As one of the last schools in Fairfield County to make the move to artificial turf, Greens Farms Academy felt some pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” and install a turf field, mostly to ensure our athletes would have comparable playing conditions and a safe, consistent surface.

Several of our parents, however, voiced concerns about the potential health risks of the typical crumb rubber used in artificial turf. Listening to our parents, and not feeling completely confident about the current “industry standard” of crumb rubber, we began to research other options for artificial turf. Our trustees, always keeping both the health of our students and our surrounding ecosystem a top priority, looked into other options

In the end, GFA elected to use a greener alternative known as thermoplastic elastomer, a relatively new product in the United States. There was an initial hiccup, however. The TPE began to clump, so we needed to look for alternatives. In conversations with the manufacturer, FieldTurf, we decided that a cork composite would be the best option for replacement. However, although covered under warranty, the cork composite has to be manufactured overseas and took several weeks to arrive. We had a few weeks that fall of rescheduling games, and playing mostly away matches. But it was worth the wait and inconvenience. Once installed, the cork infill was tested for safety, and the results showed our field exceeded requirements within all parameters.

Our turf field has been up and running for four years now, and is used on a daily basis with positive feedback. It was and still is the most environmentally responsible and healthy option available, in addition to being cutting-edge in its design and in the use of cork as an infill.

TPE is used extensively throughout Europe, and we are the first school in Connecticut to use this type of infill, and we encourage other schools to follow suit. With the current health concerns, including possible links to cancer, and with the state legislature discussing crumb rubber, we feel huge relief that we are not exposing our athletes and visiting teams to these serious risks. We invite school representatives in neighboring towns to come and look at our field as a part of their search for alternatives to crumb rubber. We are happy to help in any way.

Janet Hartwell

Head of School

Greens Farms Academy

Westport