Miami International Airport is the first airport in the US to be certified for its green management practices.
MIA has systems in place to reduce pollution, save energy and educate employees about being environmentally friendly.
"In 2009, we're projecting saving electricity that would power, I think, 14,000 homes," said Pedro Hernandez, the MIA director of environmental engineering. "The equivalent of that will be saved from the different things we're doing at the airport."
Several aging air conditioning units have been replaced by an enormous computerized chiller plant, which cools the terminals and gates more efficiently. New flight information screens are energy- and money-saving LCDs.
On the airfield, the airport is aggressively phasing out diesel trucks that provide preconditioned air and electricity to planes at the gates in favor of plug-in units.
"We're one of the leading airports in pushing to use these units to reduce emissions from the air," Hernandez said.
Not only are they cleaner, but the units save at least 130,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year.
Even the airport's storm water drains decrease contamination.
"That peripheral inlet collects the first inch of water, which has the most amount of pollutants, and directs it to our oil/water separator that extracts that pollutant so then the cleaner water gets to discharge," Hernandez said.
To move luggage and cargo, MIA invested in tugs that run on electricity and can be recharged in order to cut down on diesel and gasoline use.
MIA's largest carrier, American Airlines, has a fuel smart program to save on fuel and cut emissions.
"American, which is the largest airline in the world, consumes 187 barrels of fuel a day, which compares to the consumption of the Republic of Ireland," said Martha Pantin of American Airlines.
Many of American Airlines' planes have winglets, which cut down on fuel burn. The projected annual savings are 25 million gallons of fuel.
The airline is finding ways to reduce the loads on planes, such as using lighter cars. Even flying with fewer beverages makes a difference.
"If you remove them throughout the year, you save $80,000," Pantin said.
The used cans are recycled to raise money for the airline's Wings Foundation to help flight attendants in need.
"We've generated $500,000," said flight attendant Robert Amaya. "It's the equivalent of keeping 5.16 million pounds of garbage out of the landfills, which is also the equivalent of about 100 million cans."
Officials at MIA plan to unveil green initiatives each year.
"We live between the ocean and the Everglades. And, it's our goal to be able to provide services in an environmentally friendly way," Hernandez said.
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