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Phoenix Open earns golf sustainability certification, calls itself 'zero waste' event

By Phil Latzman
Published: Friday, February 9, 2024 - 11:54am
Updated: Monday, March 11, 2024 - 11:51am

Golfer holding club
Joseph Eigo/Cronkite News
Ricky Fowler on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, Thursday at the WM Phoenix Open in Scottsdale.

The WM Phoenix Open is underway at the TPC Scottsdale, where as many as 200,000 fans will pack the course each day until Sunday’s final round.

The “Greatest Show on Grass” as it’s known is also billing itself as one of the most sustainable events in sports, calling it “zero waste.”

Eric Dixon is VP of sustainability for WM, short for the company formerly known as Waste Management, which has been title sponsor of the event for more than a decade.

“I will tell you that when we first started on this journey and said we were going to make this a zero-waste event, several of us looked at each other and said, this might be kind of a crazy idea, how are we going to do this?” Dixon said.

It took years for the tournament to achieve that goal and, according to Dixon, officials spend over eight months a year planning for 100% diversion with no residual byproduct left behind.

“You’re thinking months in advance to what’s actually coming on course, so we can ensure that literally everything here can be reused in some way, maybe its donated, can be recycled, it’s composted, or potentially even converted in to a fuel or energy source on the back end.”

The tournament has received the GEO Foundation’s certification for sustainability in golf. The non-profit organization is based in Scotland and is headed by Jonathan Smith.

“We don’t look beyond the very, very hard challenges of things like water use and pollution prevention, you really have to drill down on them. But the net positive that golf can bring if we get it all together is good and important,” Smith said.

But watering “the Greatest Show on Grass” during a Western mega-drought has been a challenge.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources says golf courses in the state account for at least 3% of all water usage. An investigation by the Arizona Republic in 2022 found that as many as half all courses in the state have regularly exceeded their water allotments in recent years.

Smith said it’s a work in progress.

“It’s still a challenge. It’s still something that is going to have to be worked hard on over the years ahead. But what we see is golf looking at it holistically and also very granularly, and I think that’s vital that no source go unturned when it comes to water resource management.”

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