The Grass is Greener: Broken Sound Club

Country clubs have a reputation of extravagance and overindulgence. Broken Sound Club of Boca Raton is changing this perspective through its environmental efforts. John Crean, CEO and general manager, saw opportunities for branding Broken Sound as a conscientious club years before sustainability became the trend it is now.

When Crean joined the leadership of Broken Sound, he saw more than just ensuring the continuation and elevation of the club life. He saw an opportunity to incorporate sustainability and different certifications from Golf Environment Organization (GEO) and Audubon International as part of the club’s branding. What Crean needed to do first was gain the confidence of the membership to get behind his green initiatives.

All things start small. Big ideas that are a lightning field of brilliance usually start with just a spark. Crean started with the most basic of things, a Styrofoam cup in a golf cart.

A recurring issue was that the polystyrene receptacles just ended up where they landed, much less the effect they had on the environment with both their production and decomposition. The first solution was switching to a biodegradable cup with a cozy to keep the drink hot or cold. The logistical complication was that the cup would often get stuck in the cozy inside the cart’s cupholder. The next solution was a separate cozy container that was mounted to the golf cart’s cupholder – the standard of drink service now for Broken Sound members.

This simple idea of sustainability quickly grew as blue recycling bins for cans and plastic were introduced as part of the process of waste disposal, as well as a separate dumpster for cardboard products. 

Crean sees a bigger picture as he looks out on the greens of both the main club golf course and the Old Course at Broken Sound. He sees a system that is a natural sieve of pollutants that gives back clean air and water. “It is Nature’s laboratory for fauna, flora and hydro,” he says. He took notice of all the dead branches and debris that was costing the club over $10,000 a year to clean up. And a compost plant was the answer.

There was a large $350,000 initial cost in purchasing the industrial compost tumbler and setting up the facility, but the membership confidence in Crean’s initiative was strong. By taking the landscape debris and combining it with the organic waste from the club kitchens, the club is able to mitigate their landscaping costs. “We have saved tens of thousands on waste disposal. We also save on pesticides and fertilizers because we can use less, since they naturally bind with the compost,” he shares. 

It is this foresight and diligence in sustainability that has earned Broken Sound Club the GEO Certified award – the first golf club in Florida and only the second in the United States to receive this honor. The club spa building and operations is expected to receive certification for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) with energy-saving motion sensors for lights, sustainable building designs, more efficient light bulbs, and solar panels to help heat the pool and hot water heaters. “We even worked with our document storage vendor, Iron Mountain, to become paperless with all of our invoices to be processed from review to final approval. It doesn’t just reduce waste, but it is also cost effective,” Crean adds.

Broken Sound Club continues to develop and work towards more green initiatives. Crean’s passion to protect the environment carries over into everything he does for the club and its members. He is even in negotiations in both the areas of transportation and water reclamation. Crean closes with this thought, “We can change the way people think and they develop a sense of pride in being part of sustainability. It has more of an impact not just on where you live, but on the global community.” ?

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