Climate Smart Airport: Towards sustainable airport management

It is becoming increasingly urgent for airports to adapt their technologies and processes to a new reality: the need for sustainable airport management. Climate change and increasing environmental awareness have pushed different international governments, institutions, and public/private organizations to take measures related to environmental sustainability. This demonstrates a positive trend of awareness worldwide. Airports are no exception. In this sense it is worth mentioning that among Airport Gurus solutions, we offer consultancies oriented to the improvement and implementation of new technologies, new protocols that lead us to a more sustainable management and the good use of different resources. Given the importance of the topic, we wanted to dedicate this space to talk about the different proposals that are being carried out in different airports around the world with this common goal.

A main example of this is the Corporate Responsibility Plan developed by Aena for 2018-2021. Sustainability is the main focus and 1% of its resources are dedicated to achieving the objectives set out in the plan. The different actions are aligned with the 10 principles of the Global Pact as well as the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. In addition to environmental initiatives, some of its main lines of action include the promotion of culture and social action, transparency and corporate reporting, support for entrepreneurship and innovation, and the training of professionals and employability.

Below, we will discover some of the most important measures taken by airports and airport managers. As well as the different results obtained. 

Environmental sustainability at airports

When we talk about sustainability at airports, there are three main axes of great relevance: renewable energies, energy efficiency and sustainable mobility. Together they will contribute to achieving a common goal: a new way of working that respects the environment. Although these are not the only actions, they are also the basis for subsequent ones. 


Use of renewable energies at an airport

One of the most ambitious aspects of this plan is to promote the use of renewable energies in airports. One of the main advantages of using renewable energy sources is that they are non-exhaustible, unlike those currently used more frequently. But in addition, they are mainly characterized by their zero-local emission of greenhouse gases. This is one of the concerns that underlies the different measures and protocols taken by airports and airport managers and that, as we will see below, is present in each and every one of the actions taken or to be implemented. 

The final objective of this type of proposals is not only the correct operation of the airport, but also the implementation, integration and development of renewable energy generation systems within the airports themselves. 

To give some examples of pioneering airports in the use of renewable energy, we highlight La Palma Airport, which in 2003 became the first airport in Europe to be 100% self-sufficient thanks to eolic energy. Obtained thanks to the installation of two 600 kW wind turbines on its south side.

In the case of Melbourne Airport, they have decided to take advantage of solar energy with the installation of the largest solar farm in Australia, work on which began in mid-2020. With an output of 2.4 megawatts, the aim is to produce 17 gigawatt-hours and power the four passenger terminals. This represents 15% of the airport’s total consumption.


Energy efficiency: reducing emissions to zero-emission

Another of the objectives to be achieved in order to contribute to environmental sustainability at airports is energy efficiency. This involves implementing the necessary protocols, resources and technologies to make the use of the energy required for the proper functioning of all areas of an airport much more efficient. The main objective is to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible. 

In order to ensure this, many institutions and organizations related to air navigation are implementing protocols ranging from audits of their facilities with the highest consumption, energy best practice protocols, resource conservation, to the installation of energy-efficient and low-cost automatic systems.

Airports must also take part in this need to reach the zero-emission goal and take real action to monitor the use of their energy resources. 

One of the most innovative proposals is the Airbus zero-emission aircraft. They seek to decarbonize air transport by using hydrogen as fuel. Although it will be a paradigm shift in terms of airport structures and aerodynamic configurations, it is an initiative to be considered. They have already submitted three proposals and expect to have their aircraft in service by 2035.  

Sustainable mobility

One of the major problems of airport emissions is the transport of passengers to airport terminals. These infrastructures are generally located far from the urban core and city activity. As part of their sustainability plan, airports are going to work on reducing these emissions by focusing on reducing transport times inside and outside airports. Seeking a more accessible and less polluting mobility. These actions are part of the European Green Pact that aims to achieve a drastically less polluting transport. 

Waste reduction plan: Plastic Free Airport

One of the biggest problems at airports is the amount of waste generated, especially when it comes to plastic. For example, Barcelona-El Prat Airport generates 10,000 tons of waste per year. This problem is one of the key points when talking about implementing a waste reduction plan

Within this type of measures, the airports must take the initiative to start reducing the use of plastic in different formats. Currently there are already examples of airports that have begun to implement different measures to reduce this type of waste. 

Since August 2019 at San Francisco Airport, the sale of plastic bottles has been prohibited. This measure is part of its goal to become a zero-waste airport. Instead, passengers will have to bring their own containers and refill them at the more than 100 free water fountains, and stores and vending machines will only be allowed to sell bottles made of glass, recycled aluminum, or biodegradable materials. 

Another example is Hi Fly, who in 2018 made its first plastic-free flight with the goal of implementing it on all its flights. Cutlery as well as plates, cups and wrappers were replaced with recyclable materials. 

And in India, half of its airports are free of single-use plastics to encourage a responsible and less polluting use of this material. 

These are just some of the initiatives that need to be implemented at airports to achieve sustainable airport management. Whether in the creation of new facilities, the use of different technologies or the creation of new protocols. At Airport Gurus we work to achieve the best results by adapting to new technological and environmental needs. 

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