PLAYERS organizes a round table on the environment


By Shaun Ryan

When it comes to meeting the challenges of environmental protection, education is “huge,” according to Quinton White, executive director of the Marine Science Research Institute.

And, if education starts with a conversation, a panel discussion organized on Friday March 4 by THE PLAYERS Championship took a step towards this goal.

“Championing Change” was conducted at the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse. Attendees included representatives and advocates from various Northeast Florida industries who are leading efforts for environmental sustainability, resilience, and community inclusion.

White, a professor of biology and marine science at the University of Jacksonville, was joined by Jacksonville’s first resilience officer, Anne Coglianese; Jeff Plotts, Director of Golf Course Operations at TPC Sawgrass and winner of the 2021 Environmental Leaders in Golf Award; Laureen Husband, public policy and community lead for Feeding Northeast Florida; and Neera Shetty, executive vice president of social responsibility and inclusion for the PGA TOUR.

The objective of the discussion was to promote an exchange of information and good practices going beyond current standards. Panel members approached environmental issues from their own professional perspective.

Topics covered include water conservation and clarity, and the related impact on the community.

“To have a strong economy, we have to have a clean environment,” White said. “Nobody wants to come to Jacksonville – nobody wants to come to Sawgrass – if the water is green, if there are dead fish in the lake.”

Plotts described one of the strategies used by TPC Sawgrass to address this concern.

“We use rainwater or reclaimed water to irrigate our golf course,” he said.

He added that turf provides the best water filtration available and that golf courses can actually have a cooling effect on the local community.

Coglianese said Jacksonville is currently doing a vulnerability assessment to determine which areas of the city are prone to flooding and is planning a heat study this summer to determine which areas are hot.

“The goal of the next resilient city strategies is to identify policies, projects and programs that can actually deliver the most benefits,” she said.

Shetty explained why she thinks there has been a change in the perception that protecting the environment impacts profits.

“I think that’s the reality of what people see,” she said. “It’s not something that’s hidden. We see it every day. We feel it every day. We recognize catastrophic weather events that occur.

The husband talked about the benefits of gardening and encouraged attendees to eat at least one vegetarian meal a week. This idea was consistent with White’s assertion that “we can all make a difference if we think about the little things we do”.

“It takes all of us working together,” White said. “We can each individually make a difference, but collectively we make a bigger difference.”


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