Smarter Business: Greening the Games

Professional sports team up with NRDC to reduce their environmental impact.

National Collegiate Athletic Association


NCAA Final Four

In 2011, NRDC was asked to join the NCAA Final Four Sustainability Committee to integrate ecologically intelligent practices into the event’s planning and production. With NRDC helping to guide the process during weekly conference calls that started eight months before the event, the supplies purchased and the facilities and services used during the event were all selected with sensitivity towards reducing the threats we all face from global warming, deforestation, toxic wastes, and hazardous chemicals in our water and food.

Some green highlights of the NCAA Final Four events included:

  • 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.
  • At Bracket Town, 15 to 20 percent of food purchases were from local sources. Nearly a ton 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.
  • All disposable cutlery used at Bracket Town events was bio-based and compostable. Napkins were made from 100-percent recycled content and all cooking oils were recycled as bio-diesel. 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.
  • Bracket Town recently installed energy-efficient water pumps, which use 60 percent less energy than the previous pumps.
  • All cleaning products used at Bracket Town are Green Seal certified, reducing toxics exposure.
  • Over the course of the weekend the Final Four recycled nearly 10 tons of materials, including cardboard, paper, bottles, and cans. 600 additional multi-material recycling containers were installed at Reliant Stadium, matching every trashcan with a recycling bin. Those recycling bins will remain at the stadium permanently. At Bracket Town, more than 100 new recycling containers were added around the stadium and only plastic trash bags incorporating recycled content were purchased.
  • 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.
  • To reduce paper use, the NCAA Final Four created a new mobile cell phone application to help fans locate events, find restaurants, make reservations etc.. Printed fan guides were also eliminated.
  • 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.
  • During the NCAA Final Four games, PSAs promoting recycling were played numerous times, alerting the 75,000 fans in attendance about the event’s commitment to recycling.

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