Green Pathways: A Course Owner's Ecological Journey to Make Her Club Net Zero


By Pamela Dreyfuss, Owner, La Cañada Flintridge Country Club (CA) 

Propelled by a sense of urgency driven by the climate crisis, my husband, Randy, and I started to explore how we could reduce our golf course and facility's carbon contribution to climate change.

Wouldn’t it be great to contribute to the solutions, instead of being a part of the problem? Our answer was a big, happy, “yes!”

But how to reduce our carbon emissions at the club?  What’s the quickest change we can make? What has the most impact? How much carbon are we responsible for anyway? It’s all so confusing!

I needed help, but even finding the right kind of help seemed daunting. Looking for a sustainability expert, I searched online but didn’t know which consulting companies were reputable and which were greenwashing machines (deceptive practices to appear “green”). Meanwhile, we proceeded on our own to get very complex solar bids and encounter challenging issues with installation. Both the expense and the consequences of not acting are and were high.

I worked up my courage and made the decision to call Dan Brotman, an impressive local environmental leader. Help at last. I had met him only once at the La Kretz Innovation Campus in Los Angeles (a very cool place to tour, if you have a chance), it’s home to Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) and a hub for innovators around the globe. When I had visited La Kretz, I walked around the campus, awed and inspired by what the various startups were attempting to do. I was groping around at the point, trying to find my way to something that would be feasible, reduce our still unknown carbon contribution, and would be within our budget.

Dan listened carefully as I explained my struggle to find a starting point for our golf business. I told him about our solar bids and how complicated it seemed (at that point, I was curious about something called community solar — a community solar collective of sorts). He pointed me to Ted Flanigan’s “sustainable solutions” Ecomotion consultancy. 

Finally, we’ve landed on the right path! The Green Pathway. That stroke of luck was way back in October, in the middle of the “damnpemic” as I call it.

We are now working with Ecomotion, and actively implementing and investing in strategies and technologies, such as solar panels, to replace the use of electricity powered by extracted carbon fuels. And we finally know how much CO2 we’re emitting: 174.19 metric tons on site and 638.61 off site (banquet and employee travel estimated at 20,616 gallons of gasoline, or 638.61 tons of carbon)! The average American family emits about 24 tons a year – so the club’s emissions are equivalent to 41 American families’ worth of carbon. Ouch. Our goal is to drawdown to net-zero.

And yet, when we reach our goal of net-zero, good for us, but so what? It won’t be enough. Not nearly enough.

Scientists agree that this personal approach, even on a large scale is not nearly enough to counter the effects of climate change. Climate scientists are working against the clock developing carbon-capture models, and governments are working on land-use policies, legislation, and accords. First Nation activists are jeopardizing their lives by blocking oil pipelines in Minnesota and elsewhere. All to stop future carbon emissions and stop the ongoing violations of indigenous rights and land.

What to do? What can be done? What can be done now to capture carbon? What can WE do to capture carbon?

One seemingly possible idea  – use nature's brilliance!

In the forest of carbon sequestration ideas, there stands a beautifully simple, tall, hopeful, green idea: Trees. Those lovely, swaying, shading, ancient, fragrant, life-enhancing trees are also nature’s carbon capture specialists, sequestering carbon for many years. 500 billion trees! Using data from the Crowther Lab – “inspired by nature and driven by science,” — and published in the Journal Science – which recommends planting 500 billion trees worldwide as a carbon sink solution, the idea has taken off. Or, rather, the idea has been firmly planted!

Planting trees, here, there, and everywhere is an initiative backed by science, Google, the United Nations World Economic Forum, Presidents, world leaders, and the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Plant for the Planet, Billion Tree Campaign... and all are invited to participate.

We are using “out of play” areas of the club’s golf course to Plant for the Planet. We’ve joined the United Nation’s Plant for the Planet Trillion Trees Campaign to register our progress and be counted in the effort. As stewards of approximately 113 acres of mostly wide-open land, otherwise known as our golf course, we’d like to be a small part of this beautiful solution. By joining this global initiative, our goal is to plant up to 300 new trees here and hundreds more around the world, inspire others to plant trees, and to join reforestation projects all over the globe... but we need friends and neighbors and other businesses to help power the effort. 

What about cost? 

The costs of de-carbonization are challenging for a small business. Our new LED tennis court light replacements were $50,000. And that’s just the beginning. Our solar panel installation may run close to two million dollars. Thankfully, there are investment tax credits (ITC) at 26% and government programs (PACE financing) which help finance the costs at low rates. Our loan payments will be about the same as our former electric bills were, and after we pay off the loan, our solar power will be free, thanks to the sun’s rays. Hello Green Pathways. 

We think that golf sustainability has an important role to play in the urgent global focus on climate. Our property, at 113 acres, is a green space in the middle of the largest populated county, Los Angeles, in the United States. Green spaces mitigate the urban heat island effect, lowering temperatures in surrounding communities and providing needed habitats for eco-systems and bio-diversity. Our course is home to deer, geese, bobcats, bears, and a variety of birds, native plants and protected trees, as well as the occasional puma. The natural surroundings are one of the sports’ appeals, and we feel good stewardship is a responsibility. We hope to inspire other golf course owners and operators to feel a sense of urgency and to take action. 

Stay tuned for updates on La Cañada Flintridge Country Club's de-carbonization journey in future editions of Golf Business WEEKLY! If you have ideas or questions about steps to reduce the carbon footprint at your course, or you would like to discuss any of the environmental measures the LCFCC "green team" has implemented, you can read their Green Pathways Journey blog or contact Pamela Dreyfuss at  



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Pamela L Dreyfuss started her career as an actress, starring in a few films in the 1970s and 1980s. One film, Over the Edge, has reached the status of a 1970s classic. She went on to work as a screenwriter and freelance writer, while attending Pitzer College. Pamela has two wonderful children, one college graduate and the other currently in art school. A nature lover and avid bird watcher, she was influenced by her mother's early environmentalism. Pamela has been involved in grassroots environmental causes for years and sees 2021 as a breakout year for the chance to save our climate from disaster. Are you in?

** The views and opinions featured in Golf Business WEEKLY are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the NGCOA.**