Which is the Greenest Airport of Them All?

The airline industry is massively fossil-fuel dependent, so it is no surprise numerous efforts have been made in recent years to be more fuel efficient, including designs with less wind drag, and biofuel made from algae and other renewable sources.

Now, though, the spotlight is on airport terminals. Like hotels, convention centers and other spaces that attract hordes of people and consume a lot of energy, there has been a concerted push by airports in recent years to reduce their carbon footprints.

And so, the race for green is on: Which of the world’s airports owns bragging rights as the most environmentally friendly?

Look to Scandinavia, says CNN Travel. The new terminal at Oslo Airport, Gardermoen (OSL), is first to be awarded the highest Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating, a worldwide sustainability certification program.

Perhaps the coolest—literally—innovation at Oslo is a snow-based cooling system. In winter, the airport taps into natural geothermal heating, but it also collects plentiful Norwegian snow, covers it with sawdust to slow melting and stores it. In summer, the remaining slush cools the terminal building.

The airport also perfected the business of recycling during construction—only 9 percent of discarded materials went to landfill.

More Green Contenders

Luckily for us and the environment, other airports are in the race. Contenders (in alphabetical order) include the following:

  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD): Rain-water harvesting, wind turbines for energy, rooftop gardens and the world’s largest bee apiary, with more than 1 million bees.
  • Denver International Airport (DEN):  Largest solar energy system of all U.S. airports.
  • Galapagos Ecological Airport (GPS): LEED Gold-certified, runs completely on solar and wind power, more than 80 percent constructed from recycled materials salvaged on the island, desalination plant.
  • Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL), Delhi, India: LEED Gold-certified, constructed of recycled materials, uses only natural light by day.
  • Logan International Airport (BOS), Boston: Terminal A was first in the United States to receive LEED certification (2006), recycled materials used for construction, heat-reflecting roof.
  • San Diego International Airport (SAN): The world’s first LEED Platinum-certified airport.
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO): Terminal 2 was first in the United States to receive LEED Gold certification.
  • Zurich (Kloten) Airport (ZRH): Heating and cooling solely by geothermal energy.