How to get started on your sustainability efforts

Start with small steps and work toward continual improvement

Sustainability isn't about taking on huge efforts at once –- that wouldn't be sustainable. Rather, improvement is the key to making big changes. It can seem overwhelming at first, but here are some simple steps you can take to get started on your path to more sustainable operation.

General facility practices

  • Identify a champion
    Build an effective team across departments. Task an employee who desires to make a difference and is motivated by sustainability initiatives as the team leader, project manager, or simply the go to person to ensure success. This is an important aspect in the beginning as well as throughout the process. The champions need to be supported by management and be able to build “green teams” within all facility operations.
  • Establish an environmental/sustainability policy
    Develop and implement a written policy to support the initiative and to help communicate the sincerity, importance and commitment of management toward sustainability. It drives change.
  • Establish written sustainability goals
    Identify and quantify desired change through goals and action plans to provide the road map to success, as well as  to document and communicate the facility’s sustainability efforts.
  • Implement the means to measure key metrics
    Collect and monitor data or other quantifiable information in order to establish a baseline of resource use or waste generation. This is vital to setting goals, measure change, calculate savings / costs and to report results.
    – Track inputs such as water, energy, and quantifiable resources, expenses and labor
    – Incorporate the purchasing / supply system and waste stream materials for all operations within reviews and tracking processes.

Basic risk management

  • Ensure regulatory compliance
    Identify all operational requirements and ensure compliance throughout the facility. Key items include chemical storage, spill response, waste management, employee protection, and permitting requirements.
  • Train employees to meet and exceed requirements
    Ensure employees are properly trained to meet any regulatory requirements, proper equipment operations, and safety related practices. Implement awareness training for environmental and personal protection for all operations.
  • Utilize risk management assessment and practices
    Review operations for all human and environmental risks or impacts. Implement BMPs to resolve pertinent issues in a timely manner.

Water use

  • Audit and maintain plumbing and irrigation system
    Ensure efficient irrigation operations by incorporating an irrigation audit and daily irrigation system maintenance program. Adopt similar maintenance schedules and programs for the entire facility’s plumbing and water utilities.
  • Optimize irrigated turfgrass areas
    Review all areas that are currently irrigated, including out-of-play areas, and implement steps to optimize irrigated and/or turfgrass acreage for performance and play at the golf facility. Consider that turfgrass areas may be reduced and provide a quality and enjoyable experience.
  • Incorporate technology into irrigation decision making
    Implement short-term goals and utilize long-term planning to incorporate the use of technology; weather stations, rain sensors, soil sensors, irrigation fixtures, nozzles, quick couplers, control systems etc. to improve efficiency, enhance playing conditions, and conserve water.
  • Utilize water efficient technology and equipment
    Implement short-term goals and utilize long-term planning to incorporate the use of water efficient equipment, controls, pumps, etc. throughout the facility and not just the irrigation system.
  • Manage the existing golf course conditions and golfer expectations to drive and implement change toward “firm and fast” conditions
    Review current agronomic and irrigation practices and begin to implement change through both short-term and long-term planning to ensure more sustainable performance and healthy turfgrass.

Water quality and protection

  • Develop and use a written IPM plan
    Implement a written Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan that establishes the pest thresholds as well as the scouting, cultural, and pest management practices to help ensure healthy turfgrass as well as efficient operations and environmental protection.
  • Develop and use a written nutrient management plan
    Implement a written nutrient management plan that incorporates university recommendations, soil / tissue testing, and BMPs to help ensure healthy turfgrass, as well as efficient operations and environmental protection.
  • Implement BMPs for cleaning equipment and impervious surfaces
    Change wet cleaning processes to dry cleaning processes wherever possible and implement the use of technology and BMPs as standard operating practices for washing / cleaning all equipment and surfaces as well as processing the resulting wastes and wastewater throughout the facility to minimize environmental impacts and reduce expenses.
  • Protect surface and groundwater with vegetative buffers and agronomic BMPs
    Plan and implement vegetative buffers adjacent to surface waters and wells in addition to no-spray zones to prevent contamination.

Energy conservation

  • Conduct an energy audit
    Use an energy audit to identify areas in need of improvement and establish goals to effectively use or reduce energy and the facility’s carbon footprint.
  • Improve irrigation pump efficiency
    Irrigation pumps can account for the most energy used at a golf facility and can be one of the largest opportunities to save money and protect the environment. Review pumps, controllers, run times and irrigation needs for more efficient operations and implement necessary changes.
  • Conserve energy or improve efficiency by reviewing equipment, operations, and human behavior to implement change
    Review all operations at the golf facility to identify where equipment can be better maintained, upgraded, replaced or eliminated as well as where behavioral or operational aspects can save energy. 

Pollution prevention

  • Evaluate supplies and suppliers for opportunities to reduce pollution
    Investigate the supply chain; products, materials, suppliers, manufacturing processes, wastes, packaging, transportation etc. and implement practical changes to minimize greenhouse gas impacts, reduce pollution and conserve resources.
  • Professionally manage wastes at the golf facility
    Track the generation and disposal of all wastes; organic, inorganic, wastewater, equipment washing, etc. Implement recycling, reduction and reuse BMPs as standard operating practices. Set goals to minimize waste volumes and pollution to save money and protect the environment.
  • Implement spill prevention and response practices across the entire facility
    Identify all activities with “spill potential” and implement awareness, response training, and BMPs as standard operating procedures for spill prevention and response for all employees. Utilize a written spill prevention and response plan.
  • Ensure proper storage and inventory control
    Store chemicals and hazardous materials in an area that is specifically designed for that purpose.