Phoenix Open receives recognition for sustainability

A marshal watches over the gallery Thursday on the 16th hole of the 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open. (Special to the Independent/Nick Krueger)

The 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open achieved another first in golf sustainability as it became the first tournament in the world to attain “GEO Certified Tournament” status from Scotland-based GEO Foundation.

To become a “GEO Certified Tournament” the Waste Management Phoenix Open followed principles set out in the newly released “Voluntary Sustainable Golf Tournament Standard” and achieved positive results in six categories, according to a press release.

“The achievement is another proud milestone for our organization and reinforces the Waste Management Phoenix Open as the ‘Greenest Show on Grass,’” Paula Davey, director of sales and marketing at Waste Management, said in a prepared statement.

“Waste Management not only wants to stand out as a leading environmental services provider, but we hope to change how golf tournaments and communities view sustainability everywhere.”

Those categories include planning, site protection, procurement, resource management, access and equity, and community legacy. Sustainability highlights from the tournament include a complete landfill diversion through recycling, composting, donation, reuse and waste-to-energy.

The tournament also uses 63.3 million gallons of water restored to the Colorado River Basin and Verde River through the Waste Management Phoenix Open Water Campaign with Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

There are also 720 MtCO2e of carbon offsets with a strong socio-economic focus purchased, to cover more than double the emissions from tournament operations, player travel and volunteer travel.

The tournament also features Zero Waste Stations aimed to engage attendees by educating and encouraging involvement in sustainability. There is also an annual Waste Management Phoenix Open Sustainability Report with detailed metrics and program explanations.

The tournament also has a venue Environmental Management Plan and commitment to become a fully GEO Certified golf facility. It also has protection of ecologically sensitive areas and minimized impact of temporary structures and heavy machinery through a Site Protection Plan.

The tournament has raised over $10.1 million for local charities through The Thunderbirds and $100,000 for environmental organizations from Green Out Day.

It also aims for local youth engagement and free admission for local police, firefighters, active and retired military personnel.

Tom Carpenter, director of Waste Management’s sustainability services, said achieving GEO Certified helps validate that tournament’s efforts and iniatives.

“Becoming the first tournament to become GEO Certified demonstrates the commitment to sustainability across all Waste Management Phoenix Open operations,” he said in a prepared statement.

The GEO accolade is the culmination of many years of commitment, planning and delivery on the part of Waste Management, the tournament host The Thunderbirds and other tournament sponsors, stakeholders, and vendors to ensure a comprehensive sustainability effort covering all aspects of the tournament, a release states.

Sustainability efforts of the tournament have been validated through in-depth third-party verification, including the Council for Responsible Sport, UL and GEO.

To achieve GEO certification, the venue and organizers must complete a custom-built program for golf tournaments.

This includes document and evidence submission, a third-party verification carried out by the Council for Responsible Sport (the official verification body for GEO Certified Tournaments in North America), a thorough review by GEO and agreement to a range of Continual Improvement Points.

Jonathan Smith, executive director of GEO Foundation, said there is no doubt in his mind the Phoenix Open deserved the recognition.

“If you look at the breadth and depth of what they have done to date, and the social and environmental targets they have set for the future, they are clearly leading in the practical delivery of sustainability in and through golf, as well as inspiring so many others, in golf, in business and in the community,” he said in a prepared statement.

“While there are other tournaments on the PGA Tour, European Tour, and Majors such as The Open stepping strongly into sustainability, it is fair to say the Waste Management Phoenix Open has pushed some boundaries of how sports events can engage fans on environmental issues, and they are raising the bar for where other tournaments aspirations could be set.”

Shelley Villalobos, managing director of the Council for Responsible Sport, said achieving this new status means more than just a new certification.

“It represents the next step in validating the sustainability of golf tournaments and the council is proud to have been part of the collaboration to develop the standard for the certification, and to deliver the verification that enabled this accomplishment,” she said in prepared statement.

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