Sustainability in the Terminals

Aeroponi​c Garden

In the summer of 2011, the CDA and HMS Host Corporation collaborated to install an aerop​onic garden in the mezzanine level of the O'Hare Rotunda Building. It was the first aeroponic garden at any airport in the world! The Rotunda Building is located in Terminal 3 over the corridor to Concourse G.

Ticketed airport passengers can view the garden while relaxing or enjoying a meal in the comfortable lounge area – perhaps a meal that contains some vegetables and herbs grown just a few feet away! Next time you travel through O'Hare, we invite you to take a few minutes to visit the garden and learn more about this unique and earth-friendly type of farming.

What is Aeroponic Gardening?

Aeroponic gardening is a method of growing plants without soil. Instead, plant roots are misted with a nutrient solution during a regular watering cycle. Aeroponics is becoming increasingly popular around the world as agricultural land uses must compete with developers for limited open space.

About the CDA's Aeroponic Garden

In O'Hare's aeroponic garden, plant roots are suspended in 26 towers that house over 1,100 planting spots. A nutrient solution is regularly cycled through the towers using pumps so that no water evaporates or is wasted, making the process self-sustaining. No fertilizers or chemicals are used in the garden.

Producing and purchasing locally grown foods supports the CDA's commitment to sustainability by strengthening the local economy and job market, providing a unique learning opportunity for travelers, and reducing urban sprawl, traffic congestion, habitat loss, and pollution from the transportation of produce.

O'Hare's Aeroponic Garden Produces:

  • Swiss chard
  ​• Genovese basil
  • Sweet basil
  ​• Purple basil
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Parsley   • Chives
  • Bibb lettuce   • Gourmet lettuce mix
  • Red lettuce   • Habanero peppers
  • Edible viola flowers   • Edible nastutium flowers
  • Thyme   • Oregano
  • Spearmint   • Green beans
  • Snap beans


Advantages of Aeroponic Gardening

The benefits of year-round cultivation and higher production yield per square foot (with no weed pulling!) provide O’Hare’s restaurants with fresh produce for use in meals prepared for passengers each day. Some of the locations that directly benefit from our garden include:

Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless
Tuscany Cafe
Wicker Park Seafood and Sushi

Click here​ to see all of O’Hare’s dining options.

Water Refill Stations


Once cleared through security, passengers can refill their water bottles at designated water refill stations. This allows passengers to refill their bottles that had to be emptied prior to entering security, providing a convenient way to stay hydrated. Each water refill station fills over 100,000 bottles per year and helps the CDA reduce landfill bound waste and the frequency of waste pickups.

Need a refill? Check out water refill station neartest you! Click here​ for the interactive airport map.


In partnership with HMSHost, the CDA launched a composting program at O'Hare in the summer of 2011. Composting is the natural process of recycling organic waste into a rich soil called compost. It provides a cost-effective, sustainable waste disposal solution that yields many benefits including: diversion of organic materials from landfills; use as natural, chemical-free fertilizer for food crops; and promotion of higher agricultural yields.

The O'Hare composting program helps keep waste out of landfills while also providing a substantial source of food waste to be used as compost. Restaurants including Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, Stefani's Tuscany Café and Stanley's Blackhawks Kitchen & Tap collect pre-consumer food waste for composting. In addition, all Starbucks Coffee locations at O'Hare collect coffee grounds for composting.