Environmental Stewardship

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Environmental Stewardship for Athletic Facilities
Environmental Stewardship for Athletic Fields
Water Conservation
Environmental Initiatives
National USDA Regional IPM Centers
IPM Centers Affiliated with Land-Grant Universities
STMA's Environmental Principles

Environmental Stewardship for Athletic Facilities

As the public becomes more aware of the environmental issues facing the world today, sports facilities are beginning to turn to more environmentally friendly practices. Major sports events use energy, emit greenhouse gases, and produce huge amounts of trash. For example, a single college football game can produce 23 tons of waste. The 2006 Super Bowl in Detroit produced 500 tons of carbon dioxide from transportation and utility usage. The 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens produced half a million tons of carbon dioxide in two weeks. 

About 16 million tons of carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere every 24 hours by human use worldwide, and the United States is the single largest emitter of this greenhouse gas. Although Americans make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, we consume 26 percent of the world’s energy, spending about 440 billion on it annually. Energy consumption is only expected to increase. At this rate, about 30,000 lives are cut short in the U.S each year due to pollution from electricity production. The following explores existing options for sports facilities to become more environmentally conscious. 

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (m)
Water Efficiency (m)
Stormwater Management (m)
Renewable Energy (m)
Carbon Credits, Renewable Energy Credits, and Carbon Offsets (m)
Transportation (m)

Lighting (m)
Heat Islands (m) 
Brownfields (m)
LEED (m)

Environmental Stewardship for Athletic Fields

Organic and IPM Practices for Athletic Fields 

Organic management involves the use of all natural, nonsynthetic substances. Synthetic substances and some materials of natural origin are becoming increasingly restricted or prohibited depending on the active ingredient and geographic location. There are currently no national standards concerning organic management for turf or land care. However, individual states have their own standards or certification programs. For example, the Department of Environmental Conservation in New York on Long Island is working toward a toxic free future. One of the ways is by collecting old, unwanted pesticides and disposing of them properly. Residents are also working to eliminate use of all synthetic pesticides by making completely organic programs on golf courses a requirement. A big push for sports turf managers to convert to organic practices is to limit the use of pesticides in areas where children may be exposed. 

The best way to reduce pest pressure on athletic fields is to establish and maintain a healthy, dense stand of turf. This alone will significantly reduce the amount of pesticides applied to a field. However, if pests do become a problem, the only solution to keep the field alive may be to use a pesticide. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs have provided the most environmentally friendly approach to effectively managing a sports field. Although pesticides are still used, they are applied selectively and responsibly. The following will explore completely organic options as well as effective IPM programs that can be applied to athletic fields across the country. 

Organic Management Practices 

Our best defense against disease, weed or insect infestations is to establish and maintain the healthiest stand of turf possible. Components for a successful organic management program address soil issues, species selection, cultural practices and traffic management.

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Soil Issues (m)
Species Selection (m)
Cultural Practices (m)
Traffic Management (m)
Natural Pesticides (m)

Integrated Pest Management Practices 

Integrated pest management (IPM) is meant to combine all of the available pest management methods to produce the healthiest turf possible. It does not completely eliminate pests, but maintains the population or damage at a tolerable level. This level is called the pest response threshold level and is determined by the amount of pest damage that can be sustained before an unacceptable reduction in turf quality occurs. This varies depending on the site and expectations. For example, an athletic field is going to have lower tolerance for infestations than a home lawn. Pesticides are often a part of an IPM program, but they are selected and applied responsibly to avoid health risks to humans, animals, and other non-target life forms. 

In order to have a successful IPM program, the turfgrass manager must be knowledgeable about turf and pest lifecycles and their responses to cultural and chemical inputs. The practices outlined in the organic management section can significantly reduce pest activity and the need for pesticides and should be followed for the most effective IPM program. These practices include addressing soil issues, selecting the best turf species, utilizing proper cultural practices and managing traffic. Frequent, careful monitoring can determine the identity, location and population of weeds, insects and diseases so they can be controlled before threshold levels are exceeded. Once a problem is diagnosed, corrective action can be taken based on historical data, turf and pest lifecycles, factors favoring pest development, and predetermined pest thresholds. Control options include cultural, biological, genetic, and chemical methods. These options depend on effectiveness of the control procedure, cost of the treatment, size of the area to be treated, availability of labor, availability of equipment necessary to do the job, and reaction of the end user. Finally, actions can be evaluated and recorded for future management decisions. 

IPM programs produce the healthiest turf possible for a given set of growing conditions. It allows for accurate and efficient pest control so pesticide misuse is minimized. This could lead to reduction of costs and pesticide use. Pesticides should only be used when absolutely necessary to maintain turf quality in an IPM program. 

References: Information for this section was taken from University of Illinois – 
Integrated Pest Management for Turfgrass Managers, and Penn State University – Developing an Integrated Turfgrass Pest Management Program 

Additional Resources:
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Pesticides (m)

Natural Grass Athletic Fields
Natural Grass Athletic Fields PowerPoint
University of Connecticut - Best Management Practices for Pesticide-Free, Cool-Season Athletic Fields
University of Georgia -
Pest Management (Weeds, Diseases, and Insects)
University of California - UC IPM
Penn State University - Developing an Integrated Turfgrass Pest Management Program
University of Illinois -
Integrated Pest Management for Turf Managers
Penn State University -
Diagnosing Turfgrass Problems
Iowa State University - Turf Maintenance Schedule, School IPM Program
UMass -
Environmental Protocols The Role of Turfgrasses in Environmental Protection and Their Benefits to Humans
Environmental Sessions featured at STMA Conferences:
2015 - Reducing Your Inputs - TJ Brewer, CSFM
2014 - Preventative, IPM, and Organic Management Systems for Schools and Municipalities – Brad Park
2014 - Managing Sports Fields without Conventional Pesticides – Eric M. Lyons, Ph.D.
2014 - Safe Playing Fields: IPM, Legislation, and the Sports Turf Manager IPM Worksheet -  Rich Watson
2013 - STMA 107 - The Reality of LEED Certified Landscape and Site Management Larry DiVito
2013 - STMA 111 - Strategies for Maintaining Turfgrass in Response to “No Pesticide” Legislation   - Victoria Wallace 
2013 - STMA 215 - Phosphorus - Environmental Issues. - Beth Guertal, Ph.D. 
2013 - STMA 217 – The Elements of Sustainable Sports Facilities: Systematically Applying Your Environmental Plans, Policies, and Practices ; Internal Audit Checklist ; EPA EMS Position Statement  - Kevin A. Fletcher, Ph.D., Jim Sluiter
2013 - STMA 304 - Simple Ideas for Greener Facility Management ; Presentation Handout  - David Han, Ph.D.
2013 - STMA 104 - Zero Pesticide Athletic Turf Maintenance ; PowerPoint Presentation - John A. Halloran, SCPS 

2013 - STMA 307 - Maintaining Sports Fields the Natural Way Brad S. Fresenburg, Ph.D.
2012 - Perceived and Real Environmental Impacts of Phosphorus - Dr. Gwen Stahnke, Dr. Elizabeth Guertal
2012 - A New Era In Sports Turf Management - Kevin Mercer, Jim Sluiter
2012Weed Control Without Synthetic Herbicides - Dr. Douglas Linde
2012 - Environmental and Economic Considerations of Nitrogen Fertilization - Dr. Elizabeth Guertal
2012 - Economic and Environmental Considerations in Today’s Sports Turf Management - Mark Lucas
2011 - Managing Athletic Fields without Traditional Pesticides: Cultural, Organic, and Alternative Pest Management; Article 1; Article 2 - Eric Lyons, Ph.D. 
2011 - Sustainability 101 - Just What is Carbon Sequestration?Mary Owen
2011 - Topdressing with Compost, A More Sustainable and Affordable Alternative  - Marcela Munoz
2011 - Implementing an Environmental Stewardship Program for your Sports Facility  - David Minner, Ph.D.,
Jim Sluiter
2011 -
Reality Bites - What Organic Turf Management Regulations Would Mean  - John Stier, Ph.D
2011 - Benefits of Turf in the Landscape  - Joann Gruttadaurio
2011 - A Campus Moving Towards Sustainability ; John Wicker PowerPoint Presentation - Chris Brindley, John Wicker

Water Conservation

US Drought Monitor

Irrigation Water Quality Evaluation and Management
Managing Turfgrasses During Drought
Irrigating Turf with Effluent/Salt Water

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Field Management During a Drought (m)
Effective Water Use (m)
Best Management Practices to Reduce Stormwater Runoff and Pollution at your Sports Facility
Water Conservation Best Management Practices for Sports Facilities (m)

Water Sessions featured at STMA Conferences:
2013 - STMA 106 - Subsurface Drip Irrigation for Sports Turf  Speaker: Bernd Leinauer, Ph.D.
2013 - STMA 119 - Developing and Implementing Best Management Practices for Sports Field Water Conservation ; BMP Checklist Speakers: Clint Waltz, Ph.D., Kenny Pauley   
2013 - STMA 303 – Water Management to Improve Turf Performance  Speaker: Jack Fry, Ph.D.
2013 - STMA 309 - Optimizing Sprinkler Uniformity with an Irrigation Audit ;  Irrigation Formula Handout Speaker: Jeff Gilbert
2012 - Sports Field Drainage - What Are Your Options? Speaker: Ian Lacy, Institute of Groundsmanship
2012 - Irrigation Water Quality Evaluation and Management Speaker: Dr. Ali Harvandi, University of California
2012 - Managing Turfgrasses During Drought Speaker: Dr. Ali Harivandi, University of California
2011 - Irrigating Turf with Effluent/Salt Water Speaker: Jim McAfee, Ph.D. (also available as a recorded session here)
2011 - Water Reduction 101 - An Audit Competition Speakers: Michael Carr, Gordon Kunkle (also available as a recorded session here)

Environmental Initiatives

National Integrated Pest Management Center Network 

North Central Integrated Pest Management Center 

Northeastern Integrated Pest Management Center 

Southern Integrated Pest Management Center 

Western Integrated Pest Management Center 

IPM Centers affiliated with land-grant universities 


Adopt STMA's Environmental Principles

STMA's Environmental Committee developed a set of environmental principles to help guide the work of sports field managers. The STMA Board of Directors subsequently adopted the principles and recommends that members also adopt them. The Principles are voluntary and are just a guide. Use them as a framework for your environmental stewardship. They are not step-by-step instructions; rather, they represent a philosophy of responsible and sustainable field management.

With increasing scrutiny about water use, field inputs and the heightened promotion to replace natural grass with synthetic fields, adopting your version of these guidelines may help to improve the level of awareness about your environmental performance. Customize them, as appropriate. Then post them and provide them to your communications department for publication. Your field users will better understand your commitment to preserving and protecting the environment. Once adopted, use this opportunity to promote your environmental stewardship by issuing a press release.

To access them for printing a copy, click here.
For a sample news release, click here.

International Resources