PHL's Sustainability Program Faces the Challenges of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has made a noticeable environmental impact at Philadelphia International Airport and around the world, but passengers flying out of PHL will notice the airport’s commitment to sustainability continues.

“PHL will likely see a drop in areas like energy, water usage and waste generation for 2020 due to fewer passengers and employees using the terminal complex,” said Danielle Buehler, PHL’s Sustainability Program Manager. “Certain sections of the terminals are not using as much energy, and some equipment is shut down or not being used, such as moving walkways, escalators and preconditioned air units at gates.”

Buehler says that countries are experiencing a surge in waste generation due to an increase in single-use products.

“We could see a reluctance or delay in going back to reusable products, as several jurisdictions are already reconsidering or postponing bans on plastic bags and other single use plastics,” said Buehler. “At PHL we must counteract this by finding solutions that reduce or minimize waste in other areas within our control.”

Guests can still empty water bottles at liquid collection units at the Terminal D/E security checkpoint and refill at filling stations in the terminals. Not only is this initiative convenient, since its inception, the program has kept over 1.7 million water bottles away from landfills. 

PHL is working to conserve energy and potable water by lowering use through the Restroom Renovation Program. Since 2016, there has been a 17 percent reduction in per-passenger water use at PHL.

PHL is moving forward with several initiatives that will provide environmental, social and financial benefits in the long term and contribute to our overall resiliency and sustainability:

  • A climate vulnerability assessment for PHL
  • A solicitation for solar energy at PNE
  • Purchasing electric vehicles
  • Adding liquid collection units for other checkpoints at PHL
  • Sustainable procurement practices in future solicitations

“It is more important now than ever to make sure our facilities are efficient, resilient and capable of rebounding from disasters or crises,” said Buehler. “By investing in stable and resilient infrastructure and energy sources, we can develop more sustainable operating practices that will ensure a safe and secure future for both PHL and Northeast Philadelphia Airport.”


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Heather Redfern
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