Few environmentalists look to airports as beacons of green living, but Logan International plans to announce a set of eco-friendly steps today that will attempt to change its image, at least a little.
The biggest step will be the purchase of renewable energy credits, enough to offset the power used for the Massachusetts Port Authority's offices, heating plants, and some non-public garages by the end of 2009 at a cost of $300,000 a year. That amounts to 15 percent of the energy used by Massport, and is two years early for meeting a goal set for public agencies by Governor Deval Patrick.
In addition, Massport - which also runs the seaport - plans to hire a consultant to develop a broader energy strategy. That could include more conservation and entail spending millions more on renewable energy credits for the authority's many public garages, airport terminals, and roadways, said Thomas J. Kinton Jr., director of Logan and chief executive of Massport.
Kinton stopped short of committing to spend the millions it would take to make the airport completely carbon-neutral. Because the expense would ultimately be passed on to airlines through higher fees, such a goal would require further analysis to determine whether it would make good business sense, he said.
"The key in doing any of this stuff is you want it to be achievable, you want it to be measurable, and you want it to be real," Kinton said.
Massport is one of several government agencies and businesses trying to spruce up their ecological image for Earth Day. Aircraft that fly in and out of airports account for 2 percent of the world's carbon emissions. Without fundamental shifts in either airline technology or modern lifestyles, that impact is expected to grow.
"The facility itself can make itself an industry leader in terms of green credentials, but ultimately we have to think how we travel," said Sue Reid, staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation.
Still, Reid called Massport's early efforts important because the renewable energy credits allow wind and solar producers to get financing for their projects and could ultimately help wean the nation from fossil fuels.
"It sounds like Massport's steps right now are modest, but they're important steps in the right direction," she said.
Reid said the airport "ought to be able to ultimately get themselves off the [power] grid" by employing solar and wind technology and finding more ways to conserve.
Last month, Logan installed 20 small wind turbines on its property, a mostly symbolic effort that Kinton says may expand.
Kinton plans to announce other steps today, including a decision to turn off moving walkways linking garages and terminals between 12:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., when few passengers need them. That will save 74,000 kilowatt-hours per year, enough to run the sidewalks for 45 days, Massport estimates.
Massport will also put up new signs reminding taxi customers that they can request hybrid vehicles.
And the agency will require its next cleaning contractor to use green cleaning products.
The agency also sees energy savings in its plan to build a centralized rental car facility - which will mean fewer buses shuttling customers off-site.
To Kinton, the business sense in going green is twofold. First, it is important for keeping customers, who are increasingly shopping for greener products and demanding better environmental accountability from government agencies. Second, such efforts could ultimately stimulate the market for alternative energy, reducing oil dependence and lowering prices for airlines.
"An industry like [the airlines] can't do anything about it, but we can," Kinton said.
Noah Bierman can be reached at email@example.com.