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The State of Sustainability and Golf

Earth Golf Ball

From The Golf Course Industry Magazine Column - From Dodson, with Love
By Ron Dodson and Bill Love

First things first: If you are reading this, the Mayans were wrong. Whew…we made it to the beginning of yet another year.

Now that we know that we have survived to face the upcoming months and years ahead,  this is a great time to stop and look at how the world around us is really doing. And while we’re at it, let’s review what we personally and professionally have contributed.

So as not to totally come across in a negative way, let say there are individuals in the golf industry who have taken to heart their responsibilities to become better stewards of the environment. Their actions have changed the faces of many golf courses, as well as the way golf course maintenance facilities are being designed and managed. Those facilities serve as catalysts for improved water quality and increased wildlife habitat.

During the last few decades, golf organizations such as the USGA have invested millions of dollars toward research efforts, aimed not only at uncovering the facts connected with what golf may or may not be doing to or for the environment, but suggesting management changes, as well. These efforts serve as the foundation for the development of new products that deliver increased environmental and economic efficiency. To all of that I give a hardy “Bravo!”

Now here comes the other shoe. Sustainability is not a destination, a sign, an award, or, for that matter, environmental management by another name. Sustainability is an attitude and a combination of methods collectively aimed at fostering economic viability, environmental health and improved social wellbeing. To put it bluntly, from nearly every aspect, the economy is down, the health of the environment is down, and the social wellbeing of a growing number of human’s on Earth is down and continuing in a downward trend.

Over the past few years I have talked with the management at a number of facilities that I believe represent the leading edge of environmental stewardship efforts connected with golf course management. I asked each if they believed, or better yet, if they could prove that biological diversity had gone up, down or stayed the same. Likewise, I wanted to know if they could demonstrate that water quality had improved, or that they reduced their water use rates and so forth. Without exception the answers were all affirmative. Then I asked each if they believed the same could be said for the communities in which their facilities were located. And without exception the answer was “No!”

If the golf course industry is truly going to become engaged with the topic of sustainability, the industry must think beyond golf. Yes, golf must walk the walk at each golf course facility, but the industry – and to an extent individual courses – must carefully consider and take actions that are focused on topics of real importance that are well beyond golf.

For example, consider that 1.1 billion people lack adequate drinking water access; and 2.6 billion people lack basic water sanitation. Add to those the fact that the average American uses 30 times more water than a person who lacks adequate access to water. In other words, we simply take this vital resource for granted.

Think about the fact that every ecosystem on Earth is in decline. Nearly all of the major fish stocks in the world’s oceans are over fished and in decline and the oceans’ dead zones are growing, not shrinking.

I have been trying to capture the attention of the golf industry concerning these and other topics for more than 25 years. My hope is that in the next few years the industry wakes up and makes the decision to truly become engaged in sustainability.

There seems to be a growing effort to use the terms “sustainability” and “sustainable golf.” However, many of these efforts are, in my opinion, a mile wide and an inch deep.

They are simply the same-old- same-old...  but with a new name. That simply will not get the job done. And further more, it will lull most people into a false sense of security that will not only be dangerous for the future of the golf industry, but it will add nothing to the efforts needed to help move society toward a more sustainable future.

It’s sort of like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and making certain the ship is at least heading in the right direction as it slowly slips beneath the icy waves.

So to those individuals in our industry who have given it their all over the past 25 years, I offer you a sincere “Thank you.”

But to the vast majority of those in the golf industry who have done nothing, I say, “Wake the Hell up.”

 

SustainAbility Newsletter Archive Article (random)

Cookie Conservation - Girl Scouts pledge to limit Palm-oil use in Cookies

Girl ScoutsA five-year campaign by two Michigan girls to make Girl Scout cookies more environmentally friendly has prompted the youth organization to curb the use of palm oil in its iconic baked goods.

Girl Scouts of the USA isn't eliminating the ingredient, but it says that beginning with the 2012-13 cookie season, each box will include a GreenPalm logo as a symbol of Girl Scouts' commitment to address concerns about the deforestation of sensitive lands caused by production of palm oil.

Environmentalists say the illegal clearing of rainforests in Southeast Asia to make room for palm oil plantations has pushed the orangutan to the brink of extinction and threatens other native animals.

In its announcement, the Girl Scouts said it has directed its bakers to use as little palm oil as possible, and only in recipes where there is no alternative. It wants its bakers to move to a segregated, certified sustainable palm oil source by 2015.

The Scouts will buy GreenPalm certificates to support the sustainable production of palm oil. The certificates offer a premium price to palm oil producers who are operating within best-practices guidelines set by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, an organization of palm oil producers, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, environmentalists and others.

Girl Scouts of the USA will also become an affiliate member of the roundtable.

The teen activists and environmentalists welcomed the announcement as a good first step, but said much more needs to be done.

"The production of palm oil is causing some of the world's most precious rainforests to disappear faster than a box of Thin Mints," said Lindsey Allen, forest campaign director for the Rainforest Action Network.

Girl Scouts sells more than 200 million boxes of cookies per year. It estimates that its cookies account for less than one-one-hundredth of 1 percent of all the palm oil used globally.

"Girl Scouts' palm oil use is very small, but our voice is big," Amanda Hamaker, Girl Scouts manager of product sales, said in a press release. "The world's food supply is intricately tied to the use of palm oil, so we believe promoting sustainable manufacturing principles is the most responsible approach for Girl Scouts."

In a follow-up email Thursday to msnbc.com, Hamaker called the girls’ campaign "extremely significant."

"This is the first time on record that GSUSA has changed our practices related to the activities of the youth we serve," Hamaker said. "The girls identified an area where GSUSA clearly needed to provide leadership, and we are delighted to have found a way to do so."

   


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References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:
Audubon Lifestyles
www.audubonlifestyles.org 
  
The International Sustainability Council
www.thesustainabilitycouncil.org 

Toyota
www.toyota.com

Ford Motors
www.ford.com

Girl Scouts of America
www.girlscouts.org

Austin Ranch
www.austinranch.com

Turf Feeding Systems
www.turffeeding.com

The University of Michigan
www.umich.edu

The Dodson Group
www.thedodsongrp.com      

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This Issue of the SustainAbility Newsletter sponsored in part by:

The Dodson Group

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A Coalition for Good - Spreading the Seeds of Sustainability

ISC-Audubon is a coalition of non-profit organizations and initiatives that include The International Sustainability Council (ISC), Audubon Lifestyles, Audubon Outdoors, Planit Green, Broadcast Audubon, and the Audubon Network for Sustainability. 

Funds generated through memberships and donations are used to provide fruit & vegetable seeds, wildflower seed mix, and wildlife feed & birdseed to urban and suburban communities around the world. These seeds are used by communities to establish fruit and vegetable gardens, bird and wildlife sanctuaries, and for the beautification of urban and suburban landscapes by creating flower and native plant gardens.

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