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OM in the News: A Touch of Green at the JFK Airport

November 19, 2015
Herbs and vegetables at JFK's terminal 5

Herbs and vegetables at JFK’s terminal 5

“JetBlue’s farm, positioned on the JFK airport grounds, takes up half a football field of space which once sat as an empty eyesore to travelers zipping by on moving walkways,” writes The New York Times (Nov.17, 2015). Now, this area is blooming. It had adopted a color that is becoming more familiar to contemporary airports: green. JetBlue’s project — replete with 26 varieties of plants, including potatoes, kale, dill and oregano — is perhaps the most extreme illustration of airports’ efforts to infuse natural elements into sites that have been more commonly associated with asphalt, canned air, loud machinery and noxious emissions.

In Chicago, O’Hare Airport features a soilless aeroponic garden springing up vertically from the mezzanine level of Terminal 3. Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam includes an indoor “mixed nature” park, with ivy-covered chairs and piped-in bird sounds. And Changi Airport, in Singapore, offers weary travelers rooftop cactus and sunflower gardens, and a two-story butterfly house. These themes are becoming more commonplace, and more creative. JetBlue’s new terminal farm is just the latest example.

The chef at Bar Veloce, at JFK, has been known to pick fresh vegetables for his restaurant, but for the time being JetBlue is not serving any of its crops to passengers. The produce is instead hauled off in trucks and distributed to food banks in Queens and Brooklyn. “Airports realize that if they green, it can curry favor with the community, build good will, and it makes them a more welcomed part of the community, beyond just the function they provide,” says one industry expert. Adds JetBlue’s head of sustainability: “You cannot impress customers with a Santa Claus at the T.S.A. line anymore. They have higher expectations when they’re here.”

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. What are sports arenas across the country doing to go green? Why?
  2. Is sustainability a critical issue at airports? Why?
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