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How to be an environmental steward at your sports facility

Spring celebrates Earth Day and encourages people to reevaluate their environmental footprint. Here are some tips on how you can improve your conservation efforts and help the environment at your local park, in your own backyard, or at a sports and recreation facility. 


Do

Do support native plants

Native plants require fewer inputs such as water, chemicals and labor due to adaptation to local pest pressure and climate. Consider converting low-use zones into natural areas with native vegetation. This reduces maintenance costs associated with mowing and fertilization as well as conserves water. Reevaluate current landscaped spaces to incorporate native plants. Small changes may cut facility costs and benefit the environment while still maintaining aesthetic appeal. 

Do support native wildlife

Bees, birds, hummingbirds, butterflies and bats are responsible for pollinating 80 percent of the world’s food crops. Support these important pollinators with wildlife and pollinator gardens. Wildlife specific plantings can encourage occupation by a variety of birds and insects. Habitat can be created with supplemental baths, structures or nest boxes. Nectar bearing plants also promote occupation and support pollinator populations. 

Do consider a composting program at your sports facility

Compost is an organic matter resource that can improve the physical, chemical and biologicalcharacteristics of soils for turfgrass and landscaped areas. Raw materials that can be used for compost include coffee grounds, animal manure, leaves, grass clippings and yard waste, wood chips and sawdust, clean paper, cardboard, shredded newspaper and certain types of food. Composting cuts down on the waste entering landfills and creates nutrient rich media that supplies nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to soil areas. 

Do promote recycling initiatives

Sports facilities are huge creators of waste. Recycling is beneficial to the environment by reducing the need for landfilling and incineration, preventing pollution, saving energy, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving natural resources, helping the economy and sustaining the environment. Target areas for recycling initiatives at a sports venue include concession stands, parking lots and tailgating areas, stadium bleachers, restrooms and so on. Placing collection bags and bins in these areas and promoting use can significantly reduce bottles, cans, cardboard and other waste entering landfills. 

Do get a soil test

A soil test provides an overview of the nutrients present in the soil. It also provides recommendations on the nutrients and amounts needed to supplement the soil to improve overall health. A soil test report helps prevent overapplication of nutrients and unnecessary application of nutrients, thereby saving the consumer money and benefiting the environment. 


Don't

Do not rely on pesticides as your number one solution for pest problems

Pesticides should be used as a last resort. Develop an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to address issues in an environmentally and economically-sensitive manner. IPM programs identify weed, insect, and disease pests then use current, comprehensive information on pest life cycles and their interaction with the environment. This information – in combination with cultural, biological, and chemical pest control methods – aids in managing pests by the most economical means and with the least possible hazard to people, property and the environment. 

Do not water impermeable surfaces

Broken sprinkler heads, incorrect rotation or placement of sprinkler heads, and operator error lead to substantial waste when water is applied to impermeable surfaces such as sidewalks, roads or parking lots. Conduct an irrigation audit to ensure the system is working correctly and reduce wasted water. The audit will reveal broken sprinkler heads, leaky pipes, incorrect sprinkler head rotation and uniformity of water distribution. 

Do not eliminate natural areas

Not all areas of your park or sports facility need to be manicured turfgrass. Support wetlands, grassy meadows and wooded areas. Natural areas reduce the total acreage that must be maintained, eliminating the need for weekly mowing and reducing water usage. As a result, overall operating costs are reduced and valuable resources are conserved. 

Do not turn the water on during a drought

Turfgrass is resilient. If you don’t have an irrigation system, you are facing water restrictions or a water ban, only water the high priority turfgrass areas, such as game fields. In drought conditions, turfgrass goes dormant. With the onset of cooler temperatures and rainfall, turfgrass will recover as long as traffic is limited. 

Do not allow stormwater runoff to go unchecked

Stormwater runoff is generated from excessive irrigation, rainfall or snowmelt that flows over land or impervious surfaces and does not infiltrate into the ground. As runoff flows over land and impermeable surfaces, it can accumulate debris, chemicals, sediment and other pollutants that can negatively affect water quality (if left untreated). Implement “best management practices” to control stormwater discharge. Effective management of stormwater runoff results in protection of wetlands and aquatic ecosystems, improved quality of receiving water bodies, conservation of water resources, flood control and protection of public health. 


Summary
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There are many things you can do to benefit the environment in addition to the tips provided. Take action and research the different ways you can conserve water, reduce pollution, decrease energy consumption and conserve natural resources. 


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Photo Credits: 3v3 Summer Splash by tlc via Flickr; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Kristen AlthouseEducation Manager

Kristen Althouse is the Education Manager for the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA). A Penn State graduate with a B.S. in Turfgrass Science and an M.Ed. in Agricultural and Extension Education, Kristen focuses on the educational needs of t...

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