sources of energy. The airports of Munich, Zurich, San Francisco and Denver have also installed solar panels to help power their buildings. Dallas/Fort Worth Airport converted its bus and shuttle fleet to run on compressed natural gas and hydrogen-based fuel, as has Mineta San Jose. Heathrow is testing its new Personal Transport Pods, battery-powered, zero-emission vehicles that will whisk passengers from the terminal to the parking lot, and Boston provides preferred parking spots to drivers of hybrid cars.
Refilling Empty Water Bottles
The Portland Airport allows travelers coming through the security line with water bottles to dump the liquid but keep the container to refill once they pass security. That doesn’t sound like a big deal until you realize that other airports, like Chicago O’Hare, require the bottles to be thrown out. Not only does that policy generate tons of unnecessary waste, but all those full or half-full bottles weigh more and therefore the removal produces more emissions. Portland’s rule seems pretty green in comparison. San Francisco Airport goes one step further than Portland by providing water refill stations past the security checkpoint so people can refill their water bottles free of charge.
Recycling and Composting
Many airports have limited recycling programs in place, but some are going above and beyond when it comes to making sure that nothing that can be recycled gets added to a landfill. Seattle-Tacoma Airport, rated by the Clean Airport Partnership as one of the greenest in the country, charges concessionaires by the pound for waste(but doesn’t charge for recycling), encouraging vendors to recycle as much as possible. Portland makes it easy on flyers as well by providing a “single sort” recycle bin. Everything gets tossed in one bin and later sorted by a recycling company, so people don’t have to worry about which receptacle they throw their items into.
Seattle doesn’t end its recycling efforts with paper, plastic, glass and aluminum – it also composts 145 tons of coffee grounds per year and recycles 1,000 gallons of cooking oil each month, which is then used to produced biodiesel fuel. Munich Airport has a similar program: the organic waste from the airport’s restaurants is collected, sent to a farm, and used as pig feed. San Francisco hopes to require its concessionaires to serve all food in containers that can be composted and turned into fertilizer and Denver Airport will begin its own composting program this January.
Other green airport practices include using energy-efficient LCD screens on all computers and monitors, landscaping with native plants, installing low-flow toilets, and replacing paper towel dispensers with electric hand dryers. With the amount of waste and emissions airports produce as a result of their sheer size, the have a long way to go to truly be called “green”, but it’s nice to know that many are taking steps to reduce their environmental impact in whatever small ways they can.