Vertical tower gardens at O'Hare

Rushing through a busy airport, you wouldn’t expect to see a lush green vegetable garden. But at Chicago’s O’Hare International, that’s exactly what you’ll find.

In the airport’s rotunda, travelers can admire 26 vertical towers that house more than 1,000 plants and 44 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and leafy greens.

Maher: “There’s always people up here taking pictures and asking questions.”

That’s Brad Maher, the Food and Beverage Operations Director at O’Hare. He says the towers introduce people to aeroponics – a type of gardening that does not require soil. Instead, water mixed with nutrients and minerals flows through O’Hare’s system every 30 minutes.

The technique can be used to grow food indoors year-round, regardless of the climate. It provides fresh, locally grown produce and reduces the pollution from transportation.

At the airport garden, what’s grown is used on-site.

Maher: “We use some of the basil for our margherita pizza, we use our habaneros for our habanero salsa.”

So for travelers, O’Hare’s garden provides fresh food, an oasis of calm, and an inspiring lesson in sustainability.

Reporting credit: Rosie Simon/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Courtesy of Chicago Department of Aviation.

Daisy Simmons

Daisy Simmons is a freelance writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience in research-driven storytelling. In addition to contributing to Yale Climate Connections since early 2016, she also...