As the City of Chicago works on ways to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the city’s O’Hare International Airport is also busy focusing on sustainability initiatives.
The next time you travel through this airport, check out some of the green programs being implemented to reduce operational costs, cut energy and water consumption, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Airport restaurants are now required to recycle waste, use eco-friendly materials, and include sustainable ingredients in 20% of food. The restaurants also have access to the produce being grown in the onsite aeroponic garden. Wolfgang Puck, Wicker Park Sushi, and other airport restaurants get to pick herbs, lettuce, peppers, and beans from the garden, which grows plants without soil. The plant roots are suspended in 26 towers; they’re misted with a nutrient solution during regular watering, which involves a process that ensures no water evaporation or waste.
O’Hare implemented 338,171 square feet of vegetated roofs. Airport spokespeople say the roofs are expected to improve stormwater retention, filtration, and evaporation. They estimate that the roof vegetation will retain between 70% and 90% of precipitation that falls during the summer. They also say that the roofs may eliminate the need to expand or rebuild drainage infrastructure; vegetation may prolong the roof lifespan by 30 to 35 years as well, significantly delaying $1.5 million in re-roofing costs. The roofs may help improve thermal insulation, provide a sound buffer, and absorb greenhouse gas emissions, too.
Inside, the airport has installed filtered water bottle refill stations. Once passengers get through security, they can refill their water bottles at these stations, which help reduce landfill waste and the frequency of necessary trash pick-up across the airport.
A massive solar panel project currently under way involves close to 60 acres of ground-mounted solar panels that will provide power to the O’Hare International Airport.
The airport also participates in a retro-commissioning program to make sure it’s not missing any opportunities to save. The program helps identify low-cost energy conservation projects for HVAC, lighting, and operation controls that could pay for themselves within 18 months.
Have you noticed any of these big initiatives taking place at O’Hare?