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Message from CEO Phillip A. Washington: DEN Strives to Become the Greenest Airport in the World


As one of the largest and busiest airports in the world, Denver International Airport (DEN) serves as the state of Colorado’s primary economic engine, generating more than $33 billion annually. As the airport continues to grow, so will the economic benefits, but DEN can also make a difference in the world’s battle against global warming and Colorado’s own air quality challenges as a result of recent wildfires.

As the new Chief Executive Officer at DEN, I have already seen the great sustainability programs we have in place, but it is time to take those efforts to the next level as we strive to make DEN the greenest airport in the world and support Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s climate action agenda. We are going to do so by implementing new sustainability initiatives and programs over the next five years. These initiatives are part of our Vision 100 Plan that will help us prepare for inevitable aviation growth and our ability to serve 100 million annual passengers in the future.

Although it might be a lofty goal, DEN is up for the challenge with a strong foundation currently in place. In fact, DEN was the first commercial service airport in the U.S. with an ISO 14001-certified Environmental Management System, covering all operations and is a long-time Gold Level leader within the state of Colorado’s Environmental Leadership Program.

Additionally, we’ve established an impressive program of sustainability actions. To name a few, we’ve built one of the largest and most diversified solar energy programs of any airport in the world. We’ve developed a deicing fluid collection and recycling program that processes about one-million gallons of deicing fluid each year to save money and reduce wastewater generation. We’ve installed more than 50 electric vehicle charging stations for both passengers and employees to use. And we’ve created an award-winning program that donates thousands of pounds of food from DEN concessions to a local non-profit, to reduce waste and support Denver families in need.

With this strong foundation, how can DEN do more? Let me share with you some of the new initiatives we hope to undertake over the next five years to take our sustainability program to the next level.

  • Accelerate existing plans to permanently cease oil and gas operations at the airport by plugging the wells that have been inactive since 2018
  • Implement deep energy and water retrofits across the existing airport facility, including LED lighting upgrades, heating and cooling improvements, and water reduction across DEN restrooms
  • Open four sustainably designed, high-performance concourse expansion projects that are certified to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold level (you can learn about some of the sustainability features being incorporated here)
  • Construct and energize additional solar arrays and investigate battery storage opportunities to power the airport’s growth with electricity that is low-carbon, cost-effective, reliable, and resilient
  • Plan for the transition to electric vehicles and install additional charging stations for passengers, employees, transportation providers, and the DEN fleet
  • Improve recycling and composting infrastructure to make reducing trash easier for customers and business partners, which may include things such as new recycling bins, better signage and additional partnerships with our concessionaires
  • Build a new closed-loop aircraft de-icing fluid recycling plant to localize and strengthen the supply chain and reduce costs and environmental impacts

These new initiatives will support the goals and policies set by Mayor Hancock to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, further electrify our transportation system to reduce the impact of cars on climate change and transition the city to 100% renewable electricity by 2030, including all city government buildings and facilities by 2025.

As you can see, our vision will be challenging, but I believe it is achievable, and will help DEN reduce its carbon footprint, even as we continue to connect more passengers and businesses around the globe. By developing a vision and working with our business partners, DEN can make a difference and help Colorado, the region and the world become greener and cleaner.

As we implement these new programs, we hope when you pass through DEN, you will help us with our efforts by recycling and composting and using our water bottle filling stations.

We are in this together, and together we can make a difference!

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Denver International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. DEN is the primary economic engine for the state of Colorado, generating more than $36 billion for the region annually. Follow us on socials!