WM Phoenix Open takes green initiative to a new level

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
TPC Scottsdale uses one of the world's most technologically advanced computerized irrigation systems. The land itself was built on top of a dumping ground for tons of trash.
January 31, 2012
Cindy Elliott, Special to PGA TOUR

With the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open returning to TPC Scottsdale this week, tournament officials are hoping fans will be green with envy. That's because the tournament, the largest spectator golf event in the world, is also one of the sport's greenest -- and will be encouraging fans to emulate its environmentally responsible practices in their homes and businesses.

Charitable causes
The Phoenix Thunderbirds have been an integral part of the Valley of the Sun since 1937. Although, better known as the host organization for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the group is equally proud of its contribution to charity. In 1986 Thunderbirds Charities was established for the purpose of distributing money to charitable causes. Giving back

Complementing the tournament's precedent-setting resource conservation and recycling efforts, title sponsor Waste Management will launch a Zero Waste Challenge during the week, with a goal of enlisting fans' support in diverting 90 percent of tournament waste away from landfills and into recycling and composting facilities. In addition, the company hopes to recover 70 percent of the total waste, either as recyclable paper, cardboard, plastics, aluminum, or as compost material.

For the first time ever, there will be no trash receptacles along the course. Instead, Waste Management will provide recycling bins and compost bins, which will help to divert nearly all tournament waste from the landfill. Recycling ambassadors will play an important role in assisting fans with the proper disposal of materials, monitoring recycling receptacles, and helping to educate tournament fans on ways they can contribute to environmental sustainability in their own lives.

Other green initiatives that will be undertaken during the Waste Management Phoenix Open include recycling stations in high-traffic areas; a water recycling program in which vendors will be encouraged to conserve water; the use of recycled wastewater generated by concessionaire kitchens for use in portable toilets, an effort that conserved 1,476 gallons of fresh water during the 2011 tournament; solar-powered compactors along the course which will allow fans to dispose of their food waste more efficiently; and the use of four clean-burning natural gas trucks to transport waste and recycled materials collected during the tournament. Additionally, Waste Management's hospitality tent will be solar-powered.

Fans will be hard-pressed to miss the tournament's symbolic, seven-ton logo floating in the lake on the 18th hole, a reminder of its environmental campaign. The logo stands 120 feet high and is filled with 140,000 used golf balls collected from water hazards around the state. Following the tournament, many will be donated to The First Tee of Phoenix programs for young people, with the rest recycled by Tempe-based Dixon Golf.

Underscoring the tournament's environmentally responsible efforts are a slew of green practices undertaken by host site TPC Scottsdale. One of the first golf properties in Arizona to become certified by Audubon International as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System, the club is a six-time winner of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA)/ Golf Digest Environmental Leaders In Golf Awards for its efforts to conserve natural resources, protect wildlife habitats and educate the public about the importance of environmental stewardship.

The club itself has its roots in environmental responsibility. Before it was built, the land on which TPC Scottsdale sits had been used for many years as a dumping ground for tons of trash. Through a unique partnership between the federal Bureau of Reclamation which owns the land on which the club was built, the PGA TOUR and the City of Scottsdale, TPC Scottsdale was created and serves as an environmentally desirable solution for reclaimed water captured from thousands of nearby acres.

An expansive environmental program at the club has transformed the once unusable site into a model of environmental excellence, including the redirection of 80 percent of yard waste; use of effluent (recycled water) for agronomic irrigation; a massive recycling program for plastics, used oils, paper, cardboard, chemical drums and metals; a strict integrated pest management program that significantly reduces the need for pesticides; and an extensive wildlife habitat preservation program that support numerous indigenous species.

Among its numerous environmental efforts, TPC Scottsdale uses one of the world's most technologically advanced computerized irrigation systems, the Aqua Spy "smart irrigation" control system. Installed in 2006, the system measures soil moisture, salinity and temperature levels, enabling the club to adjust irrigation based on weather conditions and seasonal variations.

Individually controlled sprinkler heads are also used for optimal efficiency, spaced 55 feet apart instead of the typical 65 feet to prevent water loss from wind and evaporation. Combined with its innovative fairway remediation and salt management strategies, which reduce the amount of water required to maintain the turf, the club has reduced its annual water consumption by an average of 35.4 million gallons of water, or a total of 141.6 million gallons of water during the past four years. At the same time, the program has reduced the overall salt input to the course by 565.5 tons during the past four years, for a savings of $99,140.

"It's our environmental responsibility to continue to find ways to conserve natural resources and protect the environment, and we are hopeful that local golfers and tournament fans will embrace these types of green efforts in their own lives," said TPC Scottsdale Director of Golf Course Maintenance Jeff Plotts. "We applaud the efforts of Waste Management and the Thunderbirds to reduce landfill waste, and look forward to supporting the Zero Waste Challenge in partnership with TPC Scottsdale employees and tournament fans during this year's Waste Management Phoenix Open."

For tournament tickets and more information, please visit www.wmphoenixopen.com. For more information on TPC Scottsdale and its expansive environmental program, please visit www.tpc.com.