Environmental Opportunities, Inc.

Environmental Opportunities, Inc.

Ask The Expert : How can airports design and implement environmental management systems that are effective, cost-efficient and consider airports` unique situations?

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Dave Meyer (BC San Diego office): In spite of post 9/11 security concerns and associated measures, the aviation industry has not seen heightened environmental scrutiny and regulation to the same degree that many other industries have experienced.

There may also be a general reluctance to burden the industry with “expensive and time consuming environmental programs,” because of the key role that aviation plays in the global economy and infrastructure of modern society.


Airports and the Environment

Airports have the potential to affect the natural environment, as well as the commonly large populations that live in close proximity to airports. In controlling these effects, many large airports throughout the U.S. are adopting new environmentally oriented principles which include:

•  recognition of aviation infrastructures potential and real environmental effects;

•  compliance with the strictest environmental rules and regulations and other industry standards;

•  rigorous monitoring of environmental impacts and improvement in environmental performance;

•  reduction or elimination of pollutants at source and efforts to maximize its material and energy efficiency; and

•  engaging tenants and other in support the organizational environmental commitment


Advent of Environmental Management Systems

Among the greatest challenges for airports is attaining and maintaining consistent compliance with environmental requirements without disrupting daily operations. An increased emphasis on effective facility management and pollution prevention helps provide for lower-cost, higher-value ways to meet regulatory requirements. In recent years, many North American airports including Dallas-Fort Worth, Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), Denver, Miami, Westchester (MA), Vancouver, and Portland have implemented Environmental Management Systems (EMSs) in response to increased regulatory scrutiny or to satisfy the specifications of ISO 14001 ( See Table 1 - Examples of Excellence .

An EMS is a systematic process for identifying all environmental impacts of its operations, assessing current environmental performance, setting goals, and developing and implementing plans for continuing improvements in environmental performance.


EMS's Are Not Created Equally

A systematic approach of EMS implementation offers airports increased opportunities to protect the environment,

leverage compliance risk, maintaining vital operations for both the airport and its tenants, and secure stakeholder support for future infrastructure needs.

All EMSs are NOT created equally, however, nor should they! Most EMSs are built on the continual improvement i.e. "Plan, Do, Check, Act" model, and may be based on programs and procedures developed internally by a corporation to address specific requirements (such as storm water quality or air emissions), or be widely focused to achieve independent third party registration to the international ISO 14001-2004 standard.


Table 1 - Examples of Excellence



EMS Type

Key Features


Dallas-Fort Worth

Compliance Focused EMS

Clean Fleet Programs; Enhanced Storm Water Collection and De-icing Management



ISO 14001

Sustainable Design; Toxics Control; Air Emissions management; Contractor Controls


Denver International


ISO 14001

Enhanced compliance; Tenant Management; State of Colorado Environmental Leadership Program


Westchester Regional

ISO 14001

Contractor Management; Enhanced Noise, Groundwater and Storm Water Management


Port of Portland

Environmental Stewardship /Sustainability Focused EMS (ISO 14001 model)

Water quality & natural Resources Protection; energy usage reductions; “Clean fuel” programs


Which type of EMS is best fitted to any specific airport facility depends on:

•  Perceptions and “worldview” of your organization toward environmental management, industry/association trends and the local community;

•  Resources available to design, implement and maintain your organization's environmental performance;

•  Processes and metrics for continual improvement; and

•  Performance history, objectives and aspirations for going forward.

Through our work we've found that, in most cases, airports need a ‘hybrid' EMS – not quite ‘standardized' but not quite fully customized. Each one has to be “just right”.

Contact: Dave Meyer (858-571-6760); San Diego Office

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