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Green Madness

| Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sunday March 13, 7p.m. Where will you be? I for one will be glued to a TV somewhere in SoCal anxiously awaiting the announcement of ND’s NCAA tournament seeding. That’s right, the GreenMan is obsessed with something other than the environment –– college basketball. Since I’ve been finding myself checking ESPN.com more than my email, I thought an examination of the green aspects of March Madness might be an appropriate topic for this column.

I’d like to start by pointing out that some of the NCAA Selection Committee’s bracketing principles are actually inherently green. Specifically, one of the key principles for slotting teams in the bracket is that an effort must be made to place higher-ranked teams in “geographically compatible” locations for the first two rounds of the tournament. This not only makes it easier for high-seeded teams’ fans to attend games, but also allows them to reduce their environmental impact because less distance traveled means lower emissions. The committee will also grant geographic preference to a team regardless of seed, by looking at where a team has been placed in the previous five years so trying to avoid moving a team out of its natural geographic region an inordinate number of times.

Given these two conditions for geographic preference, Notre Dame should without a doubt be placed close to home this year. For one thing, we ought to be very high on the seed list (though several other regional teams are up there with us to compete for the same spots –– Ohio State, Pitt and Purdue). Second, let’s review ND’s first-round sites from the last five years: New Orleans, Denver and who could forget (though we might want to) Spokane. It’s high time we were close to home.

Right now Notre Dame looks poised to claim a 2-seed in Chicago, which is where “Bracketology” expert Joe Lunardi currently predicts we’ll go. However, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that, probably pending a Big East tournament title, we could make a very serious case for earning a 1-seed, which would put us in Cleveland.

All due respect to Cleveland, but I hope we’re in Chicago. Why? Two words: mass transit. Those of us coming back to the Bend early from break can hop on the train to Chicago for $11 each way to see the Irish play on Friday and Sunday. You can’t say the same for Cleveland, which is a three and half hour drive away. This drive is about six times as carbon-intensive as taking the train to Chicago, according to TerraPass’s carbon footprint calculator. And then there’s also the fact that approximately 75 percent of our student body is from “a suburb of Chicago” (figure unconfirmed), which means we could have a great turnout with people who are already within 40 miles of the arena.

But, regardless of whether we start in Chicago or Cleveland, we’ll definitely have to fly to follow the team to Houston for the Final Four. When this happens, as an eco-conscious fan, I will most likely assuage the guilt of my “fanprint” (carbon footprint associated with fandom) by buying carbon offsets for my travel emissions. Carbon offset companies will calculate the carbon emissions of a trip, taking into account distance and mode of transportation, and then allow individuals to compensate for these emissions by donating money to support a carbon-reducing project like a wind farm. There’s a wide range of companies out there, so be careful and look for groups who are accredited by the Better Business Bureau, like TerraPass.

A final green thought: much is said each March about the dramatic increase in time-wasting at work, but what about the dramatic increase in paper-wasting? As someone who typically makes three brackets each year (one to root for, one to be realistic, and one to capitalize on crazy upset scoring rules), I know firsthand how quickly paper waste can accumulate during the few days after Selection Sunday as we try to refine the perfect bracket. However, with so many online bracket competitions available now that allow you to manage your own pool and even tailor the scoring method to your personal tastes, it’s hard to see why anyone would want to go to the effort of grading and scoring brackets manually anymore.

Plus, the timing of spring break makes turning in paper brackets to a “bracketmaster” highly unlikely, so I suggest we take all this opportunity to go completely paperless in our bracketing endeavors. And once you go paperless you never go back. Or something like that.


The GreenMan is an anonymous eco-conscious observer of life at Notre Dame, providing environmental commentary and advice to the campus community since 2010. Feel free to email your environmental living questions to the GreenMan at [email protected]