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Green Concessions Make Every Day Earth Day at Chicago’s Airports

April 27, 2019 Airport No Comments Email Email

Those who work in the sustainability departments of airports frequently talk about their vision for sustainable airports. It starts with passengers taking public transportation to the terminals and using paperless check-in processes, before enjoying a cup of sustainably-sourced coffee, served in a compostable cup, stirred with a bamboo stirrer. Then, the passenger enjoys a pre-flight snack of locally-grown vegetables, or perhaps a glass of wine from Beaudevin wine bar (O’Hare location pictured here) in a comfortable waiting area, lit with lots of natural light from energy-efficient windows and heated with an HVAC system powered by renewable energy.

With every passing year, this vision becomes more of a reality at Chicago’s airports, thanks to industry-leading efforts to incorporate sustainable design, construction and operations in every aspect of our facilities, including concessions.

The Chicago Department of Aviation’s (CDA) Green Concessions Policy is among the first of its kind in the airport industry. The policy provides concessionaires at O’Hare and Midway International Airports with guidance and standards for minimizing waste, enhancing recycling, generating demand for eco-friendly products and providing healthier foods for passengers and employees. All concessionaires must adhere to the Policy’s requirements, listed in the Sustainable Airport Manual (SAM) Terminal Occupants Chapter.

“Throughout O’Hare and Midway, concessions operators are valuable partners in our efforts to be increasingly sustainable,” said CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee. “We are grateful for these partners and commend their commitment to being green. They are the public face of our airports for most passengers and we are proud it’s a face that reflects our values!”

The CDA’s SAM is a comprehensive guidance manual created by the CDA to incorporate and track sustainability across every aspect of the airport, from administrative procedures and planning, to construction and concessions. All concessions and airport tenants are reviewed according to the SAM guidelines and requirements and then receive a certification based on their achievements.

The CDA periodically reviews concessionaire compliance with the Policy and should a concessionaire not comply, the CDA will work with the concessionaire to set a path and target dates for full compliance. All airport concessions owners and operators are required to meet the following minimum sustainability requirements:

Hold green meetings
Eliminate the use of Styrofoam
Use 100 percent recycled content paper
Use only environmentally-friendly cleaning and hygiene products
Source-separate all solid waste refuse into recyclables, compostables, and refuse
Donate surplus food to the greatest extent allowable by food safety regulations
Ban all petroleum-based plastic bags, plastic disposable consumer containers and utensils
Utilize biodegradable trash bags

Green Concessions In Action
It’s one thing to read about a green concessions policy, and it’s another to see it in action! From simpler actions like using better packaging to large-scale actions like building out a new space, concessions at O’Hare and Midway are greener every day.

O’Hare uses compostable packaging at its food locations. Biodegradable packaging can take years to breakdown in a landfill, but compostable packaging used by O’Hare concessionaires breaks down into nutritive soil within 90 days at commercial composting facilities. O’Hare’s stores and restaurants offer earth-friendly packaging and local food sourcing. O’Hare’s sustainability program was recognized with a 2017 2nd-place industry award for Best “Green” Concessions Concept from ACI North America.

Last summer, Midway commemorated the opening of the new 15,000-square-foot Food Hall, which includes iconic Chicago-area brands, as a part of the ongoing Midway Concessions Redevelopment Program. Part of the $400 million Midway Modernization Program, this three-year concessions development is bringing modern concessions spaces and 70 new shopping and dining options for passengers by 2020. Working toward long-term sustainability goals, all new and renovated locations are undergoing SAM certification.

These projects must demonstrate commitment to sustainability during the planning, design, construction, and into operations and maintenance phases. Each project undergoes a thorough review of all aspects of the project, including use of sustainable materials, recycling, pollution prevention controls, energy reduction initiatives, alternative transportation, efficient lighting, water reduction initiatives, sustainable innovations, and much more. Existing concessionaires are also joining the sustainable movement. For example, Dunkin Donuts has been using paper cups at Midway since 2017, three years ahead of a national switch from Styrofoam.

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