Portland International Airport is eco-conscious in dozens of ways, from its traffic flow to its trash bins.
Now it's taken up a water-saving retrofit of its 330 toilets, just in time for the big summer travel season.
The Sloan Valve Co. Dual-Flush Flushometer --which lets users decide how much water to flush --even cues the user with its bright-green handle.
Airport toilets account for about 33,000 flushes a day, using 3 gallons a pop. The Sloan valve offers a 2 gallon option for liquid waste --a choice that could save millions of gallons of water a year.
"PDX was the first airport in the nation to have widespread installation of these valves," says Phil Ralston, aviation environmental manager for the Port of Portland.
"Getting the full advantage of these takes the public to be aware of options," says Ralston, who credits Bob Gagliasso, a building mechanic and plumber at PDX, for discovering the product and getting the $12,500 retrofit under way.
The retrofit comes as PDX prepares for a record travel season: About 4 million passengers are expected to stream through its gates.
The Port of Portland Commission, which updated its environmental policies in 2000, has implemented a number of conservation strategies over the years.
"Our mission is transportation of goods and people," Ralston says, "but we are guided by our commitment to be good environmental stewards."
In the seven-story parking garage, for example, direction-finder lights guide drivers to open spaces. Fees can be paid at pedestrian kiosks, reducing idling time at the parking plaza by 75 percent. And the terminal roadway is being widened to help traffic flow.
The airport also uses alternative-fuel vehicles in its ground fleet and taps renewable energy from Portland General Electric and Pacific Power.
Ralston says the airport creates about 8 tons of trash a day, with about 25 percent being recycled. In the terminal, refuse containers appear in pairs, one each for trash and recycling.
About 200 tons of food waste are collected annually from restaurants and coffee vendors, on-site hotels, two flight kitchens, and United Airlines and Horizon Air. The waste is commercially composted by Cedar Grove Composting in Maple Valley, Wash., and sold for gardening.
In addition, about 23,000 gallons of kitchen grease is turned into biofuel each year. "That's another behind-the-scenes recycling that a lot of the public just wouldn't even think about," Ralston says.
On the runway, Ralston says, "Cabin and ground service crews are being trained so that when aircraft land here in Portland, recycling deplaned waste is optimized."
Even newspapers and magazines are reused: German-language magazines and papers from Lufthansa's daily Frankfurt flight are collected and distributed to 47 regional schools.
Then there's wildlife management, which is crucial to flight operations. Airport landscaping is designed to be unattractive to certain birds, with no open water and no high grass for potential food, such as mice, to hide. Wildlife technicians are on the airfield during daylight hours "hazing" --directing wildlife with noise instead of using lethal force.
"We have one of the few airport wildlife hazard programs focusing on nonlethal management of native species," Ralston says. "That's an area where PDX is pretty well-known nationwide as a leader."
Frequent flier Karelia Harding thinks that east or west, her home terminal is best.
"I travel a lot, so in some of the other airports that I have been in, compare how clean they are and compared to the Portland airport, it's a huge difference," she says.
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