Feature Article - April 2015
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Going Green

Small Steps Make a Big Difference

By Deborah L. Vence

The smallest things can make the biggest difference.

And, the same idea can be applied by recreation managers looking to make their new and older facilities greener, which can make a big difference in the end—to the environment and the bottom line.

"All existing facilities are challenged by the original building design. The focus here would be on ways to cut energy (maximizing use of light occupancy sensors/daylight) and water use (low flow fixtures)," said Troy Sherrard, AIA, partner, Student Focused Studio, Moody Nolan, an architectural firm based in Columbus, Ohio. "If you have a pool environment we have found that regenerative filters have been a tremendous sustainable strategy to reduce both water and energy use."

While there are many factors to consider, "One of the considerations that is important is not to assume that your attempts to be green stop at your building walls," either, said Rich Dolesh, vice president of conservation and parks, National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). "There are a whole lot of things in maintenance of grounds and creation of a sustainable site."

In fact, he noted the efforts of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, an interdisciplinary partnership led by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden to transform land development and management practices with the nation's first voluntary rating system for sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings.

The initiative is a program based on the understanding that land is a crucial component of the built environment and can be planned, designed, developed and maintained to protect and enhance the benefits we derive from healthy functioning landscapes. The SITES program offers a systematic, comprehensive rating system designed to define sustainable sites, measure their performance and elevate the value of landscapes.

"They've created metrics and performance standards," Dolesh said.

In this issue, recreation experts discuss how facilities can become more environmentally friendly, as well as which specific areas managers should focus on the most, without breaking the bank.

Back to Basics

Making recreation facilities greener doesn't have to be complicated or costly. In fact, many of the steps you can take to implement changes are rather basic.

"You can scan items and e-mail them vs. using a fax. There's [about] 16 million faxes [sent out] a year, which equals about 2 million trees. So, it's easy to get away from the fax. You can recycle toner cartridges, keeping toners out of the landfill; use 100 percent recycled paper (No. 3); double-sided default printer, and doesn't cost anything to do that. You want to make sure that with the HVAC, the heating and cooling is on a proper schedule and set back for unoccupied hours," said Ted Mattingly, director of facilities and administrative services for the NRPA.

Making recreation facilities greener doesn't have to be complicated or costly. In fact, many of the steps you can take to implement changes are rather basic.

"So, you want to raise the temperature for cooling and lower it for heating when people aren't there. You also want to make sure you aren't running equipment [all the time]—turn off coffee machines, turn off printers, copiers, anything that has standby power. About 15 percent of an annual energy bill is pulled from plug load," Mattingly said. "If everything plugs in on a power strip, make sure you can kill the whole power strip, then no power is being used. Make sure you turn your lights off, real easy to do."