Golf courses provide unique, effective means to recycle waste to positively impact environment, save money

Water coolers and trash cans made from recycled plastic; compost generated from food scraps and grass clippings; biodiesel fuel processed with leftover cooking oil; and effluent water from treatment plants are just a few of the ways Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) members implement recycling programs at their golf facilities.

These efforts are being highlighted on Nov. 15 as a part ofAmerica Recycles Day, a program of Keep America Beautiful, a national non-profit organization that brings people together to build and sustain vibrant communities.

A GCSAA survey reveals that its members and their facilities are highly active in recycling/reusing items in the golf course management operations waste stream. For example, 92 percent of facilities that have oils in their waste stream recycle or reuse them. Other recycle/reuse rates include equipment/golf car batteries (93 percent), hydraulic fluids (89 percent), fryer/cooking grease (89 percent), pallets (79 percent), tires (77 percent) and aluminum (76 percent). Learn more about golf course recycling efforts.

“We tend to think about the environmental attributes of golf courses in terms of what we see – wildlife habitat, green space, healthy turf that filters impurities,” GCSAA Director of Environmental Programs Greg Lyman said. “But what we don’t see is just as or even more impactful. Golf course operations lend themselves very well to recycling programs, and the data suggests GCSAA members are committed to them.”

Lyman notes that the concept brings out the creativity in GCSAA members. For example:

  • GCSAA Class A member Terry Stratton at Little River (Calif.) Inn Golf & Tennis, with a meager annual budget of $182,000, recycles plastic bottles, aluminum and scrap metal (80 percent he says) to fund continuing education for his staff.
  • Dan Dinelli, CGCS and a GCSAA Class A member at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Ill., built three vermin composters utilizing red wigglers (earthworms) to help degrade food waste from the kitchen to reduce waste, save energy and produce a rich organic material that improves plant and soil health.
  • GCSAA Class A member James Brown, CGCS at Newport Dunes Country Club in Port Aransas, Texas, cleans equipment with a low-volume pressure washer to conserve water. The water is then filtered through a grease trap. A waste management company is contracted monthly to remove the solids accumulated in these traps and the filtered water is reused.
  • James Houchen, GCSAA Class A member at Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton, Kan., and other staff bought more than three tons of recycled products last year and reduced other costs, which resulted in $32,000 in savings. The effort, which won an EPA award, includes the collection of aluminum cans, branches, cardboard boxes, fats, oil, greases, food, glass, light bulbs, mixed paper, phonebooks, plastics, tires and yard trimmings.
  • Brett Hetland, CGCS and Class A member at Brooks Golf Club in Okoboji, Iowa, has won numerous environmental awards for programs that include significant waste reduction and recycling. He has lowered the number of waste pick-ups from five to three a week and has helped the facility to save money through the reduce, reuse, recycle philosophy.

“I applaud our members in the effort they have taken to implement recycling programs,” Lyman said. “It really gets to the heart of sustainability because you are talking about having a positive impact on the environment, on the budget and the golfer experience. America Recycles Day gives us a platform to highlight what is happening on a daily basis throughout the year.”

About GCSAA and the EIFG

GCSAA is a leading golf organization and has as its focus golf course management. Since 1926, GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the United States and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to 18,000 members in more than 72 countries. GCSAA’s mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. Find GCSAA on Facebook, follow GCSAA on Twitter, and visit GCSAA at The EIFG is the philanthropic organization of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, and has as its mission to foster sustainability through research, awareness, education, programs and scholarships for the benefit of golf course management professionals, golf facilities and the game.