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Sustainable Travel

Sustainable airports provide an option for eco-friendly travellers

Airports dotted across the globe are aiming to appear more and more sustainable, with varying results


According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), sustainable airports have three goals; to reduce the impact on the environment, maintain high economic growth levels and work toward “social progress” in the community. To accomplish these goals, sustainable airports often take measures that include reducing emissions, lowering noise levels and conserving natural resources, including water, electricity and land.

What eco-friendly measures have airports taken?
To conserve resources, airports have used a variety of environmentally friendly measures in the past. These include choosing sites near mass transit options, to reduce the number of wild animals in the area, to keep natural resources from being used and to cut down on emissions from automobiles. Other facilities have installed light-coloured surfaces, such as pavements, roadways and car parks to reduce heat islands and lower cooling costs.

Other measures include conserving water by installing low-flow water fixtures and planting drought-tolerant landscaping around the airport. Properties have also begun using “green” energy sources such as solar power, geothermal power, wind power and hydropower, since these resources are renewable. Reusing and recycling materials as often as possible is another sustainability measure, as is using locally sourced materials for projects, which reduces both transportation costs and pollution.

International airports that have adapted to sustainability

To encourage airports to make these adjustments in the USA, the FAA has created the Sustainable Master Plan programme to assist airports attain the goal of sustainability. So far, twelve US airports have already signed up to participate, including Denver International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Several airports around the world, however, have already undertaken their own measures to reach sustainability. At Dallas Ft Worth International Airport, the largest source of emissions on the property comes from aircraft. While it is not possible to reduce these sources of pollution, the facility has worked to cut down on other pollutants. Some of the measures taken have included reducing electricity use by installing fuel cells and buying wind-produced power, lowering emissions during times of the day when they are normally at their highest and using alternative energy ground support vehicles.

In 2009, the Chicago Department of Aviation issued the Sustainable Airport Manual and multiple airports agreed to collaborate with this programme, including Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, Baltimore-Washington, D.C. Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. Since then, the participating airports have saved nearly $3 million by taking eco-friendly measures, such as recovering and reusing asphalt, using “green” roofs on buildings, switching to low-emission construction vehicles and installing energy-efficient lighting throughout the taxiways.

At Zurich International Airport, technicians monitor air quality and energy usage per passenger in order to identify areas where efficiency can be improved. The airport also recycles 40 percent of its waste, uses geothermal energy, subsidises the cost of public transport for passengers and offers public tours that explain the airport’s energy-saving programmes.

At India’s New Delhi Airport, other measures are in place. The facility takes advantage of natural daylight illumination to lower electricity use, adapts recycled content in construction, uses battery-powered vehicles to reduce emissions and even relocates animals that stray toward the airport to wildlife sanctuaries. Since its construction, the airport staff has engaged in planting over 18,000 trees.

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