Turning Sea Pines green

greenseapines_0312The world’s first eco-friendly resort is returning to Earth-friendly form, thanks to a man called “the green wacko.”

At Sea Pines, it’s the small things—and the big things—that count big time.

The 5,000-acre resort has ramped up its green efforts over the last few years to include everything from water and energy conservation to selling oil used in its restaurants to create biofuel.
Eco-warrior and facilities manager Tony Wartko is one of the people at the resort who have instituted a wide variety of green policies. “I’m sometimes called the ‘green wacko,’” he said with a chuckle. But it’s no joke that he and other staff members are serious about making sure that the resort is doing everything it can to protect the environment.
Here are just a few of the many programs Sea Pines has instituted over the last few years.

Green from green
Sea Pines has seen a huge return on its recycling efforts. The resort spent $164,000 in waste-hauling costs in 2010. That number was reduced by 24 percent in 2011, “and we expect it to continue to go down this year,” said Wartko.
Through a partnership with local recycling firm i2 Recycling, the resort has been leading the way locally in environmental stewardship.
“Sea Pines is a great story of taking a comprehensive approach to recycling,” said i2 owner Michael Bennett. “They not only handle the basics, they’re also recycling oyster shells, corks...”
The cost of hauling waste has been reduced by recycling everything from batteries to fluorescent lights to refrigeration scraps. In 2011, 45 tons of cardboard were recycled. Wartko said that every ton of cardboard recycled represents 17 trees. The resort also recycled 50 tons of aluminum, plastic and glass in 2011.
Sea Pines even recycles all of the chains and used bicycles for rent at
the resort.
“We also shred and recycle all office paper,” he said. “We want to get to where everyone’s desk has a recycle can and the trash can is in the break room.”
Additionally, in January 2011, Sea Pines introduced a recycling center for residents, staff and guests.

The three golf courses at Sea Pines contribute to healthy landscaping throughout the resort. “We make sure that all the greenery trimmings at the golf courses are mulched for use by our residents,” said Wartko. “We’re even collecting the coffee grounds from the Harbour Town Bakery to be used as compost.” Sea Pines also composts leftover fruit and vegetables from the bakery. That translates into 20 to 25 pounds a day of compost to be used in the community garden.
Even table centerpieces are being made with reusability in mind. For instance, during last year’s Heritage golf tournament, the centerpieces at a variety of events were made from herbs. Some of those herbs were given to staff to take home and replant.

Water and runoff
Between its six restaurants, its bakery, Harbour Town, three golf courses and the Inn at Harbour Town, a lot of water is used for a lot of purposes. Wartko said the goal is to capture and reuse as much of that water as possible.
“For instance, we recapture about 167 gallons of water a day from the ice machine at the Plantation Club and use that to irrigate some of the land,” he said. And, the watering is powered by solar pump. At the bakery, they capture two gallons of water an hour to be used for watering around the area.
Plus, all of the golf course watering is done with non-potable water supplied by the South Island Public Service District.

Golf courses and the marina
With its three golf courses and the Harbour Town Yacht Basin marina, the potential for damage to the environment is great. But Sea Pines has worked hard to protect these environmentally sensitive areas.
The marina has earned a “Clean Marina” designation under a program administered by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and the S.C. Marine Association.
Meanwhile, Sea Pines’ three golf courses have earned the “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” designation, much of that due to the work of Jim Cregan, the superintendent of the Heron Point and Ocean courses. The golf courses had to meet standards on chemical control, the use of water resources, habitat protection and protection of environmentally sensitive areas, and controlling runoff. They’ve even installed bird houses, including some for purple marlins, a breed that helps with mosquito control.

Selling points
The Inn at Harbour Town has taken several steps to preserve the environment. It offers its guests the option of not having their towels and linens washed daily, encouraging reuse in order to conserve water and energy.
It also uses products from the Molton Brown amenity line, which are never tested on animals. The Inn also offers recycling in-house and for its guests. In sales, cognizance of the environment is taking center stage.
“Many of the businesses that come here as groups want pitchers of water, no Styrofoam,” said Wartko.
He added that, internally, they are also finding ways to recycle, reuse and reduce. “Most of our sales kits have flash drives rather than pamphlets, so we’ve greatly reduced our printed material,” he said.
Wartko said Sea Pines should be at the forefront when it comes to protecting the environment. “We’re protecting that circle of life. People want to come here to see our birds and alligators, to ride bikes and go on kayak tours. That’s what makes this space so special. We want to be good stewards of our environment.”

The green initiative
It definitely takes a village for a resort as large as Sea Pines to put together its many green initiatives. In addition to all of its staff and upper management chipping in, the following have also helped in those efforts:

Allen Ward, Ward Edwards
Teresa Wade, Experience Green
Mike Bennett and Todd Crawford, i2 Recycle
Jim Meachan, Fisher Recycling
Seacoast Security Shredding
Pat Rooney, Patrick Rooney Associates



Photo by Rob Kaufman, Kaufman Photography