Can golf clubs be more green? And I’m not talking about playing surfaces

I’m going to preface this by saying that this post isn’t about actual golf courses. I’m not talking watering practices or fertilizers or run off or chemicals. I don’t know nearly enough about that to put together even a kind-of-educated post.

Instead, I’m talking about things that shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Things like recycling, being a good neighbor and the like.

This post came after seeing a pair of blog posts in the past week on Twitter about Minnesota Valley Country Club  hiring a new chef. Generally I don’t really think much about food offerings at clubs and courses. I’m there first to play golf, second to play golf and third to play golf. Give me cold beer, a few good sandwiches and maybe a couple of good breakfast options and I’m good.

But considering some of where the buzz was coming from about MVCC hiring some guy named Scott Pampuch from Corner Table, it caught my attention. Noted Twin Cities food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl blogged about the move here. I’m going to be honest, I am far from a foodie. But I know that Dara knows her stuff.

I found the following paragraph to be extremely interesting.

Pampuch told me he’s very excited about it because it’s a sustainable, green, friendly place which has been Audubon Certified because of their bird-helping practices. He’ll be shifting all their food, the clubhouse, banquets, and so forth, to his all-local, thoughtful, sustainable model. “I have 40 seats at Corner Table, and to grow, to really help farmers, I’m kind of maxed out,” Pampuch told me. “Between [Minnesota Valley Country Club’s] members, banquets, and events, I’ll be able to serve more local food there in a week than I can do here in a month.”

This is probably where I need to provide a little back story. Prior to taking my current corporate job, I worked as the communications guy for a small liberal arts college. It was a place that was/is ahead of the curve when it comes to urban environmentalism. The school buys wind power. They compost dang near everything possible anywhere food is served on campus. It’s the first place I saw corn-based to-go containers, utensils and cups. I wrote a good bit about the sustainability practices, pitched some stories about it, etc. I was interested enough to read some books such as “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” I’m not one of these super hardcore “dark green” people, but I get the whole buy-local deal and generally look for things like grass-fed beef when I’m going to get a steak for the grill.

So now back to golf. I often play golf in the evenings and finish my round as things are being wrapped up for the night. When I got done playing tonight, I pulled my cart (it was hot and I was trying to get around quick, so don’t judge) into the cart garage area. In there was one of the bag room kids and she was dealing with the garbage. She had three huge clear plastic bags of garbage. What I saw in there bummed me out: Plastic bottles mixed in with used scorecards and styrofoam cups and food wrappers. All I could think was, ‘Why does this have to happen? Do we really need to put plastic bottles and cans into a landfill instead of recycling? Apparently the answer is yes.

I’m not going to judge too much because I don’t think there are enough golf courses that do enough in this area. Like many courses, my club has the two garbage cans attached to the ball washer on each tee. The one has a big hole and the other has a small, round one that says “Cans only.” You know the ones I’m talking about, they are the same Par Aide ones that you see everywhere.

The problem is that we have more plastic bottles than cans. There’s Gatorade and soda bottles. There are water bottles and some beer bottles. I would guess that my club sells more beverages in bottles than in cans. Just outside of our halfway house, there’s a blue recycling bin that is supposed to be for cans. Just the other day, I asked the staffer in the halfway house whether we could put plastic bottles in there as well. She said she didn’t know.

My other question both at my course and at others is whether garbage actually gets separated and whether the cans in the “cans only” side of the garbage actually get recycled. Maybe I’m too much of a cynic, but I sometimes wonder if it doesn’t all end up in the same place.

So far this golf season, I’ve played 14 different courses, I’ve seen one — Brackett’s Crossing CC in Lakeville — that really does the whole garbage vs. recycling well. Right now I wish that I would have taken a picture, but I didn’t. But near each tee, there is a garbage can and attached to the front of it was a smaller container that was clearly labeled for cans and bottles.

All right, that’s probably enough — and I didn’t even get to questions about where food comes from and whether it would be possible for a club/course to compost food waste (it certainly seems like it could be possible). I know it’s not really about golf, but it was a topic that makes me think.

And, frankly, it is something I should probably ask more about at my club.

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One thought on “Can golf clubs be more green? And I’m not talking about playing surfaces

  1. Good post, Jeff — though I disagree emphatically with one point: “She had three huge clear plastic bags of garbage. What I saw in there bummed me out: Plastic bottles mixed in with used scorecards and styrofoam cups and food wrappers. All I could think was, ‘Why does this have to happen? Do we really need to put plastic bottles and cans into a landfill instead of recycling? Apparently the answer is yes.”

    The answer is No. I’m sure other members of your club would agree.

    Perhaps there is some community group in the area that could benefit from the club’s recycling potential. Win/win?

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