There’s no getting away from it, the aviation industry has one of the biggest carbon footprints on the planet. In fact, at present, it’s responsible for nearly 3% of the earth’s carbon dioxide emissions. But, far from accepting this as an unfortunate consequence of global travel, the industry is committed to change. While it’s likely to be a long time before Aircraft can rely on renewable fuel, other aspects of the industry – including the airports and the suppliers they work with – are making important steps towards carbon neutrality right now. 

How airlines are working to improve emissions

Airlines have committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and most airports are falling in line with the goal. This is great news for the industry and the planet, but critics have expressed scepticism over whether this is possible. The number one aim for airlines is to switch to Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). As the name suggests, SAF comes from sustainable sources, mainly waste oils, agricultural residues and non-fossil CO2. SAF is considerably more expensive than fossil fuel but has the potential to cut emissions by an impressive 80%. Airlines are also offsetting their emissions and investing in renewable energies (sadly, the day where a long-haul flight can use electric or hydrogen energy is a long way off yet). 

How the airport industry is working to improve its carbon footprint

So how can airports and suppliers work to support the airlines to achieve their net neutral goals? Switching to sustainable and renewable energy is, of course, a major goal. The drawback here is that the switch will likely require a major overhaul of existing airport infrastructure which takes time and planning. Fortunately, there are simpler and more immediate ways that airports can improve their airside carbon footprint starting right away.

1. Turn on-site airport transport green

As any airport worker knows, there are many additional modes of transport that operate airside other than the planes themselves: runway and apron maintenance, ground handling, and passenger transport, the list goes on. Airports can work to reduce and remove diesel-powered vehicles from the ground and replace them with electric or hybrid powered options. As the vehicles only move relatively short distances, it’s perfectly feasible for them to go electric even with the limitations that electric energy currently has. As more and more airports commit to this, airside emissions associated with on-site transport are gradually beginning to fall.

The Fleet module in AIRDAT’s Onboard airport compliance system can help airports to manage and control the standards of the fleet. The vehicle permit system allows you to map vehicle fuel types and collect data such as Co2 output – allowing airports to offer preferential pricing to those with cleaner fleets.   It also allows airports to ensure fleet standards via its ‘defect’ and ‘impound’ scheme features. Say goodbye to the diesel smoke clouds behind defective kit!  In addition,  digital permits can be created and stored online to reduce unnecessary waste.

2. Switch to energy efficient LED lighting

Airports have a responsibility to provide well-lit spaces for the passengers that use them and this energy usage accounts for a major percentage of an airport’s carbon footprint. But, this needn’t be the case. In recent years, as LED lighting becomes cheaper and more easily accessible, more and more airports are replacing existing lighting systems with LEDs. Munich airport recently boasted of almost 5,000 tonnes of emissions cut simply by switching to LED lighting.

3. Work with sustainable suppliers

Airports don’t operate in a vacuum, on the contrary, the amount of companies that supply to airports are many and varied. Think goods and services, cyber and tech, infrastructure and procurement… Airports can immediately place the focus on sustainability when choosing future suppliers.

AIRDAT are proud to be a carbon neutral certified company.

4. Take safety and training to the cloud

Training and certification are vital for any airport to function successfully and lawfully but traditional ways of learning can be a chronic source of material wastage. By taking selected learning and certification online, using an airport safety system such as AIRDAT’s Passport safety system, airport employees can carry out some of their vital training from home, which cuts out the commute and reduces fossil fuel consumption and harmful gas emissions.

By making AIRDAT’s systems and services accessible from anywhere, for many assessment types, we’ve negated the need for a dedicated space and the associated additional resources.  Certification is all safely stored online too. 

The final word

The future of the industry is dependent on its ability to reduce its ecological impact.  Any and all avenues to do this should be considered. Why is it so vital? Because not only is reducing environmental impact crucial to the industry’s survival but by actively reducing emissions at every point, we have the potential to transform air travel from a major polluter to a sustainability frontrunner.