MAC Earth Day Bulletin 2018

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header image: social, environmental, economic

    Earth Day arrives at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

    As Earth Day 2018 approaches, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) remains committed to sustainability in ways both big and small.

    From working with the airlines and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to measure impacts of a new fuel-saving arrival procedure, to housing Minnesota’s largest structure-mounted solar array, to concessionaires donating food that otherwise would have been discarded, MSP continually seeks new opportunities to operate sustainably.

    We couldn't do it without our partners

    Six months ago, airport concessionaires – led by HMSHost – began donating ready-to-eat food items to Loaves and Fishes, a Twin Cities-based non-profit that serves meals in seven Minnesota counties.

    Five times per week, a truck from Loaves and Fishes pulls up to a loading dock at MSP to collect food items, such as individually packaged salads and sandwiches, that are still considered fresh but have not sold and otherwise would be discarded.


    Pictured: Kiley Benson, Loaves and Fishes' director of operations, loads donations at MSP Airport.

    HMSHost, which operates 30 restaurants at MSP, came up with the idea and was key to getting it off the ground. Since then, several more concessionaires have joined the effort.

    In the program’s first six months, MSP concessionaires have donated more than 21,000 pounds of food from the airport.

    In another move toward sustainability, MSP recently became a Styrofoam-free airport. Concessionaires have been moving away from Styrofoam - also known as polystyrene - for years. The material was recently eliminated altogether by airport restaurants. 

    Polystyrene is accepted at very few recycling centers nationally and persists in landfills for long periods. 


    The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which owns and operates MSP, manages the impact of airport operations by reducing energy consumption and adding renewable energy resources. 

    Solar energy arrays installed over the last three years atop the parking ramps at Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 together provide 4.3 megawatts of electricity for MSP. When the new LED light-fixture retrofits in the parking ramps are included, the improvements replace nearly 10 percent of the airport’s total annual electricity usage that otherwise would come from Xcel Energy. 


    MSP is also a leading and innovative partner with the FAA and airlines in the development of new, efficient arrival procedures for airliners. Aircraft equipped to perform “optimized profile descents” began using the procedure in March 2015. 

    Previously, planes descended in stages as they approached MSP, reducing altitude and then powering up to level off, a process repeated several times. 

    With optimized profile descent, once pilots start their descent they continue it until they land, reducing fuel burn and greenhouse gas emissions. You can visualize it by thinking of it as going down a ramp rather than stairs. 

    The MAC was the first airport authority in the nation to develop an application to measure the local impact of the new procedure, estimating that the airlines at MSP are burning 2.9 million fewer gallons of fuel per year and emitting 28,465 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than they did under the previous procedure.

    What you can do

    Travelers at MSP can help support sustainable operations by making choices that contribute to a smaller waste stream, better recycling practices and fewer carbon emissions.

    Recycling is popular at the airport. Recently MSP installed easy to understand bin labels designed by Recycle Across America, a Twin Cities-based non-profit whose mission is to avoid confusion at the recycling bin by providing standardized labeling across society. 

    RAA ad

    These new labels reference glass, plastic, metal and paper - which includes newspapers and magazines. Surprisingly, sales receipts, which are printed on thermal paper, are not recyclable and should be placed in the trash.

    Paper coffee cups from airport merchants also cannot be recycled, as they are coated on the inside with either wax or plastic. However, the cardboard sleeves that often come with that cup of Joe can be recycled, as can the plastic covers.

    If you’re uncertain whether an item is recyclable, put it in the trash. That helps keep the recycling stream clean. All airport trash is taken to the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center where it is converted to energy for others to use – leaving our landfills untouched.

    How you get to and from the airport also makes a difference. Parking at the airport is more environmentally sustainable than being dropped off and picked up by friends or family. Those who park at the airport only need to make one trip to and from the facility, whereas friends and family would need to make two.

    Owners of electric vehicles will find 20 charging stations on the MSP campus. Details about the locations are located here. Fifty additional stations are planned for the new Silver ramp at Terminal 1.

    Finally, the next time you travel, bring an empty water bottle through security and then fill it at one of the airport’s 20-plus water bottle-filling stations. Even this small act can help reduce the amount of plastic in the environment, which can take up to 400 years to decompose.