John of Growing Your Greens has been busy in Chicago. No sooner does he post a video of an old meat packing plant morphing into a gigantic vertical farm and food processing facility, than we also get a visit to an urban garden that is bang in the middle of Chicago O'Hare airport. Using an aeroponic Tower Garden growing system, the garden is growing lettuce, greens and herbs for airport restaurants with an almost zero transportation footprint.
There is always a significant energy footprint involved with growing food indoors. As John notes, the lighting alone is likely to be sucking up a considerable amount of energy. So it would be nice to see a way to power the lights with renewables and/or to use piped natural sunlight to provide at least some of the lumens needed to keep these plants healthy. But given the fact that the airport building needs to be heated and cooled anyway, some of the other energy implications of indoor, out-of-season growing may be less of an issue than a conventional heated greenhouse. That, of course, muyst be offset against the fact you are using up prime commercial real estate for a food growing facility, but who needs another massage chair and/or sunglasses shop anyway?
The educational and entertainment aspect of this project alone make it worthwhile in my book. And given that O'Hare is also welcoming bee keepers with felony convictions, among other environmental initiatives, it starts to look like the airport is taking some serious steps to a more sustainable food system. Who knows, maybe it will also install a worm composting facility like Charlotte airport. Then the final challenge will be that pesky little matter of figuring out greener aviation.
But this is definitely a step in the right direction.