Airports and Sustainability: Building a Better Future by Going Green

By coffman | Nov 29, 2016 | News, news-home, Uncategorized | No Comments

Solar carport at Albuquerque International Sunport

Sustainability has been a hot topic for several years now, and the focus on being environmentally conscious has only broadened over time. A cause for concern is global climate change.  The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued reports stating that “the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans.”

Whether or not one agrees with the concepts of climate change and its potential effects, there is value to be gained both environmentally and socially through sustainable practices by both individuals and industries.

Like other industries, the aviation sector is doing its part to improve our future through sustainability. While aircraft operations contribute only 3% of GHG emissions in the U.S., there are a number of indirect activities which occur that add to overall emissions. Vehicles driving to and from airports, heating and cooling of facilities, and many other operational practices all combine to contribute to an airport’s overall carbon footprint.

In response to this, airports and related industries across the country and around the world are taking steps to become more sustainable. Virtually every aspect of air travel, from passenger transportation to the airport to facility waste removal, is being targeted for greener solutions. Some of the major areas of focus include:

  • Waste management & recycling
  • Energy & GHG emission reduction
  • Ground access and transportation
  • Air quality
  • Social engagement & responsibility
  • Resiliency & preparedness
  • Natural resource management

When making decisions, airport officials now must consider the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit, which serves to balance social, environmental, and financial benefits.  Many facilities are identifying comprehensive lists of sustainability targets intended to decrease the airport’s impact on the environment, while also reducing costs and improving the airport’s relationship with the local community.


Coffman Associates has partnered with several airports to develop Master Plans that incorporate sustainability and pinpoint areas for improvement.  Some of these initiatives include:

Portland International Jetport, Portland, ME

  • Installation of a geothermal energy system in 2010 for more efficient heating and cooling of the expanded terminal
  • Increasing the recycling rate by 30% by 2020
  • Recapture and recycle at least 70% of deicing fluid on-site

Albuquerque International Sunport, Albuquerque, NM

  • Expansion of on-site photovoltaic systems to ultimately achieve net-zero energy usage
  • Purchase, operate and maintain alternatively fueled, electric, and hybrid fleet vehicles
  • Start a Green Procurement Program with emphasis placed on purchasing sustainable and/or locally sourced materials

Monterey Regional Airport, Monterey, CA

  • Installation of low-flow fixtures in terminal building and using water-efficient landscaping policies to conserve water
  • Pursue LEED certification or equivalent for a proposed new terminal building
  • Continue transitioning to all LED airfield lighting

These are just a few of the ways airports are working to reduce their impact on the environment. The aviation industry has a responsibility to the planet and its inhabitants, and the current focus on sustainability demonstrates how seriously this role is being taken.  By crafting progressive targets and implementing green solutions, airports are leading by example and paving the way for others to put their own eco-friendly practices into effect.  With this ever-growing trend toward sustainability and continued efforts among all transportation sectors and other industries, it is within our power to build a greener tomorrow and a brighter future for generations to come.

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