Phoenix Open sets zero waste standard for athletic events — not just golf

According to Janette Micelli, external/corporate communications manager for the Waste Management open, a team of over 300 help transport and organize trash ensuring a “zero waste” tournament. (Photo by Tyler Rittenhouse/Cronkite News)

The 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale combined one of the biggest golf tournaments in Arizona and one of the most sustainable events in the nation to create an entertaining and eco-friendly event for thousands of people.

The golf tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona, became the most sustainable sports event in the world because and its sponsor wants others to follow its lead.

Last year marked the 83rd annual tournament, making it one of the five longest established events on the PGA Tour.

The event is a trendsetter in sustainability, and the rest of the golf world has taken notice.

In 2018, the Professional Golfers Association of America recognized the need to discuss the industry’s sustainability efforts and released a comprehensive report: “The PGA and Its Members: Bringing Energy to the Game.” Within it, the organization, which is not affiliated with the PGA Tour, reviews its sustainability materiality assessment to determine the topics that are important to the association and its stakeholders.

The organization joined the Green Sport Alliance soon after. The alliance promotes healthy communities by incorporating influences of sports and brings venue operators, sports personnel and environmental scientists to discuss environmental solutions.

To remain in the forefront of sustainability efforts, the Phoenix Open brings in third parties to evaluate the practices the tournament implements.

The Council for Responsible Sports has certified the tournament several times, judging the organizers’ methods meet the standards for social and environmental responsibility. In 2018, tournament organizers obtained their second Golf Environment Organization (GEO) certification. GEO certification requires a course to send in a request for an evaluation by GEO. GEO analyzes the course and the sustainable efforts being made, and makes the decision as to whether or not the course is sustainable. The event is the first PGA Tour tournament to achieve both certifications, and it is the largest event ever, in terms of attendees, to achieve this level of recognition.

“They partner with a lot of local organizations,” said Jonathan Smith, the founder and executive director of the GEO foundation. “They support good causes; they leave legacies. So after the final putt is holed, there are still social and environmental activities going on that the Waste Management Phoenix Open has left behind for the other 51 weeks of the year.”

The tournament organizers’ efforts are felt beyond surrounding communities.

The tournament’s renewable energy practices have prevented 844 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, MtCO2e, from entering the environment. That is equivalent to removing 181 cars from the road for one year or recycling an additional 294 tons of waste.

As for water conservation, the Phoenix Open qualifies as a water positive event — meaning water is used resourcefully by limiting pressure on the municipal water supply in Scottsdale. For example, the hand-washing stations use hand sanitizers instead of water. And, in 2018, Waste Management captured an estimated 6,353 gallons of gray water. Over the past seven years, approximately 37,787 gallons of water from cooking and cleaning have been reused.

In addition, Waste Management launched the Zero Waste Challenge in 2012 to better control materials from the event and to educate attendees on the impact such behaviors and practices can have. Since 2010, only recycle and compost bins have been placed around the course. Each year, the tournament takes pride in diverting all waste from landfills. Below is a diagram showing the waste diversion during the past four years from the tournament.

Logan Huff is a junior journalism student at Arizona State University. 

Related Articles:

Waste Management Phoenix Open Achieves Zero Waste for Second Year

Sports leagues pushing for greater sustainability

When a golf course is built on special land, do the economic benefits outweigh the environmental impact?