6 Eco-Friendly Airports

The aviation industry has a bad reputation when it comes to environmental issues. But many airports have stepped up to the plate with extensive recycling programs, wind turbines, solar panels and much more. Here are six major airports that have gone green, and how they did it. 

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

Boston Logan Airport
Getty Images/John Nordell

Boston Logan proved to be one of the leaders in green initiatives with the first LEED certified airport terminal in the U.S. In addition, the airport has wind turbines and solar panels. More recently, the gates at BOS were outfitted with aircraft plug-in power options at each gate so that airplanes don't have to run the auxiliary power units as much while located at the gate.

BOS gained approval and notoriety for an environmentally-friendly asphalt mix that reduced CO2 emissions drastically and saved fuel and energy during construction.

Finally, Boston airport management made the airport more eco-friendly with the implementation of compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations and charging stations for electric vehicles at the airport. All of this, along with Clean Air Cabs and a Clean Vehicle Preferred Parking program make the airport one of the most eco-friendly in the United States.

Denver International Airport (DIA)

Getty Images/Robert Alexander

Tied with Atlanta Hartsfield for best domestic airport in Executive Travel Magazine, Denver International Airport is an all-around green airport. DIA has the largest solar farm at a commercial airport in the United States.

In addition to recycling the usual paper, plastic bottles and aluminum, DIA recycles over 20 types of materials, including restaurant grease, organics, aircraft deicing fluid, glass and demolition materials.

Gates at DIA provide plug-in power and preconditioned air so that aircraft APUs don't have to run as often, which lowers emissions. And alternative-fuel vehicles are plentiful at DIA, which offers a fee reduction to taxicab companies and others that choose to use hybrid vehicles.

Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SEA)

SEA-TAC Recycling
Port of Seattle Image/Don Wilson

SEA-TAC's new consolidated rental car facility meets LEED requirements with organic compound paint, sealant, adhesive and carpet. And SEA-TAC expects to recycle about 96% of excess building material from the project.

Along with the usual recyclables, SEA-TAC airport offices and vendors recycle at least 10 different materials, including cooking oil and coffee grounds. (About 10 tons of coffee grounds are collected and recycled each month at SEA-TAC, and recycled organic cooking oil is sold to companies who use it for biodiesel efforts.) The recycling program is a rewards-based one in which electronic trash monitoring devices charge retailers for trash receptacle usage, and recycling is free.

Sea-Tac also has a Food Donation Program in which unused prepackaged food is given to area food banks.

Zurich Airport, Switzerland (ZRH)

Zurich Airport
Photo © Flughafen Zurich AG

Noise pollution is often overshadowed by air quality issues, and can be difficult for airports to monitor and address. But Zurich Airport officials take it seriously. The airport charges fees for aircraft noise which are based on aircraft type or category, and they utilize a detailed noise mapping and measurement program.

They also take air and water quality seriously in Switzerland. The airport underwent a voluntary reduction of emissions and is Airport Carbon Accredited by the Airports Council International EUROPE. As part of the water management program, rain water is used for toilet flushing. The system also includes collecting and purifying the water that results from aircraft deicing procedures.

Similar to other airports, Zurich uses an electronic billing system for recycling and waste materials, keeping track of fees for trash and recyclables.

San Franscisco International Airport (SFO)

Getty Images/Sarah Rice

Terminal 2 at SFO is the first in the U.S. to receive a LEED Gold certification. The airport's Zero Waste Program means reusing or recycling all possible waste from construction projects, and previous contractors have reused or recycled 90% of building waste, according the airport's website.

The airport rules require all recyclable waste to be separated. Food vendors must use biodegradable items and separate all food waste for recycling. Airport management encourages and expects food vendors to use organic and sustainable ingredients, biodegradable tableware and compostable cups.

Inside the terminals are hydration stations where passengers can fill up their own cups and water bottles with San Francisco tap water to reduce use of plastic water bottles.

Along with many other airports today, SFO aircraft gates use power systems and preconditioned air for reduction of APU usage.

Finally, with preferential parking for electric and hybrid vehicles, cash incentives for customers to rent hybrid vehicles, electric outlets in public garages and a new hydrogen vehicle fuel facility opening in 2013, SFO is impressively green.

East Midlands Airport, England (EMA)

John Raedle/ GettyImages

East Midlands Airport in England has been recognized for its recycling program, which includes wood, metals, cardboard, glass and light filaments, as well as paper and magazines. And the airport requires emissions testing for all airport vehicles.

EMA also has a strict noise pollution program, with monitoring programs and specific routes for aircraft. East Midlands Airport enforces the policies strictly, and fines airlines that don't follow the noise abatement program guidelines.

In 2011, the independent company Green Organisation recognized EMA for its green initiatives after two wind turbines were installed at the airport- the first project of its kind at an airport in the U.K.