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How Airports are Practicing Sustainable Efforts

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As air travel continues to grow in popularity, and the size of airports continues to increase, expanding their carbon footprint, there is mounting pressure for airports to contribute to climate change efforts by increasing their sustainability practices. Some of the most eco-friendly airports in the world, such as Seattle-Tacoma, Zurich International and Stockholm Arlanda International, have major goals that focus on reducing their environmental impact by reducing emissions, decreasing all types of pollution, lowering the use of natural resources and protecting wildlife. Other airports around the world are making moves towards greater sustainability through the following practices.

Alternative Power
Airports are finding ways to use solar and wind power, through buying solar panels and wind turbines, to decrease their energy usage. While they can't harvest enough energy to power the entire airport yet, it greatly reduces the amount of energy needed to sustain the airport. Stockholm Arlanda airport uses a biofuel system through the use of water collection and an aquifer to power the heating and air conditioning throughout the year. 6-foot-tall wind turbines are installed at the Boston Logan Airport that provides three percent of the airport's energy needs. Airports are finding many creative ways to combine these alternative power sources to reduce their consumption by up to third of the total energy usage.

Recycled Building Materials
As new airports are built and old ones are upgraded or replaced, the building materials used are recycled steel and other materials. Eighty percent of the building materials used for the Galapagos Ecological Airport were recycled. Volcanic ash can be mixed with concrete to produce an environmentally friendly option used when paving runways and parking lots. Using this type of concrete requires less heat during construction, which lowers the energy usage of the construction equipment used.

Reduce Pollution
The amount of air, light and noise pollution produced by airports is another area where airports are increasing sustainability efforts. To reduce pollutants in the air, airplanes are starting to use greener biofuels instead of traditional jet fuels. Many airports are implementing low emissions guidelines for the aircraft and all other ground transportation at the airport. At the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, they've made guidelines for their taxi fleet as well. Each taxi must have a minimum fuel economy of 45 MPG or use alternative fuel. Taking it a step further, they've placed those guidelines on any Uber or Lyft vehicles that enter the airport to pick up passengers. The Delhi Indira Gandhi Airport only uses battery-powered vehicles to transport passengers around the airport. Noise pollution affects the people and wildlife close to the airport. Zurich International Airport has made concerted efforts to reduce noise pollution by taxing aircraft based on the amount of noise they produce.

Reduce Energy Usage
While airports are finding alternative power sources to supply energy, they are also determining how to lower the use of energy throughout the airport. Some ways airports are doing this include switching traditional lighting for LED lighting, having light sensors in bathrooms and reducing air conditioning and heating needs. The Singapore Changi airport has reduced its energy usage by adding skylights throughout the airport to reduce the need for lighting. They've also positioned air conditioners closer to the floor to help them work more efficiently. The Oslo Airport in Norway had a creative idea to store snow from the long winter to use as a coolant during the summer months, saving plenty of energy in the process.

Recycling
Inside the airport, recycling bins are a practical way to reduce the amount of trash headed to the landfill. Reducing plastic consumption is a major goal at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. They want to eliminate all single-use plastics, such as straws, packaging and cups to help with trash reduction.

It's not quick or easy to create an environmentally friendly airport but, with slow and steady progress, airports are making gains. With continued efforts towards sustainability, and loads of creativity and innovation, airports are reducing their impact on the globe.

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