Golf Industry's First Carbon Footprint Calculator

With golf mired in a devastated economy, Environmental & Turf Services (ETS) and the Golf Resource Group (GRG) have released a carbon footprint calculator, a tool that calculates a golf course's carbon impact and helps save money.

Released under the name CARBONSAVEŽ, a co-branding effort of ETS and GRG, the basic golf-specific calculations are free and available to any golf course. The calculator - accessed through the website - allows the user to input the course's basic resource data relating to the various everyday uses. This includes such inputs as energy use, fertilizer and pesticide consumption, and fuel used, including gasoline and diesel. Mileage driven by company vehicles is also an option.

"We've developed this Tier-1 screening level [basic and fundamental] tool to give a golf course a quick-and-easy snapshot of its total emissions and an idea of where to focus attention to reduce its footprint," says Dr. Stuart Cohen, president of ETS of Wheaton, Md. "Courses will know right away which parts of their operation emit the most carbon and which parts sequester (store) the most carbon."

Based on national averages, the calculator reports the total net carbon emissions, given in tons, for the entire golf facility. It also calculates the total percentages of emissions attributed to each use, identifying areas of highest priority for reduction and potential cost savings.

Reducing a course's carbon footprint decreases resource use that will also lead to cost savings. The program's research suggests energy use accounts for more than 60 percent of a facility's footprint and is the reason GRG became interested in assisting development of the calculator.

"When Dr. Cohen first approached us with the idea, I knew right away this was something we needed to be involved with," says Andy Staples, a golf course architect and president of GRG, headquartered in Phoenix. "It's easy to say you want to reduce your footprint, but knowing how to actually do it takes some knowledge and experience."

A leader in the energy arena since 2004, GRG feels the easiest way to reduce a course's carbon footprint is in energy reduction. GRG has worked with more than 100 courses in California, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Arkansas, Nebraska and Massachusetts and understands exactly where to look to reduce energy use. Measures to trim emissions can range from simple do-it-yourself conservation efforts to sophisticated measures where an outside consultant is engaged.

The calculator also addresses carbon sequestration, using inputs of the acreages of maintained turfgrass, trees, native grasses and shrubs. These areas are used to calculate a total amount of carbon sequestered via natural causes, and may one day be available for sale on a carbon market. One possible use of this information is the phase-in implementation of recently adopted state legislation such as Assembly Bill 32 in California, for which new cap-and-trade regulations were passed December 16, 2010. Another possibility is incentives by public utilities to reduce overall energy use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We have no idea where the future carbon markets will lead," says Cohen. "But if there is an opportunity for golf to take advantage of selling carbon credits, we want to be right there to help a course take advantage of it."

The future of golf development remains uncertain. However, the fact remains that golf courses will have to continue to find new and innovative ways to be more efficient while saving money. ETS and GRG feel that even though courses are now beginning to turn to more drastic cost-cutting measures such as fewer acreages of turf, less water use and reduced overall inputs to the golf course, these changes can have a positive effect on a course's carbon footprint.

"We see what courses are going through to survive, and want to be part of the solution," Cohen says. "When a course can save money and do what's right for the environment, that's the definition of a win-win situation." To learn more and to download a free copy of the CARBONSAVEŽ Carbon Footprint Calculator for Golf, visit and click to download the calculator.

About ETS

ETS is a high-tech, science-based environmental consulting firm that services the turf industry ( ETS staff have expertise in environmental chemistry, turf agronomy, hydrogeology, hydrology, environmental risk assessment and risk management, geographical information systems, and water-quality monitoring. The 20-year-old firm has done work in approximately 20 states, Canada and China. Its senior scientist, Dr. Stuart Cohen, has given invited lectures throughout the U.S. and in 11 foreign countries on four continents.

About GRG

GRG is the country's leading resource management consulting group to the golf industry ( The firm's owner and principal golf architect, Andy Staples, is an associate member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and has been involved with more than 125 projects throughout the world.