Friday, July 19, 2013

Zero waste golf course prompts change in community policy

Sometimes when you plant seeds of one thing you get unexpected fruits.

We started our zero waste demonstration park to illustrate how a golf course could use its facilities to promote environmental awareness in the community it serves. We have been advocates of diverting green and food wastes from landfill as a matter of personal actions, that of home composting or worm binning, but there was no municipal compost system in place. But thing are changing.

Last week, I met with the management of our county wide waste management authority. He agreed to work his influence with the community waste hauling company to come up with a pilot program in which food wastes from participating summer festivals would be picked up and transported to the adjacent county where there is a state licensed composting operation. This is a breakthrough for our community.

First they'll develop a system for the festivals and events. Next, they'll provide pickup and hauling from restaurants and large food waste generators, like rest homes or schools. Next thing you know, we'll have community wide home pickup and hauling of food and green wastes.

It's interesting, isn't it? The golf course is proving to be a great place to promote environmental change. Policy makers are paying attention.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rebuilding Golf's Environmental Reputation

If you don't realize that the game of golf has a terrible reputation for the overuse of water and chemicals, you're not paying attention. If you ask any random person in the street, they'll probably tell you that golf is for the rich, idle class and that golf courses are harmful to the environment. But if you drill down further, you'll often find that those opinions are not founded in any first hand knowledge, but just a kind of "public intuition" that continues in spite any real improvements that are actually taking place in the industry or, locally, on the course.

The fact is that the today's golf industry is on the cutting edge of environmentall awareness. Few organizations or venues of any kind attend to environmental concerns more regularly than do the modern golf superintendent. It's too bad the modern methods for operating an environmentally sensitive golf course don't get the positive community attention they deserve.

Part of the problem is that the descriptors, the words we commonly use in our discussion of environmental issues are already tired, worn out and overused. "Sustainable, green, eco-friendly", you name it, the words just don't have any attention-getting pop any  more. How in the world is the industry going to change it's bad environmental reputation if it doesn't craft a new language with which to get the public attention?

This is a problem that extends from the top to bottom of the industry. There is not much of a common thread between golf royalty, those great companies and organizations that seem to control golf's global public image, and the local courses that actually interact with the common golfer. When are the big boys going to figure out how to craft an environmental message that the whole industry can adopt to make a change in public perception?

I recently read, that in the US, environmental products and services are growing at a rate of 30 percent per year. That's a lot of growth, with the main problem being that there's going to need to be a lot more creative descriptors to market the ideas. Be as creative as you want, I doubt that anything in the golf industry is going to be invented that trumps the term "Zero Waste Golf".

In our experience at Dairy Creek, we're finding that our zero waste golf mantra is making inroads in our community perception. Now the topic is changed from the same old complaints about water and chemical overuse to one about community involvement, about environmental education and about healthy sports facilities for our families' recreational needs. Our golf course has become one of the most visible and heard environmental  leaders in the community, and that's not because we're shouting. No, It's because we have the best, freshest message.

I'm believing that rebuilding golf's environmental reputation is going to begin with fresh language. I'm still waiting patiently to see if the term and the practices of "ZerO Waste Golf" is going to kick start the conversation.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

ZerO Waste Golf, what does it mean to you?

ZerO Waste Golf reminds me not to waste strokes on the course.  Nothing gripes me more than to waste a perfectly great drive by duffing my second shot.

ZerO Waste Golf reminds me to keep my head down and my eyes open for emerging opportunities. Opportunities are like inspirations. Anybody that wastes opportunities or inspirations is too dull to succeed on the golf course, anyway.

ZerO Waste Golf reminds me not to waste time on the course. I hate following slow play.  ZerO Waste Golf  reminds  that when you feel it, step up and swing it . Come one guys, it's a ready-golf world out there.

ZerO Waste Golf reminds me that I'm not that great of a golfer. It reminds me that I'm on the golf course to have fun, not to compete with Tiger Woods. ZerO Waste Golf reminds me not to waste a moment of golf's fun.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Jerry Nucci, ZerO Waste Golf Pioneer

So often, in history, we hear the stories of pioneers, whose genuine dedication to simple projects have built the essential foundations of a better future. This is the case with the story of Jerry Nucci.

Five years ago, a few of my friends and I decided to promote zero waste through demonstrations of using worms bins and vessel composters to divert food and organic wastes from landfill and as a means of creating valuable soil ammendments.  None of us had ever actually even used a worm bin or compost pile before, so it seemed appropriate to start learning how to be successful at building and maintaining a worm population, or a dynamic compost operation. So, I bought six pounds of worms online.

About five pounds of the redworms crawled away or died in the first week. They simply hated the environment I first created. Having seen worms naturally attracted to my test compost pile, I decided to throw my remaining worms into the compost.

My first attempt at composting wasn't going so well either. Seems that a compost won't start getting heat unless it has a particular volume, about a cubic meter. My wife and I didn't make enough food waste at home  to give the demonstration the scale it required. Enter Jerry Nucci, owner of Nucci's Pizzaria, who started giving me all his pre-consumer lettuce wastes to put into the compost everyday. Discarding the outer leaves and the luttice hearts, that little restaurant produced an average of 20 pounds of lettuce per day. The worms really liked the lettuce scraps, and they prospered.

It was because of the success of that worm bin demonstration that county officials finally took serious note of our work, and they gave us a location and support to expand our vision. And that's how the ZerO Waste Park at Dairy Creek started.

I managed and maintained the worms and the composting at our park for the first year or so. Every day, I drove a couple of miles to the golf course, I gathered up the food wastes from the food and beverage concession, I fed the worms, I stirred the compost, I raked and swept. I gave and talks greeted the guests. I was getting tired, but I had not yet attracted any volunteers to help maintain the fledgling park. I was beginning to wonder if the project would actually become a sustainable program.

That's when Jerry Nucci offered to help me a couple of mornings per week. Jerry breathed life back into the gasping patient. After Jerry and I operated the park for another year, another fellow, Jim Matthias, offered to help as well. Now we have three workers, who contribute one or two hours per week each. Now it's easy.

Well, Jerry Nucci has had enough. He doesn't want to do the composting any more, but he will still bring his lettuce scraps to the worms. It's been five years since Jerry Nucci started supporting our zero waste park ideas. Without him, we would not be where we find ourselves today. The success we are enjoying today would have been impossible without the generous support of Jerry Nucci.

Jerry told me he was done on Monday. By Tuesday, Paul Van Beurdan volunteered to replace him. I really feel like the volunteer system for ZerO Waste Park maintenance is secured now, as we make our first replacements to our volunteer staff. This system looks like it will last. Free golf and cart for the volunteer compensation probably doesn't hurt, either!

Jerry Nucci went beyond the worm and compost demonstration. Jerry made a demonstration of contribution, of service and support. It's his demonstration of community activism that eventually attracted Jim, and eventually Paul, to become ZerO Waste Golfers. Thank you Jerry Nucci. Thank you for what you've done for the game of golf, what you've done for our community, and what you've done for me.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

ZerO Waste Golf is a Mantric Phrase

In many cultures mantras are used, like computer icons, to represent complex ideas, or as a gateway to a state of awareness about a particular topic. A mantra is a reduction of the complexities of the concept. It works like this; A complex concept is reduced to a library, and then to a book, and then to a paragraph, a sentence, a phrase, a word, a sound. At this point, the sound represents the whole library. The beauty of a real mantra is that it works to represent whichever facet of the topic the individual is open to at any particular time, and that it continues to represent the idea as the individual grows into a more comprehensive awareness in time.

While our experience with the phrase "ZerO Waste Golf" is somewhat limited, we find that the mantric quality of the phrase seems to resonate with a wide audience. The phrase initiates discussion as to its meaning time after time. It's easy to find common ground in any discussion of the meaning of the phrase, as it allows for a great deal of positive creativity in the argument.

It is my belief that zero waste will become the global standard for environmental policy making. It is already the official policy statement of the United States. Governments already know that the term zero waste gives them infinite latitude on defining the policy, without being too specific, and that works for them to maintain nonspecific regulatory control over the variety of potential definitions. The biggest problem with zero waste as a widly defined concept is in finding a specific action or demonstration that can be used to illustrate the policy.

Zero Waste Golf is the type of specific action and demonstration that governing authorities can use to promote their goals for waste management awareness and actions to their constituents. It could be anticipated that different countries, cultures, regions or communities will have a variety of specific environmental problems or opportunities that are more important to that community than to others. ZerO Waste Golf has the flexibility to address those specifics, and should, as to serve the community's particular needs.

The greatest opportunity for individual golf courses, acting in their communities, as well as for the golf industry in general, is to be the entity that introduces the zero waste mantra, and its library of possible meanings, to their communities, regions, countries and world. The golf industry, in step with, or in anticipation of toughening governmental restrictions, could become the world leader in zero waste consciousness. This type of leadership will help to overcome the perception of golf courses as the environmentally harmful havens of the rich minority. When the golf course, and the golf industry inspires the communities it serves to make positive environmental changes in its waste management protocols, the golf course opens itself to the community in a way that overcomes the perception that golf courses are only for the rich or elite.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Report :ZerO Waste Golf after two years of operation

I'm happy to report that ZerO Waste Golf is turning out to be a great success as we begin our third year of operation.!

We were really hoping that our environmental demonstrations would inspire others in our community to join our efforts to divert food wastes and compostables from the landfill. We have hosted so many interested groups, businesses, students, scientists and others who came from as far away as New York to see our first in the nation operation. Now, we are really starting to see change in our community. Restaurants and institutions are really starting to get the idea about diverting their compostables from the landfill. In the past weeks, we have hosted 2 groups of restaurant and business owners who want to go zero waste in their operations. When they asked for advice from our waste management authority, they were referred to us , because of our experiences in the past couple of years.

When they realized, after dealing with us at Dairy Creek Golf Course, that all our local golf courses were lacking in proper waste and recycle containers, our regional waste management authority applied for and was granted a $100,000 dollar grant from the state of California with the purpose of purchasing some beautiful waste and recycling containers for each tee area on every course in the county. How wonderful, that our little demonstration has started to produce its fruits.

The US golf industry are getting to know that we're serious and they're starting to offer us support and funding for some of the scientific testing we're doing with California Polytechnic State University. Recently, we were contacted by interested golf developers about traveling to China to speak and to share information about the zero waste golf methods and trends that are developing around the country.

We operate the composting, vermiculture, and compost tea brewing with minimal labor. We have three volunteers who operate the whole deal in exchange for some free rounds of golf. There doesn't seem to be a lack of waiting volunteers who will do this duty for free golf, so we feel that the operation will continue well into the future, even as staff come or go throughout the years to come.

This blog, although it has been a while since I updated it, continues, day after day to spread the message about ZerO Waste Golf to interested persons around the globe. While it's not an astounding number, the blog averages 50 pageviews per day, day after day. The  most interesting thing about the blog readership is that 40 or more out of the 50 per day come from Norway. Every day it's the same...ZerO Waste Golf is very popular in Norway. Thank you, Norwegians!

This has been a very enjoyable project so far. Environmental leadership is very rewarding when your work starts making a difference. Thank you everyone.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Simple actions inspire change

As a direct result of our efforts in developing the world's first zero waste golf course. we are seeing positive change in our local community.

When I first pitched zero waste to our golf superintendent, Josh Heptig, I pointed out that there were no recycle containers on the entire golf course property. Josh explained to me how the maintenance staff sorted the waste stream behind the scenes. Seemed reasonable, and we went on to other topics of zero waste discussion.

One of our first major zero waste partners, Bill Worrell of San Luis Obispo County's Integrated Waste Management Authority, who donated our two vessel composters, looked around the county and realized that NONE of the other golf courses had adequate recycle containers. So, Bill Worrell applied for a $220,000 grant from CalRecycle, got the money and is purchasing all new containers for every course in the county. That's 200,000 examples of how simple actions inspire change.

When my two friends and I started our environmental club, our first project was to host the waste management at Morro Bay's 2008 Harbor Festival. We promoted zero waste by sorting out compostables, reusables and  recyclables from the festival waste stream. We constructed ZerO Waste Stations constructing plywood panels into three sided towers which gave us signage opportunities around which to place the various containers. We hosted the stations to offer information and assistance with the festival crowds. Today, almost every major event in the county utilizes similar hosted zero waste stations. A local Eco-Rotary club has adopted zero waste event management as a pillar of their club constitution, and do dozens of events every year since they chartered their club.

Simple actions inspire change.

Every step along the way of developing the ZerO Waste Park at Dairy Creek has been a very easy one. We never really did much, except a little politicing, a little carpentry, a little digging, etc....but the results or our efforts are beginning to show themselves as greater than that which inspired them. It's very satisfying to see that ones simple local actions can really inspire greater change in our global community.