Image source: Boston Globe
Think airline industry. Think major polluters. Airlines emitted more than 418 billion pounds of carbon dioxide last year. They also create "diesel shuttles that circle the terminal road, [leaving] thousands of tons of toxic emissions in a compact area of the city." Not to mention that with the financially strapped industry, adopting creative, eco-friendly projects that cost more and have a longer payback are completely off the table. Until now. USA Today reports that airports across the US are ready to kick it up a notch, adopting aggressive environmental strategies to improve public perception, and hopefully save a little green in the process.
In the past, airports were designed to be aesthetically pleasing and "comfortable" for passengers, but not necessarily energy efficient or environmentally responsible. One reason attributed to this is because the airline industry is so financially troubled that they need immediate results and environmental projects do not always give immediate returns. With such a transient community, its hard for airports to not automatically choose the easily, disposable options or leave lights on all night for the one or two people that might be in a terminal. Now the industry is taking another look at green improvements to not only help airports cut costs, as well as improve the image of the airline industry, and also improve public health.Electrical Upgrades
6 foot tall wind turbines are added to the top of Boston's Logan Airport, estimated to produce 100,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, roughly 3% of current energy use. Most airports have huge plots of land with which they can and are installing huge solar arrays. Fresno's Yosemite Airport installed an 11,700 panel solar array that now covers 40% of its daily electrical needs.
Seattle and Denver airports are both looking at composting coffee grounds and biodegradable wastes. Waste oil will also be hauled away and used for fuel and pet food. Yum. Denver Airport now has 22 different waste streams of recyclables. De-icing fluids are being collected, mixed with melted snow and then reused as anti-freeze and for grey water in toilets. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport upgraded all toilets and urinals to use fewer and in some cases half of the water, saving 44 million gallons of water each year.
Roads and Transportation
Boston's Logan Airport rewards hybrid drivers with preferred parking spaces and cleaner fuel taxis get front of the line privileges, a program also used at San Francisco International Airport. Logan has also designed a cooler asphalt that "uses 20% less energy to make, produced 20% fewer greenhouse gas emissions when applied and lets the airport use a higher percentage of recycled asphalt."
Behind the Scenes
Most airports use huge glass windows in terminals, allowing for more natural light, something that is so common that we hardly recognize it, but is a very green, building item. For years, airports have been using lower-watt lightbulbs, water-conserving vegetation and compressed natural gas filling stations on site. Most gates also come with an electrified gate, allowing planes to turn off while parked, as well as a use a tube filled with pre-conditioned air pumped in from the terminal so the plane's air conditioning systems can also be turned off.
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