GreenLinks Success at The Open

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Sustainability Information Board at The Open 2015

Following a week of impressive golf and challenging weather, the 144th Open Championship concluded with Zach Johnson coming through a tantalising play off to become the Champion Golfer of the Year.

Launched for the 2015 Championship, GreenLinks brings The Open’s commitment to host a more sustainable event to the fore.  The Championship organisers, The R&A, understand the impact which hosting a major golfing event can have on the environment, resource use and the local community, and the GreenLinks programme aims to minimise negative impacts while also enhancing the benefits which The Open can bring.

The Open is a major event in the sheer scale of its operations, with 237,000 spectators having attended the Championship this year.  Hosting so many visitors, along with staff, volunteers and not to forget the players, requires substantial planning, preparation and provisions.

Being recognised as a large part of any major event, catering was a key area of the GreenLinks programme.  The Open supported Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink 2015 and signed up to Scotland’s Food and Drink Charter, an eight point agreement through which the organisers committed to providing sustainable, local and healthy food choices throughout the event.

An estimated 10,500 tea bags, 1,000 kg of coffee, 36,000 sugar sticks and 19,000 portions of fish and chips were consumed over the week.  This was, however, a major event with a difference.  As part of the GreenLinks programme, all of that tea, coffee and sugar, along with all hot chocolate and bananas, served at The Open was Fairtrade, the fish was Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified and landed in Scotland.  Additionally, the 12 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables consumed at the event were locally sourced and, in fact, 20 producers supplying the event were from Scotland.

GreenLinks looked at more than just food, with energy use, transportation and waste management all being considered.  Traveling to the event, spectators could make use of a free shuttle service from the local train station, and free bicycle parking which was provided at the venue.  Walking around the course you couldn’t miss the recycling bins, with food waste bins also available in catering areas.  Spectators will have also spotted the keen volunteer litter pickers from the local school, Madras College, working in partnership with Keep Scotland Beautiful.

Another aspect of sustainability at The Open which will not have been missed by anyone lucky enough to attend, or indeed those watching at home, was the beautiful surroundings of the Old Course.  Throughout the year, St Andrews Links Trust staff protect and enhance the natural environment in which they work.  The venue holds golf’s global eco-label, GEO Certified®, which, along with recognising commitment to reducing resource use and providing increased value to the local community, acknowledges work to provide and safeguard important habitat for flora and fauna.  Close to 100 different types of bird have been recorded across the links in the last year, including several of conservation concern such as skylark, linnet and yellowhammer.  Over 100 species of wildflower have also been found across the site.  Working closely with an appointed ecologist and St Andrews Links Trust, The R&A ensures that the sensitive links habitat is protected throughout the event.

Sustainability at The Open is very much about partnership; event contractors, from energy suppliers to caterers, have played a key role in the successful delivery of GreenLinks, along with the host venue and partners such as Keep Scotland Beautiful and GEO (The Golf Environment Organization).  GEO, a not for profit organisation which works with the global golf industry to provide golf with a credible and accessible system of sustainability standards, support programmes, recognition and capacity building activities, has supported the GreenLinks programme at The Open through initial scoping and development, implementation and post-event analysis and evaluation.

GEO has supported sustainability programmes at other golf events such as The Ryder Cup 2014 and continues to provide mentoring for the European Tour’s Green Drive initiative.  Staff with experience from the sustainability teams at the ISO20121 certified London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, ensure GEO brings a great deal of knowledge and expertise in the emerging discipline of sustainable event management.

2015 was the inaugural year of GreenLinks at The Open, and in the true spirit of sustainable development, the programme is here for the long haul.  Successes, limitations and ideas from this year will be taken on board and fed into GreenLinks for The Open 2016 at Royal Troon, and future Championships, to continually grow, enhance and improve the programme and fulfill The Open’s commitment to host a more sustainable event.  2015 at St Andrews has been a promising start and many will look forward to seeing how this flagship golfing event continues to lead by example and build GreenLinks over the coming years.

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