Friday, October 14, 2016

A Nice Little Thing about an Airport

OK, when you think "sustainability," airports are not usually the next thing to pop into your head. In many ways, they are (very necessarily) temples to overconsumption of resources in the modern economy. Just look at all those heavy metal tubes with wings sitting out there, burning jet fuel like it rains from the sky. And then look around the interior, filled with food and drink in disposable paper and plastic (which you pretty much have to buy because getting anything reasonable through TSA is a nightmare). Finally, look at all the travelers! Business travelers headed to meetings they probably could have had over the phone, to say nothing of all those tourists who wouldn't have been expecting to vacation hundreds or thousands of miles away from home just a couple of generations ago.

I'm not a frequent traveler. One vacation a year is usually it. But recently, I actually went somewhere for my business, and I saw something that, to me, really worked.

In the Atlanta airport, I encountered a sign that told me that the concourses were spaced a five-mintue walk apart; in other words, if one had the time, one could travel between the very first concourse and the very last in about 30 minutes of walking time, instead of taking the much faster passenger monorail. Since I had arrived at the airport ridiculously early, as usual, I set off to take a 10-minute walk to my concourse.

Along the way, the airport had allowed artists to place art installations; the one you see above used light and carefully-shaped cut-outs to mimic the dappled light of a forest. A soundtrack accompanied it. Was it great art? Well, I'm not sure, but I would argue it was great art for the space. In a facility dedicated to rushing around and expending resources, I was invited by environmental cues to get a little exercise and to lower my blood pressure a little bit by enjoying the dim, dappled light and the nature sounds. It was only a few minutes, but it was certainly a better option than increasing my stress with a relatively-sedentary monorail ride.

Maybe other airports are doing this as well: encouraging people to walk by posting information about time and distance. Maybe more experienced travelers already know which airports they are willing to walk and which they will not. But, for me, this little break was a nice surprise.  So, well done, Hartsfield-Jackson!
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