10 top eco-innovating airports

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Airports are getting more and more savvy about sustainability practices. From planting herb gardens and harvesting rainwater, to using mostly recycled materials when constructing additions and renovating existing buildings, being eco-conscious is top of mind for an array of airports. So, in honor of Earth Day, we’re highlighting 10 eco-innovating airports that help blaze some greener travel trails.

Changi International Airport, Singapore

Steve Lacey, Singapore Changi Airport via Flickr CC BY 2.0
Steve Lacey, Singapore Changi Airport via Flickr CC BY 2.0

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

Ways airports are going green
Nils Volkmer, bee hive via Flickr CC BY 2.0

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

Peter Gulich, San Francisco International via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
Peter Gulich, San Francisco International via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

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 U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Normally, constructing a new terminal means a lot of waste, but in this case, more than 90 percent 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 percent – saving the equivalent of 57.7 million gallons of water.

East Midlands Airport, East Midlands, England

Ways airports are going green
James Russell, Turbine via Flickr CC BY 2.0

In 2010, East Midlands Airport received environmental accolades for installing two commercial-scale wind turbines on site, a U.K. airport first at the time. The turbines produce five percent 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

Ways airports are going green
Ramesh NG, Delhi T3 Int Terminal via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Terminal 3 at Indira Gandhi International Airport was awarded LEED-Gold certification for new construction by the Indian Green Building Council. The vast 5.4 million-square-foot 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 travelers between terminals, and the water management and treatment program uses more than 300 rainwater harvesting wells.

Denver International Airport, Denver, Colorado, United States

Ways airports are going green
JohnPickenPhoto, Denver International Airport via Flickr CC BY 2.0

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 U.S. The electricity the airport generates via solar power is enough to power more than 2,000 homes each year.

Galapagos Ecological Airport, Galapagos Islands

Ways airports are going green
pantxorama, Galapagos via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

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 percent of its power from photovoltaic panels (which convert light into electricity) installed on the terminal walkways, and the remaining 65 percent 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

Ways airports are going green
David Brossard, Logan Airport – Boston via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

SFO might be the first airport in the U.S. 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 percent 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

Ways airports are going green
chipmunk_1, Chicago O’Hare Vertical Farm via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

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 U.S.

Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Ways airports are going green
La Citta Vita, Green wall via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

YVR is the first Canadian airport to install a green wall – the largest living wall in North America. The 60-foot 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 9,284 tons a year.

Featured image: istock.com/republica

10 top eco-innovating airports was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Jessica Padykula
Author: Jessica Padykula (91 posts)

Jessica Padykula is a Toronto-based writer and editor who regularly covers travel and lifestyle trends. When she’s not writing or researching a story she can be found planning trips to places near and far in a never-ending quest to travel the world.