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Top 10 Airports in the United States Making a Sustainable Difference

Airports are going carbon neutral in the fight against climate change

The next time you go flying within the United States, you might make it a point to travel through one of these 10 sustainable airports making a difference to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many of these airports started their ambitious sustainability plans more than a decade ago. Some have achieved their goals, while others are still working towards a sustainable future.

The Covid pandemic year of 2020 derailed some of these statistics since many airports were closed and people weren’t flying. However, sustainability actions persisted in other areas that could still be controlled. Now that we are into 2021 and the airports are opening up again, we shall revisit the progress in 2022.

1. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) Texas

DFW was recognized as the first carbon-neutral airport in North America in 2016

“DFW Airport achieved its 2020 Strategic Plan goal to reduce carbon emissions by 15 percent per passenger two years early and has now set an ambitious target to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030, supporting the United Nations’ Race to Zero campaign.” – TravelPulse

  • Age of Airport: 47 years old
  • Opened: January 13, 1974
  • How large is it: 26.9 square miles
  • Passengers served: 73 million per year
  • How many airlines: 10 Domestic, 13 Foreign, 23 Cargo
  • How many tons recycled: 180,000
  • How many employees: 60,000
  • Start of sustainable plan: 2010
  • Projected Completion Date: 2016 (two years early)
  • Goal achieved: Zero Carbon Neutral (two years early, largest in the world)

The US Airport Leading the Way in Sustainability

DFW Airport contributed more than 32,000 tons of waste to landfills every year. Now it’s turning passengers’ food into fertilizer to help bring change

The first carbon neutral airport in North America and the largest in the world | 17 Sustainable Development Goals

2. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) North Carolina

Charlotte Airport Sustainability

  • Age of Airport: 85 years
  • Opened: 1935, became international in 1982
  • How large is it: 8.68 square miles
  • Passengers served: 50 million per year
  • How many airlines: 11 domestic, 3 foreign
  • How many tons recycled: 7,000
  • How many employees: 22,000
  • Start of sustainable plan: June 2018
  • Projected Completion Date: 2030 for the airport (2050 for the city)
  • Goal achieved: in progress

3. Denver International Airport (DEN) Colorado

Denver Airport Sustainability

  • Age of Airport: 26 years old
  • Opened: February 28, 1995
  • How large is it: 54.05 square miles
  • Passengers served: 69 million per year
  • How many airlines: 16 domestic, 8 foreign
  • How many tons recycled: 373 
  • How many employees: 35,000
  • Start of sustainable plan: 2009
  • Project Completion Date: in progress
  • Goal achieved: 2015 certified carbon emission reduction, 2018 continuation

4. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) California

San Francisco International Airport Sustainability

  • Age of Airport: 94 years old
  • Opened: March 15, 1927
  • How large is it: 5,171 acres
  • Passengers served: 16 million
  • How many airlines: 18 domestic, 32 international, 7 cargo
  • How many tons recycled: 14,000
  • How many employees: 1,700
  • Start of sustainable plan: 2009
  • Project Completion Date: 2022 Level 4 Certification

Goal achieved: 2018 Level 3 Certification

5. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Atlanta, Georgia (ATL) 

Hartsfield-Jackson Launches New Sustainability Efforts

Atlanta – sustainability efforts for the city with the busiest airport in the world

  • Age of Airport: 96 years old
  • Opened: April 16, 1925
  • How large is it: 47,000 acres
  • Passengers served: 100 million
  • How many airlines: 9 domestic, 9 foreign
  • How many tons recycled: 13,000
  • How many employees: 63,000
  • Start of sustainable plan: November 2010
  • Project Completion Date: 2020
  • Goal achieved: in progress

6. Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS) 2016

Sustainable Massport

  • Age of Airport: 98 years old
  • Opened: September 8, 1923
  • How large is it: 2400 acres
  • Passengers served: 42 million per year
  • How many airlines: 40
  • How many tons recycled: 1400
  • How many employees: 17,000
  • Start of sustainable plan: 2015
  • Project Completion Date: 2017
  • Goal achieved: 46% reduction of GHG in 2020

7. San Diego International Airport (SAN)

Sustainability Report – San Diego International Airport

  • Age of Airport: 93 years old
  • Opened: August 16, 1928 as Lindbergh Field, 1934 became San Diego International Airport
  • How large is it: 661 acres
  • Passengers served: 25 million per year
  • How many airlines: 17
  • How many tons recycled: 60,000
  • How many employees: 9,000
  • Start of sustainable plan: 2015
  • Project Completion Date: 2022 Level 3 carbon neutrality
  • Goal achieved: in progress

8. Fresno Yosemite Airport (FAT) California

Fresno Yosemite International Airport Sustainability Management Plan, June 2012

  • Age of Airport: 79 years old
  • Opened: June 1942
  • How large is it: 1,728 acres
  • Passengers served: 1.96 million
  • How many airlines: 11 domestic, 3 cargo
  • How many tons recycled:
  • How many employees: 564
  • Start of sustainable plan: June 2012
  • Project Completion Date: 2020
  • Goal achieved: in progress

9. Nashville International Airport (BNA) Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville International Airport Sustainability Study 2012

  • Age of Airport: 84 years old
  • Opened: June 1937
  • How large is it: 4,500 acres
  • Passengers served: 18.3 million
  • How many airlines: 18
  • How many tons recycled: 161
  • How many employees: 39,540
  • Start of sustainable plan: 2010
  • Project Completion Date:
  • Goal achieved: in progress

10. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, (SEA-TAC) Washington

Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP)

  • Age of Airport: 72 years old
  • Opened: July 9, 1949
  • How large is it: 2,800 acres
  • Passengers served: 49.8 million per year
  • How many airlines: 31
  • How many tons recycled: 7,320
  • How many employees: 151,400
  • Start of sustainable plan: 2018
  • Project Completion Date: Carbon neutral or carbon negative by 2050
  • Goal achieved: in progress reducing GHG

Achieving the Goal to become Carbon Neutral

There is a program started in 2009 for Airports to become carbon neutral certified. As you can see from the list above, one airport has already achieved that goal and others are in progress. 

To become airport carbon neutral certified requires 6 steps to mastering their sustainability plan

  1. First step is to map or measure their carbon footprint
  2. Then comes the second step in the effort of continued reduction
  3. It then extends to other businesses on-site at the airport to do the same
  4. Goal is to become carbon neutral certified
  5. Once that is achieved the effort is to align with overall climate change goals
  6. Finally, maintain and continue to offset carbon emissions 

Source: Accredited airports

As you can see, many of these airports are older than your Grandparents. There is a big need for them to become sustainable. Not only for current use, but for the support of generations to come. This list is not an entire list of all the nations airports. There are many more airports in the United States that are in progress of going sustainable. You can research more about it here: Airport Sustainability – Airports

In the meantime, keep watching your local airport as it takes steps to go green implementing a sustainable strategy for the future of travel.

Airports Going Green: How the Airports Are Implementing Sustainability Practices in the United States

Originally published on Medium

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