Airports Going Green

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At the Airports Going Green Conference last November, in a session focused on the future of sustainability in the aviation industry, the Port of Portland’s Phil Ralston presented on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), a global framework for sustainability reporting. The initiative can be used by organizations of any size, sector or location and is developed using an international, multi-stakeholder consensus-based approach.

Airport companies participating in the initiative include: Denver International; San Diego International; Toronto Pearson International Airport; Fraport; and the Port of Portland, to name a few. Nonindustry stakeholder participants include transport workers unions and the United Nations Environmental Programme.

According to Ralston, sustainability issues addressed by the GRI with regard to the environment include emissions related to transport of ground transportation of passengers, staff, visitors and suppliers; noise measurement and monitoring; waste management (disposal of confiscated materials, deicing effluent and airline/service provider waste); and stormwater management and irrigation.

Waste diversion and recycling

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)’s Sam Mehta says the new drivers behind the airport’s waste diversion strategy are sustainability and climate change, stating it’s “all about resources.” According to Mehta, state and city regulations set a mandate for the airport to establish a 50% waste diversion goal by year 2000 ... and a zero waste goal by 2020.

Currently, SFO separates 4,700 tons per year of recyclable and compostable solid waste, says Mehta. The balance of 4,121 tons of the current annual waste generation is mixed solid waste.
In order to meet the zero waste goal by 2020, contractors are required to separate a minimum of 42% of recyclable/compostable materials from the airport’s mixed waste stream by the end the first year of the contract and increase the recycling rate by 2% for each of the following four years.

The airport’s primary policy is to reduce and reuse, explains Mehta. Policy measures implemented by SFO include a 50% reduction on office paper; encouraging the use of reusable bags and bottles; electric hand dryers; precautionary purchasing to minimize packaging; source
separation; and the utilization of bins for paper, bottles and cans, and compostable waste.

There are more than 100 Dumpsters and 22 waste compactors at SFO; the airport’s Z-Best composting contractor sold more than 115,000 tons of compost last year, explains Mehta.
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Jeremy Webb relates that environmental stewardship is an organizational priority at the Port of Seattle. The airport’s environmental strategy plan is SEA’s road map to sustainability, he adds, and the airport has set a goal to reach a 50% recycling rate by 2014.

According to Webb, 90% of SEA waste comes from public areas, concessions and aircraft; and 58% of airport waste is compostable. Ultimately, the airport separated the stakeholder processes for concessions and airlines to better manage recycling efforts.

“Airport goals, corporate social responsibility, and local economic and market conditions primarily drive concession sustainability at SEA,” remarks Webb. “Education and outreach are essential for success.”

Education and outreach provided by SEA includes resources and technical assistance to concessions/tenants; clear communication of recycling goals and progress; free waste reduction training and recycling collection receptacles; and a consistently maintained dialogue.
Furthermore, Webb stresses the importance of including all stakeholders in waste planning activities. “Gather input to understand current practices, challenges, and future waste reduction and recycling opportunities; also address distinct differences between concessionaires and airlines with separate processes,” he explains.

Advanced Parking Technology

Luis Guiron, marketing manager with the Siemens Corporation, discussed the “Advanced Parking” technology concept. By way of a central software system, advanced parking consists of four primary enablers: detection and direction (monitors space availability and guides motorists to open spaces); electronic payment (parking pay stations and single space meters); variable pricing (demand-based pricing and congestion charging); and guided enforcement (alerts officials and produces citations).

Airport benefits of advanced parking include the optimized use of parking by maximizing capital expenses, and reduced traffic and congestion in parking areas, says Guiron.
Passenger benefits include 100,000 excess miles saved per year and more than 13,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions prevented. From a passenger point of view, there is less time spent searching for parking, providing an enhanced experience and reduced frustration, explains Guiron.