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Spotlight on some of the latest sustainability initiatives


The Shannon Airport Group has launched a Biodiversity Action Plan and, as a resut, 30 bat, bird and bee boxes are being erected in the surrounding lands of the Shannon Airport campus to lend a hand to nature.

The nest boxes are part of The Shannon Airport Group’s new Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), which was launched by renowned Environmentalist and Broadcaster, Éanna Ní Lamhna. They will be located at the Group’s Community Biodiversity Garden, in woodlands and other areas of suitable habitat across the campus.

The launch of the plan took place in the Group’s community Biodiversity Garden in Shannon where students from St John’s National School Shannon received an educational workshop on flora and fauna by Ms Ní Lamhna and guest speaker Philip Brennan, the Shannon Airport Ornithologist.

Also in attendance were local community groups, including Shannon Tidy Towns, Shannon Wetlands Community Group and the Men’s Shed.

The BAP, which is a key initiative of the Group’s Sustainability Strategy, aims to gather data of the biodiversity present across the Group’s lands and to protect and conserve it using the most appropriate and eco-friendly methods available.

It outlines a number of actions, which includes a ‘Low Mow’ regime, pollinator friendly planting, woodland enhancement, monitoring habitat transition, and education, outreach, and engagement.

Sinead Murphy, head of sustainability at The Shannon Airport Group, enthused: “We are proud to launch our Biodiversity Action Plan and take those necessary steps in the conservation and protection of our environment.

“Our mission for this plan is to become a biodiversity-friendly airport and business campus. We aim to protect, conserve, and enhance the valuable habitats and species present across The Shannon Airport Group lands.

“This includes not only the EU Natura 2000 sites designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA), and the nationally important proposed Natural Heritage Area (pNHA), but also the undesignated sites which exist within the airport lands and commercial properties.”

Last year, the Group launched its Sustainability Strategy which acts as a blueprint to achieve a more sustainable future for the Group, its people, and the community.

In the UK, Birmingham Airport (BHX) is on track to become a net zero carbon operation by 2033, according to a new report.

The Midlands travel hub reduced carbon emissions within its direct control by 27% in 2021/22 against its 2019/20 reporting baseline, its Sustainability Update for 2021 to 2023 confirms.

BXH’s chief executive, Nick Barton, said: “While we have made some great progress, we are not complacent. There is still a long way to go. We remain focused on delivering our 10-year plan for low-carbon growth and becoming a net zero carbon airport by 2033.”

Among the items reported in the document are:

  • Achieving Level 3 (Optimisation) Airport Carbon Accreditation from the Airport Council International (ACI) Europe, which brings BHX’s decarbonising activities under the ACI’s framework of scrutiny benchmarked against other airports worldwide.
  • Reducing water consumption by 10% in 2022/23 compared to 2019/20.
  • Winning gold the Green Apple Awards for Environmental Best Practice and receiving Green World Ambassador status, in recognition of BHX’s waste-management work, improving recycling rates (from 48% in 2021/22 to 54% in 2022/23) and increased local charitable donations.
  • Giving grants totalling £193,800 to 77 local projects between 2021 and 2023, including to BHX’s official charity partner, Solihull Mind.

Elsewhere in the UK, Heathrow Airport has provided concrete evidence of its commitment to sustainability by becoming one of the world’s first airports to trial the use of lower carbon concrete.

In partnership with Jacobs, Ecocem, Cemex, Dyer & Butler and Ferrovial Construction, the UK hub will explore the viability of ground-breaking lower carbon concrete in an airport setting by serving as testbed for innovative green technology that it is claimed will cut emissions by 50% compared to a conventional concrete.

The initiative followed Heathrow’s sponsorship of a PhD candidate at the University of Surrey who undertook three years of lab work to reach this point.

The trial has been designed to test the concrete’s durability and longevity in a true to life airport setting and is one of the first of its kind at any airport in the world.

The project, led by Jacobs and implemented by Cemex and Ecocem will see four different applications trialled in a pouring site located close to the control tower. These will replicate use in a range of typical airport infrastructure applications, including airfield pavements, encompassing runways and taxiways as well as reinforced pit cover slabs and other ancillary concrete types.

With aircraft taking off and landing close to every 45 seconds at Heathrow, it is critical the concrete undergoes rigorous testing to ensure its strength and durability can withstand the pressures of the one of the world’s busiest airports.

Nigel Milton, Heathrow’s chief of staff and carbon, said: “Heathrow is once again serving as a testbed for ground-breaking technologies, demonstrating global leadership with regards to sustainable travel.

Causeway Nature Reserve, close to Heathrow Airport, Eastern balancing reservoir.

“We’re committed to cutting carbon emissions on the ground as well as in the air and we’re delighted to be hosting one of the first airport trials in the world to test lower carbon alternatives. I hope that this trial will help radically transform the built environment at Heathrow in the years to come.”

As part of Heathrow’s holistic sustainability strategy – Heathrow 2.0 – the airport is committed to reducing on the ground emissions as well as those in the air. With at least 6% of global carbon emissions each year linked to concrete production, it is believed that Ecocem and Cemex’s innovative concrete solution has the potential to radically reduce the carbon output of infrastructure projects at the airport.

The aim is for the trial’s findings to be used to set out a blueprint that other airports, keen to reduce carbon from all facets of their operation, can follow.

In Asia, Changi Airport Group believes that its ‘Green Procurement’ policy has become key tool in decarbonising and ensuring the sustainability of the supply chain at Singapore Changi Airport.

As a result of the new policy, CAG notes that it adopts a lifecycle approach in its green procurement decisions which prioritises sustainable design, reuse of materials and enforcement of environmentally sound operational procedures to prevent pollution and reduce waste.

For instance, at the transit areas of Terminals 1 and 2, the airport is replacing carpets with new ones that are made of a higher wool content (approximately 80%), making them significantly more sustainable than the flooring they are replacing, which contain more synthetic fibres, which are derived from fossil-based sources.

Inherently more durable, wool carpets have a longer lifespan of ten years and require fewer replacements over time. Additionally, the selected supplier utilised renewable energy in the manufacturing process of these carpets.

CAG says: “To bring it one step further, we worked with our partner in developing plans to create new possibilities for the old carpets to be reused. Future reuse opportunities include flooring protection for construction companies and reusing these old carpets in CAG’s back of house areas.

“Such efforts will reduce the amount of end-of-life carpets sent for incineration, and CAG plans to further raise our existing carpet recycling rate in the upcoming replacement exercise.”

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