NCAA ‘green’ tournament helps all environmental efforts go more mainstream

I like basketball. Ok, maybe not quite as much as you do, assuming you live in Kentucky and are obsessed with the #BBN (Big Blue Nation) – which took me longer than I care to admit to figure out what it stood for, but I can definitely get into a game, and even find myself jumping up from the couch in glee at three-pointers.

I call myself a social fan, because I find it wonderful to watch University of Kentucky basketball with a group of people all shouting at the TV, but am not sure I would watch a game by myself.

While the rest of the state, and honestly the nation, are obsessed with brackets, I thought it would be interesting to see how “green” the NCAA tournament is going to be this year. For my part, I am going to save a tree and my $2 by not filling out a bracket this year.

For the “green research,” I thought I would stick with the Final Four. Mostly because we (by which I mean UK, because for all things basketball I look to UK, my alma mater, and because I know nothing about any other team) have a better chance than we did last year to get to the Final Four. It helps to actually be IN the tournament.

It turns out that there is a lot going on this year to make the championship weekend more sustainable, and these initiatives have been going on for some time.

In 2011, Reliant Stadium purchased 600 additional recycling containers (one paired with each trash container) which allowed them to recycle 10 tons of material, purchased carbon credits to offset their energy usage and they even played PSA’s about their efforts to the 75,000 fans.

Last year, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta expanded their sustainability efforts beyond just the stadium. As part of the initiative leading up to the weekend activities, the city hosted an electronic recycling opportunity that resulted in 14,000 pounds of old electronics being recycled. They also placed community recycling trailers throughout the city and collected more than 4 tons of material just from the foot traffic from the games. The total recyclables recovered from all of the venues related to the three-day event were more than 33 tons.

The 2013 Final Four was also unique in that it made a recycling symbol just for the sustainability initiative and turned the banners used throughout the events into more than 1,000 tote bags.

This year, the Kay Bailey Hutchison convention Center in Texas will compost for the first time, as well as donate all of the extra food to local charities. All of the events will offer recycling, and the local community will display public art pieces throughout the city made out of recycled material. There is also an increased effort to promote public transportation, and a special basketball court made out of recycled materials will be donated to a local community center.

I am very impressed and happy about the effort that the NCAA and the communities are putting into reducing the environmental effect the championship can have on the local environment. What I hope is that they shout from the rooftops about their efforts. The more people and organizations showcase their environmental work, the more it becomes mainstream and the more mainstream environmental efforts become, the more impact we can have as a community.

We, in Central Kentucky, are poised to make environmental and sustainable practices the mainstream as we plan and build our new basketball facility. I look forward to what the leaders of the project propose to make recycling, composting, energy efficiency and water quality part of the design instead of an add-on later.

While I am waiting, I will cheer as loud as I can on Friday (assuming I can stay up that late), and as the Cats proceed through the tournament.


1 Amy-Sohner

Amy Sohner is executive director of Greensource and a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. Sohner has worked with Greensource since its inception in 2002 and is a Certified Environmental Educator. She is involved with the Kentucky Environmental Literacy Alliance, the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance, the Licking and Kentucky River Basin Teams, and serves as vice-chair of the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission. Sohner lives near the Kentucky River palisades with her husband, two daughters and a multitude of pets.

This article appeared in KY Forward on March 20, 2014.

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