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Alice Henly’s Blog

Ten Things You Didn't Know About the NCAA Final Four

Alice Henly

Posted April 5, 2011

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So you say you’re the ultimate basketball fan, but do you really know everything March Madness? You watched all 67 games without fail. You were the first to submit your draw at work and boasted about your picks to anyone who would listen.

UConn basketball team in a huddle on the court. Photo Credit: Dinur/FlickrYou can’t get enough of Kemba Walker’s explosive game. You jumped as Shelvin Mack hit the three-pointer right before the half-time buzzer to give Butler the lead. You also knew things were likely to go downhill for the Bulldogs when they resorted to a zone in the second half, something they rarely do.

But did you know, for example, that Bracket Town (the George R. Brown Convention Center) was completely powered by renewable wind energy? In fact, even the emergency power systems are run using solar panels.    

You probably didn’t know that for the first time in history the NCAA Final Four producers teamed up with the NRDC to reduce the ecological footprint of the Final Four. Yep, NCAA basketball is going green. NRDC was invited to join the NCAA Final Four Sustainability Committee, which included the City of Houston, LG Electronics USA, Waste Management, Reliant Park, and the George R. Brown Convention Center, with the aim of cutting energy, chemical, and water use as well as waste across all tournament facilities.

Some of the 145,000 fans at Reliant Stadium likely noticed the 600 recycling bins, the regular messages on the jumbotron reminding people to recycle, or perhaps that the programs were made using post-consumer recycled content. However, many impressive changes also went on behind the scenes at both Reliant Stadium and Bracket Town that most fans wouldn’t have been aware of. Here are ten examples that you can add to your repertoire of Final Four fun facts:

  1. At Bracket Town, 15 to 20 percent of food purchases were from local sources. Up to 1.5 tons of food waste was composted from all catered Bracket Town events and food preparations during the Final Four. At Reliant Stadium, unused prepared food was donated to local food banks and other non-profits.
  2. All disposable cutlery used at Bracket Town events were bio-based and compostable. Napkins were also made from 100-percent recycled content and all cooking oils were recycled as bio-diesel.
  3. Bracket Town recently installed energy-efficient water pumps, which use 60 percent less energy than the previous pumps.
  4. All cleaning products used at Bracket Town are Green Seal certified, reducing toxics exposure.
  5. Over the course of the weekend the Final Four expects to have recycled more than 7 tons, including cardboard, paper, bottles, and cans. 600 additional recycling containers were installed at Reliant Stadium, matching every trashcan with a recycling bin. At Bracket Town, more than 100 new recycling containers were added around the stadium and only plastic trash bags incorporating recycled content were purchased.
  6. Paper towels in Bracket Town bathrooms were comprised of 95 percent total recycled content with 15 percent post-consumer content, and the toilet paper was made of 80 percent total recycled content with 20 percent post-consumer content.
  7. On March 26th the NCAA, the Houston Final Four Local Organizing Committee, Waste Management and LG Electronics USA held an e-waste collection event, collecting more than 25,000 lbs of electronic waste that are being disassembled and processed for recycling in the United States. Leading up to the Final Four, Reliant Stadium also recycled 20,000 pounds worth of CRT TVs when they were replaced with flat screen monitors. The CRT TVs are also being disassembled and processed for recycling in the United States.
  8. To reduce paper use, the NCAA Final Four created a new mobile cell phone application to help fans locate events, find restaurants, and make reservations, among other things. Printed fan guides were also eliminated.
  9. The NCAA Final Four Sustainability Committee purchased carbon offsets in wind and solar power projects for Reliant Stadium from Bonneville Environmental Foundation. These offsets resulted in avoided global warming emissions totaling 210 U.S. tons in carbon dioxide equivalents, representing about 509,000 auto miles. Green-E Certified Carbon offsets were also purchased through to offset bus travel between hotels, venues, and Reliant Stadium.
  10. After making significant strides in reducing energy, water, and waste, Bracket Town is now in the process of applying for LEED Silver for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance.

Greening the NCAA Final Four is just the beginning. Thanks to the NRDC, seven professional leagues (MLB, NBA, WNBA, MLS, NHL, NFL and USTA) and more than 100 professional teams are greening their stadiums or arenas. With initiatives like the NCAA Final Four Sustainability Committee and programs like the EPA’s Game Day Challenge, NRDC’s revolutionary work greening sports at the professional level is spreading to college and university campuses nationwide. Learn more about the importance of greening sports and the NCAA Final Four’s green successes by reading Allen Hershkowitz’s blog.

So, mega fan, what are you doing to keep up?

Photo Credit: Dinur/Flickr

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

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