Tee Off! : Waste Management Phoenix Open
Q&A with Michele Grossman, Managing Principal with
WM’s Sustainability Services
What is your role in organizing the WMPO?
I manage the team that leads the sustainability aspects of the event, as well as initiatives like the Council for
Responsible Sport Gold Certification and UL Environment’s “Zero Waste to Landfill” claim validation. I also
write the annual WMPO Sustainability Report. My team started benchmarking sustainability in 2010; that is,
tracking water use, fuel used for transportation, generators and leaderboards, electricity, waste — everything
you can think of. Each year our goal is to have a more positive impact on the environment and community than
the year before.
What are some of the things WM is doing to green the event?
Since 2010, the WMPO has purchased 100 percent renewable energy from the local utility. So the electric golf
carts run on alternative energy, which helps to reduce our carbon footprint. Since water is so important to this
desert community, we take the water used by caterers for cooking and cleaning and use it again in the portable
toilets. We work closely with everyone who creates signage for the event to ensure it is made of sustainable
materials and can be recycled or composted. We’re also reusing 88 percent of the signs from last year.
Lastly, our Zero Waste Challenge is that all of the waste generated is recycled, composted, or used in
waste-to-energy facilities, and we work with vendors to make sure they understand our goals and only use products
and materials that can be composted or recycled at their end-of-life. Less obvious, but just as important, we follow
ISO20121 standards for sustainable event management and report using the Global Reporting Initiative framework.
What’s something new WM will be doing for the 2014 tournament?
We are very excited to have Zero Waste Stations along the course (pictured above). They’re made out of 40-yarder
dumpsters — the ultimate reuse story! Attendees can ask questions about the Zero Waste Challenge while dropping
off their cans, plates, cups, etc. Local volunteers will separate the waste into recycle or compost bins.
What’s been the most rewarding thing about the tournament?
It is wonderful to work with such a large team toward a common goal: making the WMPO the “Greenest Show on Grass”.
Everyone has their part to play — WM operations, corporate marketing, sustainability services, the Thunderbirds,
sponsors, vendors and exhibitors — and each works so hard to reach the level of success we’ve experienced.
It’s one thing to say, “Let’s have a greywater pilot project” or “Let’s remove all the trash bins,” but making these
initiatives a success requires a tremendous commitment. We have a great team.
Tell us about the award you won for the 2013 WMPO?
Waste & Recycling News created the Rosie Awards to recognize women in the recycling, waste and sustainability
industries who inspire greatness with their leadership, work ethic, vision, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
I am so proud to be a 2013 Rosie Award winner and feel particularly fortunate that WM allows me to follow through
on what others might consider to be whacky ideas. The main recognition was for the Zero Waste Challenge and our
97 percent diversion rate in 2012.
What do you think all employees should know about this event?
The sustainability initiatives we showcase at this event are a differentiator for the WMPO and for Waste Management.
The best practices we learn directly transfer to our customers, and we will work just as tirelessly to increase
sustainability for them, as well as differentiate them from their competitors.