Approximately 32,227,533 individuals passed through LAX airport in 2022. The volume of travelers has surged notably in recent years, and this trend is poised to continue. With such an influx of individuals transiting the airport, the implications of any decisions taken by the airport become magnified. Any negative decisions by the airport can lead to significant adverse consequences, while positive choices can result in profound and beneficial impacts.
When contemplating grand-scale transformations, especially in the realms of social or environmental causes, people might think of huge protests or demonstrations. Some of the most extensive demonstrations in the U.S. have rallied between 15,000,000 and 26,000,000 participants. This is nearly comparable to the 32 million who utilize LAX each year.
An international hub like LAX emerges as an optimal starting point for strategizing these numbers' potential influence, particularly on initiatives like eliminating single-use plastics. Following such a commendable initiative, embraced by many, the pressing question becomes: what's next? What will the tangible outcome of this initiative be? We can rely on insights from our surveys and LCA to gauge the probable impact. These tools provide us with a foundation to project the potential benefits of LAX's decision to ban single-use plastic bottled water, enhance water refill stations, and promote refillable alternatives such as PATH.
What is the potential impact of the single-use plastic bottled water ban at LAX?
When a traveler at LAX opts for a PATH refillable bottle over a single-use plastic water bottle, our data indicates that, on average, a PATH user refills it at least six times. Often, this number is considerably higher, and many keep their PATH bottles for several months or even years.
Drawing from this modest average refill count, let's project: if 5% of LAX's travelers, approximately 1,611,377 individuals, choose a PATH bottle and refill it six times, the environmental implications are significant. A Michigan State Report states that each single-use plastic bottle contributes around 159gCO2e. Given that PATH bottles are bigger than most single-use bottles, six refills of a PATH equate to about nine single-use water bottles.
6 average PATH refills = 9 single-use plastic water bottles
159gCO2e/single-use plastic bottle
1,431gCO2e/9 single-use plastic x 1,611,377 people = 2,305,880,487gCO2e/5% of annual LAX travelers
The carbon impact is equivalent to saving the following:
5,911,237,177 miles driven by an average gasoline-powered passenger vehicle
290,618 homes' energy use for one year
448,666 homes' electricity use for one year
Recycling 797,883 tons of waste instead of landfilling
Equivalent to installing 641 wind turbines and having them run for a year
38,127,932 tree seedlings grown for 10 years (carbon sequestered)
2,749,803 acres of U.S. forests in one year (carbon sequestered)
The impact of 100% participation
While the precise impact will unfold over time, it's promising to estimate the potential benefits, even from the most conservative data points. To illustrate the sheer magnitude, consider this: if every traveler through LAX were to embrace a reusable bottle and refill it merely six times, the environmental savings would be monumental.
118,224,717,870 miles driven by an average gasoline-powered passenger vehicle
5,609,866,871,119 cell phones charged
12,824 wind turbines running for a year
The PATH to greater impact
The decision of LAX to ban single-use plastic bottled water has the potential to create a substantial positive impact on our environment. Given the enormous traffic of the airport, even small behavioral changes in travelers' choices can lead to significantly reduced carbon footprints. By promoting the use of refillable bottles like PATH, we're making a genuine shift away from the culture of disposability and, more than that, inspiring travelers to adopt sustainable habits. Even by the most conservative estimates, this endeavor translates into impressive environmental savings, be it in terms of miles driven by gasoline-powered vehicles or the number of cell phones charged. If a single high-traffic location like LAX can generate this potential, it speaks volumes to the possibilities that lie ahead for other venues, regions, and industries to adopt similar measures. It's a compelling testament to the power of collective action and the rippling effects that even seemingly small decisions can have on our planet.