Last year, Toronto Pearson served just over 47 million passengers, making it Canada’s largest airport. By the mid-2030s, the airport  could welcome some 85 million passengers. The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates Toronto Pearson, works hard to ensure that this growth will be sustainable. Accordingly, the GTAA is concentrating on three pillars as part of its environment program: mitigating climate change, ensuring a healthy environment, and managing resources.

Reducing carbon emissions

Toronto Pearson is Level 3-certified in the Airports Council International Airport Carbon Accreditation program, the only institutionally endorsed carbon management certification standard for airports. Toronto Pearson has mapped its emissions by compiling a carbon footprint report, implemented effective carbon management procedures and widened the scope of its efforts to engage third parties at and around the airport.

In 2009, Toronto Pearson set out to reduce its carbon emissions by 20 percent over 2006 levels by 2020. Today, the GTAA has already exceeded that target, having achieved a reduction of 54 percent, and is working toward an impressive 80 percent by 2050.

“In 2017, our energy programs reduced our power usage at the airport by five million kWh through lighting retrofits and HVAC updates that save energy and keep our passengers comfortable,” notes Pat Neville, Vice President of Airport Development and Technical Services at the GTAA.

In addition, the GTAA has installed 32 electric vehicle charging stations. This represents one of the largest single installations in a major energy-saving program sponsored by the Government of Ontario.

Fostering a healthy environment

A healthy environment is another core tenet of the GTAA’s environment program. The airport operator maintains a permanent air quality monitoring station on airport property and has engaged in studies with external consultants on airport emissions.

The GTAA also works to recover and repurpose glycol used to de-ice planes at Toronto Pearson’s Central De-icing Facility, the largest and most technologically-advanced facility of its kind in the world. The GTAA’s efforts extend beyond activities traditionally associated with an airport: Toronto Pearson’s lands are home to four end-of-pipe stormwater facilities and a series of stormwater retention ponds. The airport also has its very own bee apiary.

Managing resources

In addition to a regular recycling program, the GTAA recycles paper towels, shrink wrap, batteries, and pens, and there are organics recycling programs in the food kitchens in the terminals and administration building. The GTAA also requires its construction contractors to have recycling programs in place.

The GTAA is working together with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority on an initiative called Partners in Project Green (PPG). This business-led initiative has seen more than 12,000 hectares of industrial and commercial land surrounding Toronto Pearson transformed into North America’s largest eco-industrial area. PPG also facilitates the exchange of materials between organizations and service providers to divert resources from landfills, lower operating costs, and promote the move towards a circular economy.

The future is bright

The GTAA has a vision to build a Regional Transit and Passenger Centre on the airport’s grounds — a “Union Station West” — as a means of better moving people to and through the airport. The building will help ensure that Toronto Pearson is well-positioned to manage future air travel demand sustainably.

“Road congestion in the airport area is leading to longer commutes and more greenhouse gas emissions,” says Neville. “The Regional Transit and Passenger Centre at Toronto Pearson  will serve as a major hub for numerous rail and bus services, allowing transit passengers to travel seamlessly across our region, getting them out of their cars and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by up to 65,000 tonnes annually.”

While the GTAA has already accomplished much in the way of its commitment to environmental stewardship, more work remains to be done. The GTAA’s vision for the future is one where growth results in new and more creative ways to operate sustainably.