Sea Pines Resort Achieves International Sustainability Standard

Monday 2 November 2015

Sea Pines Waste Processing

The Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, has become the first resort in the area to achieve the coveted global standard for sustainable golf courses, GEO Certified® in recognition for its ongoing commitment to nature, resources and community.

Home to three world-class courses and the site of memorable victories for golf greats such as Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Davis Love III The Sea Pines Resort is famed for hosting South Carolina’s only PGA Tour event The RBC Heritage presented by Boeing. In gaining the GEO Certified® standard the resort has shown its continued commitment to sustainable operations.

GEO Certified®, golf’s international mark of sustainability, recognizes golf facilities that demonstrate a commitment to nature protection and enhancement, resource efficiency and community value. Administered and assured by the not-for-profit GEO (Golf Environment Organization) and independently assessed, the standard has credibility at its core and was developed inline with the codes of practice of the ISEAL Alliance, the international membership organization for credible sustainability standards. These codes of practice are followed by all ISEAL members which includes other revered sustainability standards such as Fairtrade, FSC and the Rainforest Alliance.

During its journey to becoming GEO Certified® Sea Pines Resorts Golf facility has made significant efforts across the broad spectrum of sustainable golf with many successful initiatives in place. One of the areas of particular success at the resort has been a sustainable waste management program.  Eight on-site recycling centers are found across the resort, with electronic information boards communicating the success of recycling at the resort to visitors and staff. The resort’s Welcome Centre operates with zero waste being sent to landfill, and the full lifecycle of products are considered on purchase, for example, take out containers used at the resort are made from recycled plastic bottles and are their selves fully recyclable again after use, producing a closed loop system that eliminates waste. The resort uses vermin culture, recycling, a cardboard baler, dehydrator and other waste diversion methods resulting in the elimination of needing a trash dumpster on site at either clubhouse. The full success of the recycling system is shown in the dramatic increase since its introduction from 90 tones of recycling in 2011 to 425 tones in 2014.

Some of the other initiatives supporting the three core pillars of sustainable golf: nature protection and enhancement; resource efficiency; and providing community value, which were highlighted in the resorts GEO Certified® verification report include:

  • The installation of 95 bird boxes encouraging population expansion of bluebirds and purple martins;
  • Provision of native vegetation for use as a rookery for snowy egrets;
  • Leaving fallen dead trees among woodland to provide micro-habitats and benefit the local ecology;
  • Measures to avoid light pollution to aid the success of sea turtles laying eggs on near by beaches;
  • Sourcing of 100% of irrigation water from treated waste water;
  • Installation of efficient LED lighting  and the addition of motion sensors in appropriate areas;
  • Prioritizing local sourcing with approximately 60% of food at the resort locally sourced;
  • Opportunities for around 200 interns each year, and the largest resort employer on Hilton Head Island with around 250 staff directly employed at the resort;
  • Environmental and sustainability training provided to all staff at the resort;
  • Involvement in community-wide sustainability initiatives including participation in a baseline sustainability assessment of the entire Island to help identify areas for improvement;
  • Hosting community events such as Zero Waste Workshops and Community Walks on the Ocean Course; and
  • Excellent internal and external channels of communication for social and environmental activities including website, press releases, newsletters and bulletins for both staff and the public.

Further to these highlights The Sea Pines Resort has shown positive leadership in both international golf industry and the local Hilton Head Island Community. In 2013 and 2014 the resort collaborated with Experience Green, a local nonprofit organization with the mission to promote sustainability, to host two Sustainability in Golf Symposiums attended by leaders from across the golf industry, and earlier this year Sea Pines Resort was part of a group from Hilton Head Island to be distinguished as a leader in the field of sustainable golf destinations during the launch of the IAGTO Sustainable Destinations Award at the 2016 IAGTO Awards in Tenerife. This new award will have its inaugural year in 2016 and Hilton Head Island was recognized as an example of the strength and benefit of collective action across destinations.

Teresa Wade, independent verifier for GEO Certified said: “The resort team continues to innovate for increasing success that goes beyond decreased resource consumption, but also engages with the community and implements practices that consider future generations.  It is exciting to see how these grass roots efforts are a leading example to help transform an entire community from being not only environmentally sensitive but to being truly sustainable.”

Jonathan Smith, CEO of GEO said: “its great to see the Sea Pines Resort join a growing number of leading American golf facilities in gaining international recognition for their substantial work. across nature, resources and community. It is becoming increasingly important for clubs to take action and to show their positive contribution across these areas through credible distinction, in becoming GEO Certified® Sea Pines Resort have done just that. The drive and ambition that is clearly shown across the team and within the local area has allowed great benefits to already be realised and we look forward to seeing these benefits for the environment, community and business increase as their sustainability programmes continue to grow.”

Tony Wartko, Director of Facility Services for The Sea Pines Resort said: “The OnCourse® Programme and becoming GEO Certified® prompted us to review our processes, but also celebrate successes and identify areas for continued improvement.  It engaged team members from many departments, which was a valued connectivity exercise.”

Bill Miles, president & CEO, Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce said: “As the first eco-planned destination in the U.S., Hilton Head Island has been an environmental model for decades.  The Sea Pines Resort continues that tradition and we’re honored that the resort has been awarded GEO Certified® for its sustainability efforts.”

The full independent verifier GEO Certified® report for The Sea Pines Resort can be found at 


Further Information:

For Media Enquires Please Contact:

Libi Newell, Communications and Community Engagement, Golf Environment Organization Tel: +44 162 0895 100 Email:

About GEO and GEO Certified®

GEO is a stakeholder-funded, not-for-profit organization, dedicated to helping the global golf community establish leadership in environmental enhancement, resource efficiency and community integration and value.

GEO Certified® is golf’s internationally accredited and widely supported eco-label and is a member of ISEAL Alliance, the global assurance body for standards in sustainability.

OnCourse® is a free web-based tool available to golf facilities worldwide, guiding them around the priorities and resources for sustainability in golf, helping them easily and credibly share their efforts and value, and leading to GEO Certified®.

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