Environmental Management Systems applied to turf

Mary Purcellin Golf

ScarletCup.jpgGolf is a huge industry that is constantly growing and developing. Clubs provide important areas of green space in the community and, in some instances, may be the only green space among urban areas, providing habitat for wildlife, amenity for golfers and buffers between the urban landscape and green space. Many golf courses can boast an array of landscape types within its bounds, from water features to woodlands and open spaces. Golf clubs offer a multitude of functions and important resources.

The theory of an Environmental Management System (EMS) can be applied to any business, be it a multinational corporation or the local golf club. The turf industry can benefit from the EMS system. Basically, an EMS is proof that golf courses are being managed in an environmentally sensitive manner.

The area of turfgrass often finds itself at the centre of the debate on sustainable development. Protecting the environment is becoming an increasingly high priority and legislation in this area is becoming even more stringent.BluebellWood.jpg

The Nitrates Directive* will have a major impact on certain management practices in the industry. In order to survive and prosper, turfgrass managers can anticipate future legislation by putting in place Environmental Management Systems. Adapting environmental practices economically in the turf industry is going to become extremely important as time goes on.

Often unfair criticism is placed upon the turf industry, and associated practices, by people outside the industry. Overcoming this stigma and ensuring the public know that the industry has the environment high on the list of priorities can be a persuasive argument. Golf courses can demonstrate in a credible manner to the locality, and the public authorities, that it is an environmentally responsible activity.

What is an Environmental Management System?

An Environmental Management System is a system of processes. It is not a set of goals or performance standards to be achieved, although it includes processes for setting performance goals. The EMS is a systematic process for implementing a business's environmental policy. It is a continuous cycle of planning, implementing, reviewing and improving the processes and actions that an organisation undertakes to meet its business and environmental goals.

EMS is defined by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) as "the part of the overall management system that includes organisational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, reviewing and maintaining the environmental policy".

This seems a bit 'wordy' but, simply put, an EMS can be built on the ethos of 'Plan - Do - Check - Act'. It could be defined as the statement by the business regarding its intentions and principles in relation to its overall environmental performance, which includes a framework for actions and environmental aims.
When implemented, an EMS has the potential to move a facility beyond compliance with environmental regulations, toward a dynamic, continual process of operational and organisational redesign, with the objective of continually reducing the facility's adverse impacts on the environment. An EMS can be applied to a single site (for example a golf course), to a division that operates at many sites, or to a company as a whole.

What does an EMS do for a course?

As mentioned above, the EMS can be built on the ethos of 'Plan - Do - Check - Act'. This leads to continual improvement based upon:

• Planning, including identifying environmental aspects and establishing goals on the course.
• Implementing, including training and operational controls.
• Checking, including monitoring and corrective action.
• Reviewing, including progress reviews and acting to make required changes to the system.

Environmental Management Systems can also help to:

• Improve environmental performance.
• Prevent pollution and conserve resources.
• Reduce/mitigate risks.
• Increase efficiency and reduce costs.
• Enhance image with the public.MaryPurcell.jpg
• Maintain good community relations.

So, in conclusion, environmental and social pressures are having an increasingly strong bearing on the securing of planning permission for the development of new courses and also on the economic performance of the golf sector. Put simply, the relationship between the environment, the golf industry, the public and the public authorities depends, to a large degree, on the attention given to environmental detail shown during the entire life cycle of a course - planning, design, construction, renovation and, of course, the day-to-day and long term management of the facility.

Sure enough, all this sounds rosey in theory and, of course, actually developing and implementing an EMS may take some time (out of an already busy schedule) and may require capital investment (from an already stretched budget). But, by deciding to implement an EMS on the course and taking small, simple steps adapted to suit both time and budget, any course can eventually create an EMS to be proud of, helping to improve conservation of materials and energy and improve cost control.

*Further details at www.defra.gov.uk

About the Author: Mary Purcell is carrying out research for a doctorate degree in Environmental Science at University College Dublin in the School of Architecture, Landscape and Civil Engineering. For more information contact Mary at mary.purcell@ucd.ie

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