I’ve worked at Manchester Airport for just over six months- and I’m on a mission to clean up aviation

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“I see my role as there to facilitate and support others to manage our environmental impact”

Being environmentally conscious is a big focus for Manchester Airport these days. Having as small a carbon footprint as possible is a goal the travel hub takes seriously. 

It’s not just out on the runway that this is kept in mind, but also within the hallways of its terminal buildings. To help with this, Manchester Airport employs Environmental Specialists, who keep in touch with airport management about its environmental impact - from recycling coffee grounds to the work on terminal 2. 

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One of these specialists is Karen Wallis, who has worked at the airport since October 2023. Her job is one which, as she describes, rarely has two days the same.

“My role is all about managing the day-to-day environmental impact of our operations, so there are a lot of different factors involved,” Karen said. 

“I’m responsible for making sure that we are following all of the environmental laws that apply to our activities, so I regularly support different departments across the airport to make sure we are considering our impact on the environment in any projects we’re undertaking.

“I carry out audits of our own activities and all of the other businesses which operate on our site, advising on where we can make improvements, developing procedures and training, and working closely with environmental bodies, such as the Environment Agency. I see my role as there to facilitate and support others to manage our environmental impact.”

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The airport is always looking to improve on their recycling focus, and said that a green project being rolled out at a London airport could soon come to Manchester. 

“Waste is a focus at the moment. We have a good recycling system in place but we’re looking at new opportunities, such as recycling coffee grounds from retailers - that’s a project currently being trialled at our sister airport London Stansted that we’re hoping to roll out here soon. We’re also looking at how we can support the airlines using Manchester Airport to improve recycling of the cabin waste generated by passengers during flights.

Karen Wallis is an environmental specialist at Manchester AirportKaren Wallis is an environmental specialist at Manchester Airport
Karen Wallis is an environmental specialist at Manchester Airport | Manchester Airport

“For our own staff, we’re putting the finishing touches to a series of training modules that will help raise awareness and understanding of various environmental topics that affect our airport.”

The role is one where a passion and interest in environmental issues is a must, and a willingness to champion the cause is also, according to Karen. 

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“Communication skills are important. A lot of what I do is talking to staff, tenants, contractors and regulators, or providing written reports and presentations. I have to be able to translate sometimes quite complex and unfamiliar topics to different audiences across the airport in an accessible and engaging way.”

Karen is passionate about her job, but she keeps herself busy in her free-time too. It seems as though her daughter may also have an interest in aviation. 

“I have two children that keep me very busy, whether that’s cheering on my son’s local football team from the sidelines or helping my daughter do her Brownie badge work (she’s just done her Aviation badge). Aside from that, I love doing Pilates and am an avid bookworm and podcast fan.

Karen and her family are big Lego fans, and with flights from Manchester to spots across the world, there was only one that came to mind. 

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“We’re big Lego fans in our house and we really want to visit Billund this year, the home of Lego. Denmark is beautiful and super family friendly, so add in a visit to the Lego House and Legoland and you’ve got the perfect trip to please both the little and big kids!”

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