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Home Green is good, especially at the Waste Management Phoenix Open

The Waste Management Phoenix Open is known for its good times and large crowds. Its the highest spectator attended event on the PGA TOUR by a country mile as the only thing that can stop 500,000+ from attending is Mother Nature. From time to time, a few have been known to over indulge at the tournament, which given the masses that migrate annually shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise. Invite a few people over to your house and typically it looks like a war zone after the fun has been had. Consider it on a much grander scale and the daily aftermath could easily be overwhelming. That’s where the tournament sponsor also lends a helping hand with its expertise. Getting wasted can be fun, but few would ever call it a productive exercise! Saturday at the event is typically a “green out,” as the Thunderbirds and Waste Management enlist 100,000+ to deliver the message. “I hear they're putting green on for the Irish fellas,” said Paddy Harrington with a chuckle, “Had they told me before, I would have turned up earlier.” The popular Irishman is making his very first appearance at the event in his career.

All kidding aside, Waste Management is also teaching people that waste not, want not! At last year’s event, more than 97 percent of the waste generated at the TPC Scottsdale was diverted from landfills. So what exactly does that mean? The recycling efforts at the 2012 WMPO tournament meant the conservation of 1,149 mature trees,  394,310 gallons of water, 574,856 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 843 cubic yards of landfill airspace! Not bad for a week long block party that happens to have a golf tournament going on inside of it.

Last year’s event also achieved the highest diversion rate of any major sporting event and the first-ever major sporting event not to use trash receptacles. The program’s reinforces that the Waste Management Phoenix Open is the greatest and “greenest” show on grass. Recycling, composting and alternative fuel efforts avoided 582 metric tons (MTCO2E) of greenhouse gas emissions. Okay that may not be exciting unless your a conservationist or Washington lobbyist, but the fact the tournament generates plenty of fan enthusiasm, an economic impact locally and millions of dollar towards charities, its still pretty cool that it is achieved in a rather responsible way even if simultaneously there are plenty of people hell bent on acting irresponsibly! A little fun fact, when taking into account homes, restaurants, construction sites, schools and all kinds of businesses, the average person generates over four pounds of trash daily. Imagine what they can do when they are in someone else’s backyard and inhibitions are relaxed thanks to a few (okay more than a few) libations! 

This year the goal is to divert 100% of tournament waste away from landfills and into recycling and composting facilities at the 2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open. The initiative is aimed at controlling materials brought into the event and educating vendors and patrons about proper disposal of materials, so that eventually zero waste is sent to the landfill. 

Waste Management is looking to achieve Gold Certification from the Council for Responsible Sport for its efforts at this year’s tournament. “This achievement marks the first certification for a golf tournament and Waste Management hopes to set the standard by which all tournaments are measured,” said Dave Aardsma, chief sales and marketing officer for Waste Management.  

“Considering the phenomenal attendance at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the Zero Waste Challenge is a significant achievement led by the Waste Management sustainability services team and embraced by The Thunderbirds and tournament vendors and patrons,” said Aardsma. “In 2013, Waste Management continues the Zero Waste Challenge and will highlight our sustainability and environmental solutions around the course.”

Its important to point out that while fans are enjoying themselves, they do so responsibly and seem quite happy to comply with the initiative. The challenge is more on education than it is towards participation. Waste Management solicited 1,000 volunteers to be its Recycling Ambassadors at the event. The company even purchased shirts, vests and bibs made from organic cotton, some of which are also comprised of recycled materials, as part of the volunteer uniforms.

Consider it all under the heading of no stone unturned. For example, in an effort to turn waste into a resource, Waste Management will bring all scrap wood used at the tournament to the Maricopa Organics Recycling Facility developed in collaboration with Garick, which will grind the wood scraps into mulch or biofuel supply. Use of greywater, or wastewater generated from the concessionaire’s kitchens, will be recycled for use in portable toilets. Last year this effort conserved thousands of gallons of fresh water. Fans can dispose of their compost and recycling materials more efficiently in 60 Waste Management solar-powered compactors along the course (these machines hold five times the amount of materials as a traditional non-compacting bin, which reduces the number of trips, and therefore, the natural resources needed to service them). That speaks to the activities on the course. But the effort doesn’t end there as four compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks will transport the materials that are collected. The fuel in these trucks burns cleaner than a standard diesel truck, Waste Management said, and therefore will reduce fleet emissions associated with transportation.

Who knew a golf tournament could be so much work? Many times the PGA TOUR and in particular the Waste Management Phoenix Open provide a venue for entertaining customers and enhancing relationships. While that continues to be the case, Waste Management is also proving its relationship with the TOUR and host Thunderbirds isn’t just one dimensional.