Some people read things they know aren’t true and just shake their head, or swear out loud. Others might pick up the phone to call the publication in protest, or dash off an impassioned rebuttal to what appeared in print.
But when Vincent Tracy, CCM, CCE, the General Manager/COO of Town and Country Club (T&CC) in Saint Paul, Minn., read an opinion piece in a local paper that called out country clubs in general, and his club in particular, for not demonstrating enough environmental responsibility, just taking those steps weren’t nearly enough.
“I called the editor and said what they printed simply wasn’t factual, and told him about all we’ve done here at the club— including an aggressive recycling program, Audubon certification of our golf course, and our new [eco-friendly] pool complex and Turf Center,” Tracy says. “But I knew they wouldn’t follow up [to set the record straight], and I was still ticked off. I wanted to find a way to hit a home run to get the real story out there, in a way that couldn’t be ignored or misrepresented.”
Tracy Googled “going green,” and that led him to discover the Green Restaurant Assocation (GRA). Based in Boston, the GRA (www.dinegreen.com) is a national nonprofit organization, formed in 1990, that has the support of major trade associations like the New York State Restaurant Association and Orange County (Calif.) Restaurant Association.
But what really caught Tracy’s eye was that the GRA has a Certified Green Restaurant program—and that no country club had earned the certification. And when he took a closer look at what the standards were for achieving “green restaurant” status, he knew he’d found his way to hit one out of the park, because T&CC was already doing many of those things.
Certification is granted by the GRA based on points earned in seven categories: chemical and pollution reduction; disposables; energy; sustainable food; sustainable furnishings and building materials; waste reduction and recycling; and water efficiency. In the case of T&CC (and any club), credits toward qualifying as a certified-green “restaurant” can come not only from all aspects of dining and foodservice, but from other parts of the property and operation as well, which only adds to the opportunity to pile up needed points.
For example, T&CC earned 10.58 points in Chemical and Pollution Reduction for these initiatives: building located ¼ mile from bus line (0.50); preferred parking for alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles (0.50); no-idling policy (0.50); warewashing products with reduced packaging (3.00); using non-toxic warming gel (2.50); directional lighting in the parking lots (0.75); using cleaning products with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Designed for the Environment (DfE) label (1.83); using Green Seal-certified hand soap (1.00).
Tracy and his staff got busy identifying all of the things they had already done that could earn points, and at the same time started planning changes they could make to earn more. After submitting required documentation to GRA, the T&CC team went into its home-run trot at the end of April this year, when it received the news that the club’s total of 57 point-worthy environmental steps added up to a score of 163.35, earning Town and Country Club the right to be the first club recognized by the GRA as a two-star, Certified Green Restaurant.
“This is a new milestone, for a country club to reach this level of environmental achievement,” said Michael Oshman, CEO and Founder of the GRA, in making the announcement.
But T&CC’s not stopping there. “We’re only 10.5 points away from a three-star certification—and I’m confident we’ll reach that by the end of this summer,” says Tracy.