The NCAA match is a carbon impartial occasion in Indianapolis this yr
In its three-week duration, March Madness draws tens of thousands of visitors to downtown Indianapolis and raises at least $ 100 million in the city’s economy. It also uses significant amounts of energy – enough to run a quarter the size of Glendale for a month.
Typically, an event of this size would result in net emissions of more than 5,000 tons of greenhouse gases. But not this year. This year March Madness is carbon neutral.
Energy consumption at all seven basketball tournament venues is tracked and then reduced through credits for renewable energies and carbon offset payments. Efforts, which are part of a partnership with the NCAA and Indiana Sports Corp. will lead to one of the largest sporting events in the country to commit to carbon neutrality.
It’s also an opportunity for education, said Jessica Davis, co-chair of the March Madness sustainability initiative.
“What’s cool about something like March Madness is that you think about cultural rabies at sporting events in general,” said Davis, also director of sustainability at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. “This brings sustainability to the masses instead of waiting for them to come to us.”
It is difficult to predict how much energy will be used during the event, but estimates suggest that more than 2.1 million kilowatt hours will be used throughout the tournament.
The IUPUI Office of Sustainability collects data from all venues for each day of March Madness, including practice days. These final energy sums are passed on to AES Indiana, formerly Indianapolis Power and Light, and Heritage Interactive Services, who then sponsor renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets to ensure the carbon footprint is neutral.
Renewable energy certificates are the measures utility companies like AES Indiana use to purchase renewable energy.
Because it is impossible to differentiate between renewable energy and energy from non-renewable sources like coal once it hits the power grid, renewable producers issue certificates for every kilowatt-hour of renewable energy they produce. These certificates are then sold to prove that this energy has been fed into the grid.
For example, if an AES customer wants 100% of their monthly energy consumption of 1,000 kWh to be used for renewable energy, AES would purchase certificates worth 1,000 kWh in order to have the right to that specific green energy. In this way, the money for this household’s energy consumption would be passed directly to renewable producers.
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Carbon offsets are similar in that they don’t prevent emissions from occurring, but they buy a mitigation in the backend to counteract the emissions that are released. This can include planting trees, managing forests, or capturing methane gases.
While it may seem complex, the process is relatively simple and affordable, AES spokesman Brandi Davis-Handy said. Exact cost will not be available until the tournament is over and the total amount of energy has increased, but she said they anticipate it will come to the low thousands.
Given that the result is expected to bring nearly 1,200 cars off the road for a year, it is a reasonable price to pay to fuel the clean energy push.
“It is definitely an affordable solution and moves towards a broader goal and goal of advancing the development of renewable energy sources,” said Davis-Handy. “This is something that we don’t want to consider just for sporting events, I would say all events.”
Panning from NBA to NCAA
Davis was first selected to co-lead the sustainability effort for the NBA All-Star Game with Jeremy Kranowitz, President of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. Indianapolis was scheduled to host the All-Star Game in February, but the event has been postponed to 2024 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the event pushed forward, they shifted their focus to college basketball final four, which eventually turned into all of March madness.
Instead of evaluating sustainability efforts for three games, they would treat 67.
Fortunately, Indianapolis is uniquely suited to mitigating the emissions impact of sporting events. Davis points out that the city’s main venues are all clustered downtown, meaning people who come to conventions or tournaments can spend most of their stay without driving.
Davis and her students at IUPUI had already started measuring Indianapolis’ traffic footprint compared to other cities as they worked on preparations for the Final Four.
“We wanted to take this data to the NCAA and then make comparisons,” said Davis. “I had it in my head that Indianapolis certainly had to be better, at least in transportation, than many of these other cities. And if we could put numbers on that, it could be something big.”
When Indianapolis was selected to host every March Madness game, Davis and Kranowitz were asked to come up with sustainability solutions for a massive event during a pandemic that required social distancing and prevented the creation of volunteer teams.
They had to get creative, and then they decided to go carbon neutral.
“COVID forced our hand,” said Davis. “It made preventive sustainability really difficult and in some cases not possible … But in fact we think it’s probably better than anything else we could have done.”
“We want to set the bar”
Even if you leave energy consumption aside, major sporting events are no friend of the environment.
Tens of thousands of visitors travel, buy single-use plastic food and beverages at concession stands, and throw away masses of food and other rubbish. Some studies have shown that event attendees create a footprint seven times higher than on a normal day.
And for March Madness, it’s like having an entire city of attendees visit Indianapolis right away, Kranowitz said.
The result is a mountain of waste and energy consumption. But it’s also a mountain of possibilities, he said. Events this big open the door to reducing waste on a larger scale: balancing one’s energy is like shutting down an entire city at once.
“The ability to have a really big sustainability impact by focusing all of this on a specific part of the city or building can actually be very effective,” said Kranowitz. “It can have a lot of leverage as opposed to trying to find 60,000 individual homes and doing 60,000 small interventions.”
Kranowitz and Davis hope this event will set an example for future sporting events in Indianapolis and elsewhere.
“We want to set the bar,” said Kranowitz, “so that every future event must at least do what we do.”
Additionally, Davis said she wanted to call the central Indiana sports facilities to see if the switch to renewable energy could be full-time.
“Now that you know you can do it and you know it isn’t expensive, why don’t you do it all day?” She asked. “We are the amateur sports capital of the world. There is no reason why we cannot be the sustainable amateur sports capital of the world.”
Davis admits that renewable energy credits and carbon offsetting are not a perfect solution – after all, the energy is still being used, the greenhouse gases are still being emitted – but it was the solution they had for this event given the constraints was standing.
“My goal is to eliminate, reduce, offset in that order,” she said. “In this case, we couldn’t deal with elimination and reduction, which meant that it was the only solution that was really up to us and that mattered.”
In the future, Kranowitz and Davis plan to run sporting events like this without waste and develop a method to get all that leftover food, empty water bottles and beer cans away from the landfill.
Kranowitz also hopes people will take the sustainability measures home with them, pointing out that every Indianapolis resident has the option to have their home run on renewable energy at a slight extra cost.
On average, green power costs an additional $ 1 on top of AES customers’ utility bills. AES customers can register online at aesindiana.com.
“The ability to talk about sustainability through an athletic lens can lead to more people getting that awareness,” he said. “And then we can start doing a little more together.”
Contact IndyStar reporter London Gibson at 317-419-1912 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @londongibson.
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IndyStar’s environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the non-profit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.