I used to be a very inefficiently run structure. I was dependent upon highly processed fuels, i.e. the typical American fast foods and convenience foods. I didn’t make full use of all my faculties; i.e. I didn’t exercise. I was becoming a casualty of lackluster planning and indifference toward my long-term life cycle maintenance and operations.

Then I began to exercise, to explore the full potential of my circulatory, cardiovascular and muscular systems. My body began craving more natural biological fuels. It needed fresh air, sunlight and efficient activity. Instead of investing recklessly in cosmetic touch-ups like tummy tucks or diet pills or exercise gadgets, I took a holistic view of how to achieve the best benefit-cost ratio to keep my body running as long and sustainably as possible. And I realized that such sustainable efforts actually began to pay off financially. Greatly reduced were the myriad ills causing me to buy more drugs and medicines. Cooking food at home was cheaper overall than eating fast food. Even my productivity at work increased.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally indulge in some fossil fuels like alcohol or chicken wings once in a while. Again – a holistic approach, not an all-or-nothing one.

Wow, I sound like an American airport. At the Green Airports conference hosted by aviation commish Rosie Andolino and the O’Hare Modernization Program, engineers and contractors noted time and again: Getting greener will save you greenbacks. Contractors, one official noted, “may be ‘green’ without even knowing it.” Why? Because their bottom line is to produce a good product as efficiently as possible. With that goal, energy-saving, materials-saving and time-saving techniques dovetail quite nicely.

Like people, airports can become entities that live longer and run better, with minimal maintenance costs, if they utilize the right resources and become energy-efficient, smooth-running machines. You just have to think the investment is worth it.