#WorldEarthDay:12 Airports with eco-friendly innovations

2016-04-22 09:00 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - As the world celebrates Earth Day, originally created in the United States to increase public awareness of environmental problems in the various cities and now in its 50th year this year, we take a look at airport initiatives that minimise its environmental impact - either through energy consumption, water consumption, percentage of waste recycled, noise levels and energy efficient materials usage. 

Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) says, recent energy reduction achievements for 2015 across SA's airports saw a saving of 7 698 199 gigawatt hours. Over the last four financial years, there was a collective saving of 19 431 035 gigawatt hours - which equates to an average of 8% saving per year. 

Acsa says its short term objective is to reduce its reliance on grid power according to an ISO 50001 framework. " Between 2019 to 2014, we expects to introduce an energy mix into all our airports and our long term vision from 2025 -2030 is to achieve Carbon neutrality in Energy Consumption and run Green Airports," says Acsa.

It says it is working towards achieving a 6 star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa.

So make sure Earth Day, celebrated year after year by more than a billion people in 192 countries worldwide, is not just an initiative that comes and goes once a year. Check out the following initiatives the next time you find yourself in one of these airports.

George Airport, Garden Route, South Africa

Africa’s first solar powered airport officially opened in February 2016, as the Garden Route's George Airport made the switch to off-the-grid power.

The solar power energy project, which was scheduled for completion in December last year but was completed two months ahead of schedule in October, saw the airport generate an estimated 47 megawatt hours of power within the first month of its existence.

And while South Africa is in the grips of a drought, the airport says it reliably expects to save in excess of 1.2 million litres of water per year through its solar-power generation. The plant currently supplies 41% of the airport’s current energy demand. The Acsa expects to introduce an energy mix into all its airports. Added to this, all the car rental companies in George airport also use harvested and recycled water at the car depots for servicing and washing of the rental vehicles. 

King Shaka International Airport, Durban, South Africa

King Shake has implemented a Froggy Pond and the Barn (European) Swallows conservation project, in partnership with the Mt Moreland Conservancy. Started in 2015, Acsa says the Froggy Pond is one of the important wetland around the Airport as it provides a habitat for the rare and critically endangered Pickersgill’s frogs.

The Lake Victoria Wetland is a recognised world-famous Barn Swallow roosting site and is a noted International Birding Area (IBA) because up to 3 million barn swallows roost at these wetlands - providing both a local and international tourism opportunity to the local community. Through the Social Enterprise Development (SED) committee, funding was made available to the Mt Moreland Conservancy to clear alien invasive plants around the Froggy Pond Wetland. This project provided employment for four members of the local community, and endowed them with skills necessary for the job market.  

Changi International Airport, Singapore

Singapore’s Changi International is consistently ranked among the best airports in the world and was recently rated number one in the 2016 Skytrax World Airport Awards. With all those accolades, it should come as no surprise that Changi isn’t just a much-loved airport, but also an eco-conscious one.

Changi boasts 919 skylights for natural light allowing the airport to minimize the need for electric lighting during the day. There’s also an in-house nursery where the plants that populate the airport’s extensive green spaces and gardens grow, and rainwater is harvested to irrigate these plants. Speaking of gardens, Changi takes being “green” very seriously. The airport has an impressive number of gardens including a cactus garden, sunflower garden, orchid garden, water lily garden, butterfly garden and a nature trail – right in the airport.



Pearson International Airport, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Toronto’s Pearson Airport has a unique eco-initiative that’s been getting some serious buzz. In addition to several ecological and sustainability initiatives, Pearson has introduced a honeybee apiary, dubbed YYbeeZ. The apiary can be found along the trail near the Etobicoke Stormwater Facility and the honeybees are cared for by a local beekeeper. The bee hives at Pearson are in place as a way to help support food security and sustainable agriculture in the airport’s surrounding area.


San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, United States
SFO’s Terminal 2 is the first airport terminal in the U.S. to receive LEED Gold Certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and the eco-award is given out by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). Normally, constructing a new terminal means a lot of waste, but in this case, more than 90 per cent of construction and demolition waste generated during the project was recycled. SFO also planted more than 2,000 trees, eliminating 120 tons of CO2 per year, and, in 2015, the airport reduced water usage by 13.5 per cent – saving the equivalent of 57.7 million gallons of water.


ALSO SEE: How do SA airports compare to the rest of the world?

East Midlands Airport, East Midlands, England

In 2010, East Midlands Airport received environmental accolades for installing two commercial-scale wind turbines on site, a UK airport first at the time. The turbines produce five per cent of the airport’s electricity, enough to power 150 houses. Another important factor that makes East Midlands one of the eco-friendliest airports in the world is the fact that it achieved carbon-neutral ground operations as of 2012.

Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, India

Terminal 3 at Indira Gandhi International Airport was awarded LEED-Gold certification for new construction by the Indian Green Building Council. The vast 501 676-square-metre terminal, which was constructed with a high percentage of recycled content, optimizes the use of natural light. In addition, battery-powered vehicles are used for transporting travellers between terminals, and the water management and treatment program uses more than 300 rainwater harvesting wells.

Denver International Airport, Denver, Colorado, United States

In 2014, Denver International installed its fourth solar array (bank of solar panels), increasing its total solar-generating capacity up to 10 megawatts – more than any commercial airport in the US. The electricity the airport generates via solar power is enough to power more than 2 000 homes each year.

Galapagos Ecological Airport, Galapagos Islands

Built in 2012 to run solely on solar and wind power, Galapagos Ecological Airport currently has the highest certification that exists to recognize sustainable construction. The airport gets 35 per cent of its power from photovoltaic panels (which convert light into electricity) installed on the terminal walkways, and the remaining 65 per cent by windmills situated around the airport property. The airport building was also made from an impressive 80 percent recycled materials.

Boston Logan International Airport, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

SFO might be the first airport in the US to receive LEED Gold Certification, but Boston Logan’s Terminal A was actually the world’s first air terminal to be LEED certified back in 2006. Some of the airport’s eco-focused efforts include 20 wind turbines that help offset around 3 per cent of the building’s energy needs. Other Earth-conserving steps included installing heat-reflecting roofing, using low-flow bathroom fixtures and building a runway paved with environmentally friendly asphalt.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois, United States

In the summer of 2011, an aeroponic garden was installed on the mezzanine level of O’Hare Airport‘s Rotunda Building. It was the first aeroponic garden at any airport in the world and its produce supplies many of the airport’s restaurants. Some green goodies being grown include Swiss chard, three types of basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, chives, bibb lettuce and gourmet lettuce mix. No fertilizers or chemicals are used in the garden. In addition, like Pearson, O’Hare has an apiary with more than 75 beehives and more than 1 million bees. O’Hare has the largest apiary at any airport in the world and the first major airport apiary in the US.

Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

YVR is the first Canadian airport to install a green wall – the largest living wall in North America. The 18-metre wall is home to 28,249 plants on 2,173 panels and even has a built-in irrigation and feeding system. But YVR’s efforts go well beyond the wall. Since 2003, the airport has utilized solar hot water heating systems in the domestic and international terminals, which help heat more than 800 gallons of hot water every hour – adding up to $110,000 in energy savings each year. Vancouver International also makes it easier for passengers to make eco-minded ground transportation choices. One hundred hybrid and natural gas-operated taxis are licensed to pick up passengers, a move that resulted in the equivalent of taking 1,651 cars off the road and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 8,422 tonnes a year.

- (Source: Cheapflights.co.za)