Read Green: Going green on the greens

How golf can reduce its impact on the environment

Teresa WadeWhether you’re a singledigit handicap, a hacker or just a Heritage fan, you know that golf is an essential part of the island’s identity and economy. But golf is also the topic of much debate in the environmental community.

This column focuses on green initiatives that can support longterm sustainability for the planet, its people and prosperity. When it comes to golf, we appreciate the economic benefits that the Heritage brings and the thousands of golfers who play here every year — that’s golf’s contribution to prosperity. Everyone who plays the game and enjoys its social aspects understands how it enhances our quality of life — that’s its contribution to people. Golf also exposes players to wildlife, vegetation and green spaces — its contribution to the planet.

Yet golf is also a tremendous consumer of resources, a producer of waste and an influence on water quality. Millions of gallons of water are necessary to irrigate turf, and fertilizers that contain nitrogen and phosphorous can run off into local waters, promoting algae growth and eventually depleting the oxygen available to ecosystems. The traditional herbicides and pesticides that are used on courses can pollute through runoff and groundwater absorption. And courses tend to be high-energy consumers that generate both waste and carbon emissions. So the question becomes: Do the short-term economic and social benefits of golf justify its long-term ecological impact?

The good news is there are things golfers can do to reduce their impact. Players can opt for recyclable golf balls, as well as biodegradable balls made of fish food and organic tees made of fertilizer. On the fashion side, Object 59 Apparel designs hip, high-performance golf attire made of hemp, recycled PET plastic bottles and other organic materials.

But let’s think bigger. Many golf courses have already adopted measurable green initiatives that reduce environmental impact, cut costs and contribute to value creation — the trifecta of comprehensive sustainability. Those include implementing pest management systems that use “good bugs,” such as ladybugs, spiders and wasps, to control pest populations naturally. All island courses use reclaimed water, as well as water from their lagoons; unused water returns to local wetlands.

As consumers increasingly prefer eco-friendly products and services, going green on the greens can be a competitive advantage. If we commit to smart, sustainable solutions, golf can be compatible with nature, satisfy players and provide economic benefit. Every green step matters.

Teresa Wade is the principal of Sustainable Solutions, a local consultancy that helps organizations impact their triple bottom line with sustainable practices. She is the founder of Experience Green, a nonprofit offering regular consumer workshops on going green.