The aviation market is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades. By 2038, global air transport is forecast to support 143 million jobs and contribute $6.3 trillion to the global economy. Leading the charge is the rise of sustainable aviation.
Environmental-friendly aviation refers to the efforts and initiatives taken by the aviation industry to reduce its carbon footprint and minimize the negative impact of air travel on the environment. It encompasses a wide range of measures such as fuel-efficient aircraft, alternative fuel sources, noise reduction, waste management, decarbonization, smart building technology, carbon offsetting, and more.
- Use of biofuels: Biofuels are made from sustainable resources and emit less carbon dioxide compared to traditional fossil fuels.
- Flight optimization: Airlines are using modern technology to optimize flight paths, reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
- Noise reduction: Airlines are using quieter engines and aircraft designs to reduce noise pollution.
- Waste management: Airlines are reducing waste by recycling and composting, and using biodegradable materials on board.
Facilities Management & Projects
- Switching to renewable energy sources: Airports can install solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewable energy sources to reduce their carbon footprint and save on energy costs.
- Improving energy efficiency: Airports can upgrade their lighting, heating, and cooling systems to more energy-efficient models. This can lower energy consumption and reduce costs.
- Implementing smart building technology: By installing smart building management systems, airports can monitor and control energy consumption, reducing waste and improving overall efficiency.
- Adopting electric ground service equipment: Electric ground service equipment can be used to power ground-support vehicles such as baggage carts, tugs, and belt loaders, reducing emissions and noise pollution.
- Carbon offsetting: Airports can offset their carbon emissions by investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In the past 10 years, aviation sustainability has evolved significantly with the industry taking steps towards reducing its carbon footprint and minimizing its impact on the environment. By 2050, carbon emissions in the aviation sector are expected to rise by 300–700%, necessitating immediate sustainability measures. In 2019, only 0.1% of the world’s aviation fuel was made up of biofuels. Airlines like KLM, Finnair, and Lufthansa have made progress toward sustainability by utilizing fuel-efficient aircraft, investing in renewable energy, and reducing waste.
The aviation industry has set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2050, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In 2021 aviation accounted for over 2% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, having grown faster in recent decades than road, rail, or shipping. International Council on Clean Transportation’s report stated, increased fuel efficiency and the use of sustainable aviation fuels could help the aviation sector save up to $35 billion annually on fuel expenses. To date, SAF uptake has been deeply disappointing. Airlines used just 100 million liters of alternative jet fuel in 2021 – less than one percent of IATA’s 2020 goal.
Sustainable Aviation Pioneers
There are several airports around the world that are known for their sustainable practices and efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. Some of the most notable sustainable airports include:
- Amsterdam Schiphol Airport: Schiphol is known for its commitment to sustainability, with initiatives such as a carbon offset program, energy-efficient lighting, and the use of electric ground service equipment. As of 2023, all airports are 100% wind-powered.
- Copenhagen Airport: By 2030, CPH aims to be an emission-free airport with emission-free transport to and from the airport. And the goal for 2050 is to be entirely free of CO2 emissions – from the airport itself, air traffic, companies operating in the airport, and land traffic to and from the airport.
- San Francisco International Airport: At the end of 2020, a total of 38 SFO tenants were issued Green Business certification and over 900 tenant employees were trained in material diversion. SFO’s goal is to become the world’s first zero-waste Airport. Zero waste, as defined by the Zero Waste Alliance, is to divert at least 90% of waste from landfills and incinerators using methods like recycling and composting.
- Helsinki-Vantaa Airport: Just announced – airport company Finavia will invest more than EUR 15 million in the renovation of runways at the Helsinki Airport, Kuopio Airport, and Kuusamo Airport. Some of the money will be spent on water protection and energy efficiency. Sustainable development projects are also underway at several airports. In total, environmental investments will rise to nearly EUR 10 million.
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport: The Port of Seattle became the first United States airport operator to set a specific timetable and goals for transitioning all airlines at SEA to commercially competitive sustainable aviation fuels. The goal is to power every flight fueled at SEA with at least a 10% blend of sustainable aviation fuel by 2028.
The future of sustainable aviation involves the development and implementation of technology, infrastructure, and practices that reduce the environmental impact of air travel while ensuring safe, efficient, and accessible air transportation. This includes using alternative fuels, designing more efficient aircraft, improving air traffic management, and promoting environmentally conscious behavior by industry stakeholders and consumers. The ultimate goal is to minimize the carbon footprint and negative effects of aviation on the environment while maintaining its economic benefits.