Driving for net zero

Hardelot Les Dunes

“To be net zero, to be beyond net zero? It’s not an easy topic. I think it’s really doable: action by action we’ll make that happen. Hopefully golf will be looked back on as the sport that did the most when the planet needed it the most.”

When GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf executive director Jonathan Smith kicked off the 150-minute virtual session during COP26 in Glasgow with this statement it was time, finally, for golf and the wider world to listen to the predicament facing our Earth in years to come.

Speakers at the event – including twice major champion Suzann Pettersen, the UN’s Sam Barratt, IOC’s Julie Duffus and Richard Holland from the World Wildlife Fund – concluded that by each of us taking baby steps to improve our carbon footprint, we might just achieve net zero by 2040.

With sporting organisations signing up to the UN’s Sports for Climate Action initiative increasing from 17 in 2018 to 300 in 2021 – the framework’s primary goals are to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2040 – there has clearly been progress.

Golf courses around the globe were on hand to show what sort of steps are being taken.

At 2019 Women’s British Open host course Woburn all clubhouse lighting has been changed to LED while they’ve reduced potable water by constructing a reservoir.

On the other side of the planet – Remuera Golf Club in Auckland – carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by nearly 25 tonnes from 2018-19 including cutting all electricity use.

At Hirsala Golf in Finland, more than 25% of previously highly maintained areas have been turned into heavy rough and meadows, renewable diesel is now used in machines and by 2022 they aim to have 40 robotic mowers, cutting 1,000 litres of diesel fuel, with solar panels planned for the clubhouse.

Infinitum in Spain have saved 71 tonnes of CO2 by installing solar panels while Golf de Payerne in Switzerland saved 1,080 tonnes with a similar approach.

A simple change like mowing patterns can make a huge difference and at Golfclub Anderstein in the Netherlands they have reduced mowing time by 15% – saving nearly 600 litres of diesel a year.

South Korea’s Haesley Nine Bridges has designed an innovative clubhouse which seeks to maximise natural ventilation and lighting, reducing energy output.

Norwegian Pettersen spoke of her family’s efforts to go green, from biothermal heating to electric cars and recycling, before the world’s largest zero waste event – the Waste Management Phoenix Open – provided a wonderful example which other tournaments like the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on the LPGA Tour, the Big Green Egg Open on the Ladies European Tour and Women’s Scottish Open – where they undertook a beach clean – have followed.

“We rip open every bag and make sure all the waste is going to its best next use,” said WM managing principal Lee Spivak, adding there will be a huge sign at next year’s tournament inspiring people about how they can use their waste at home positively.

Watch the full event: