GreenGrounds for the green future we need

. minute read

Great strides have been made in making sustainability in grounds an accepted part of the landscape for the industry and it’s easy to see the progress that’s been made in the last decade with the introduction of the FA’s sustainability strategy and the Green League. But there is still a way to go, which is where a new GreenGrounds initiative joins in.

The initiative, which is a partnership between machinery distributor Reesink Turfcare and Bio-Circle, the sustainable surface technology system manufacturer, was formed to solve the problem of a general misunderstanding that surrounds starting an achievable and effective sustainability project.

Here we talk to Mark Tomlinson, head of environmental and sustainable stadia projects for Bio-Circle, and founder of the GRASS (Groundcare Resources and Sustainability Solutions) forum for sharing sustainable practices, to learn more about GreenGrounds and how it plans to promote environmental awareness within the turf and groundscare industries. How it brings the industries together, raise the importance of effective sustainable activities, make an overall positive impact towards decarbonisation and environmentally-friendly maintenance for groundscare.

The good news is it’s not as complicated – or as difficult – as you might think.

What is GreenGrounds?

GreenGrounds is an initiative that aims to promote environmental awareness of sustainability solutions within the turf and groundscare industries, to form a collective approach and is committed to helping the industry with free advice and knowledge and creative and practical solutions to professionals ready to make a difference.

As the groundscare division for Bio-Circle grows, it’s become a daily occurrence for me to be asked how to start a sustainability project, which is where the seed for GreenGrounds comes from. We know there is an interest and enthusiasm to start making change.

Why is such an initiative needed?

Sustainability and biodiversity are here to stay and rightly so. Climate change is at a crucial point – it’s the sweet spot when we have the power to make change and make a difference for the future. If we leave it much longer, we won’t have a choice to make. Any change no matter how small, from all industries is needed. This is our contribution for the groundscare industry.

What are the barriers to adoption?

There’s no consensus on what effective sustainable measures are, and clubs and businesses do not follow the same sustainability guidelines; quite often it’s activity that just ticks a box, done with a lack of general knowledge which means opportunities are missed. That means there’s no accountability and instead confusion in the market.

In a worst-case scenario, it can lead to ‘greenwashing’, when the growing pressure to ‘get green’ means that without the correct knowledge, businesses who are desperate to show their values align with environmental issues, inadvertently provide misinformation to falsely present themselves as environmentally friendly.

How did the relationship with Reesink come about?

Bio-Circle and Reesink are two forward thinking organisations keen to encourage turf professionals to focus on their sustainable responsibilities. We work in and with nature and have an invested interest in its longevity and future, and we feel it logically falls to us to lead the way to promote sound environmental practices.

The lack of general information is astonishing and if not led by organisations within, then who?

The great beauty of this sector is the ability to network with likeminded leaders and manufacturers who share the same beliefs. Enter Reesink and the idea for GreenGrounds.

What’s the solution?

Straight forward advice, knowledge, time and support are key. Bio-Circle has been promoting best practices for six years and part of this over the last 12 months has been via GRASS (, so I have some experience in driving innovative programmes promoting sustainability. And I’ve found that the best way is by encouraging professionals to implement environmental and sustainable changes within their daily job.

No project or change is difficult. GreenGrounds ultimately focuses on making this extremely easy, removing the barriers or the fear.

What areas of turf and groundscare can be more sustainable?

There are all sorts – biodiversity guidance, water recycling options, solar energy, electric machinery, air systems, organic pitches, water-saving washdown systems, no cable irrigation and Bluetooth technology, advances in turf agent applications, effective reservoir management… the list is considerable.

Can you put some of those examples into context?

Okay, let’s look at water-saving washdown systems. 40ltrs of water per minute is the average used in a high-pressure wash system. If that water is not recycled, it’s lost. The question is why is this practice still implemented daily? The answer is habit.

The technological changes in washdown systems have developed almost as fast as battery powered equipment but with slightly less fanfare. At Bio-Circle we have developed a system that incorporates air and water feed that reduces water usage to 400ml per minute. That’s only 0.1 percent of traditional washdown use. A major advancement in washdown processes and at the same time demonstrating environmental awareness with less water usage and maintaining equipment without the heavy water and pressure damage.

It’s surprising how much technology can help when it comes to sustainability. Some people may assume that being more sustainable means using less technology or reverting to a more holistic or simple approach, but that’s certainly not always the case.

What are the quick fixes to make groundscare more sustainable?

Plan a project. Write a priority list. Plant a wild seed mix on some open land. Any of those are a great start to the journey and an easy five-minute job. It can be that simple. Plan equipment upgrades. It may take two or three years of budget to achieve this, but the key is you have a plan.

Stanley Park Sports Ground in Wiltshire is a success story. Paul Harvey, head of leisure services, began his sustainability journey three years ago. Over a cup of coffee, he quizzed me on my knowledge, listened and said, “how can I do this?”. Paul wrote a simple plan and now, the site has battery equipment, organic pitches, solar panels, recyclable water washdown, wild meadows, beehives, and engaged with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust in a tree planting programme. All done on a budget and ‘cost neutral’ with good planning and budget management.

When Mark approached us with the idea for GreenGrounds, we could straight away see the gap for such an initiative and the value it would bring to the industry. We’re always looking at the bigger picture and with our portfolio of products becoming more focused on sustainability and environmentally-friendly alternatives, that’s where our focus is directed.

Jon Cole Divisional Business Manager, Reesink Turfcare

Case study  Forest Green Rovers Football Club

o   Forest Green Rovers Football Club is the first UN Carbon Neutral Football Club in the world. Its continued process of improvement within the football and sporting industry has demonstrated what can be achieved and becomes the benchmark for clubs and sporting locations around the world to follow.

o   It’s the leading football club in the UK to drive sustainable practices within its infrastructure and with pitch and groundscare environmental maintenance.

o   Its sustainability features include maintaining the first professional fully organic pitch, creating a biodiversity area within the stadium facilities, 20 percent of its annual electric needs are provided by solar panels on the stands, LED scoreboard powered by the sun and welcoming the industry’s first all-electric tractor from Farmtrac.

o   Bio-Circle has partnered Forest Green Rovers Football Club for five years and with the club’s support have demonstrated how sustainable practices of equipment maintenance cleaning, washdown water reductions and recycling equipment can be incorporated into a sustainability plan/project and how smaller projects combine to show how important each element is to a full environmental project.

What happens if we just ignore the environmental impact of groundscare?

The distant future of an Earth beset by floods, droughts, wildfires and typhoons isn’t distant anymore, but happening now and it will get worse. Reports say that by 2030 temperatures will have risen to 1.5ºC above the average of the pre-industrial era — the threshold long cited as the tipping point for calamity. To continue as we are means we will fail the future generations; it’s as simple as that.

What are the main turfcare practices throughout the year that could be done better and how?

Firstly, a priority plan needs to be implemented, easy low-hanging-fruit changes. Nothing can be achieved without a plan. Make the project easy so it works to your advantage. The last thing anyone needs is a complicated, time-consuming plan, it’s not there to hinder you or make your life difficult, but to help you succeed.

What do you think holds people back from adopting a full sustainability policy?

A lack of knowledge… help, assistance, and an arm around a shoulder to encourage. It’s not about a commercial sale. We all need to give something back to this wonderful industry.

In your view, what will it take for GreenGrounds to succeed, or even the industry as a whole?

Acceptance that this is an issue that needs dealing with. Buy-in from all and a changing of perceptions. Can we reach football fans with the message that the turf is an environmental asset not just a playing surface. 7 million people attended football games in the UK alone in the 2022-23 season. This broke all records and is a huge audience with an invested interest in their club. The attention of the GreenGrounds project to an audience of this size is mind blowing!

Reesink and Bio-Circle have come together to accept our environmental and sustainable responsibilities. No greenwashing but acceptance to help the future of the industry. Key communication and good practical advice. But leading organisations must join and support our focus. No individual will succeed, this is a concerted industry effort. We are proud to be the first to stand up and say we will help everyone; no facility is too big or too small to implement change. Let’s all accept this is a journey we’re all in together.

For years, Reesink UK has demonstrated its long-term commitment to the development of the industry, working with Associations, founding awards, furthering the careers of the best greenkeeping talent in the country, sponsoring young talent working in groundscare, encouraging school leavers into the industry and sponsoring awards to recognise excellence in the landscaping and agriculture sectors. Our involvement with GreenGrounds is a similar mindset – these activities help safeguard the future of the industry and that is so important to us.

It’s important to Reesink that we focus on providing sustainable, environmentally friendly machinery alternatives that reduce our customer’s carbon footprint and do not compromise on the quality of the work. Our current offering includes products powered by biodiesel and advanced batteries made more efficient by incorporating electronic fuel injection, hybrid and electric technologies.

Jon Cole Divisional Business Manager, Reesink Turfcare