Five Easy Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint on the Ramp

As global warming and climate change dominate headlines around the world, many environmentally conscious individuals and businesses are asking “what can I do?”

As global warming and climate change dominate headlines around the world, many environmentally conscious individuals and businesses are asking “what can I do?”

The answer to that question is perplexing. There are some environmental technologies that require a significant initial investment producing payback over a long period of time. There are also simple technologies and business practices that can be implemented with lower initial investment, with immediate financial and environmental returns. The implementation of these technologies will provide lasting financial and environmental benefits.

Easy Step No. 1: Airport Lighting
Bright airport lighting is a necessary evil in passenger terminals because passengers perceive a brightly lit terminal as being a modern, well-maintained facility. The exterior lighting of the terminal is also necessary for visibility during ramp operations. The requirement for these lights is not likely to change in the near future, so the alternative is to replace the fixtures with more efficient lighting.

Simply replacing existing light bulbs with Compact Florescent Lamps (CFL) can reduce electricity consumption by 60 percent while still producing the same amount of light. For larger areas, high efficiency florescent fixtures can replace existing florescent fixtures, reducing the amount of energy consumed by up to 30 percent. Light Emitting Diodes (LED) can replace high intensity lights to save 50 percent of the electricity consumed compared to normal light bulbs, while reducing the amount of heat generated by 95 percent. LED’s are about five times more expensive than normal bulbs, but last 30 times longer. Just think of the labor savings in not changing light bulbs.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 30 percent of a building’s energy consumption is used to light the facility. A 30 percent efficiency savings from lighting alone would reduce the overall electrical bill by 9 percent each year.

A 9 percent reduction in overall energy consumption does not seem like much, but consider the numbers: 10 100-watt light bulbs consume 1000 watts. In 1 year of constant operation those same light bulbs consume 8.7 million watt-hours. The average carbon dioxide emissions from a coal-fired power plant is 2,249 pounds per million watt-hours. Reducing the energy consumption of those 10 light bulbs by 30 percent would reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by 5,910 pounds per year. That is about 50 percent of the emissions from an average car for one year.

Easy Step No. 2: Maintenance
Mechanical systems are large consumers of electricity at the airport. From HVAC Systems to:

  • Jet bridges
  • Escalators
  • Baggage conveyors

Improper or untimely maintenance of mechanical systems can increase the amount of energy required to perform the same task by 10 to 50 percent.

HVAC systems are especially critical in the warmer areas of the world. Airports that continually run their HVAC systems to ensure passenger comfort must strictly maintain the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance intervals. An A/C system that is operating with low coolant levels can consume up to 50 percent more energy to produce the same volume of chilled air. (source:

Easy Step No. 3: Reduce idle Energy
Idle energy is the consumption of energy resources without any real resulting benefit. Idle energy can be found in all facets of the operation at an airport:

  • A tug idling on the ramp
  • A baggage belt that is spinning continually with no bags on it.
  • Pad lighting with no aircraft on the pad
  • Unoccupied offices with lights on
  • Unsealed doors and windows allowing ambient air to enter the building
  • Escalators running with no passengers

There are simple fixes to each of these areas:

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