March Madness

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Necessity is the mother of invention. 

I have been thinking about this phrase often over the past year in response to the various challenges we have faced as a global community, as residents of Indianapolis, and as individuals supportive of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. 

I’m proud of what necessity has helped us create this year: one of the most sustainable NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournaments ever. And the truth is, we never would have considered all of this 6 months ago, let alone a year ago!

At the end of 2019, fairly fresh on the scene in Indy, I was honored to be asked to co-chair the sustainability efforts for the NBA All-Star game, which was scheduled for February 2021 in Indianapolis.  With 13 months lead time, we gathered a great crew of sustainability stakeholders to consider options and start a plan to be the most sustainable host for the All-Stars game. However, our plans were quickly thwarted as the world turned upside down in March 2020 by COVID-19. 

When Indy postponed hosting the All-Star game this year, our committee was asked to pivot and handle the NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball championship. And then we learned in January… that it would be the entire March Madness™ tournament!

I am particularly proud of the collective efforts to purchase renewable energy and carbon offsets. While the ideal would be to find ways to reduce the need for using energy in the first place, with more efficient lighting or reduced consumption, the pandemic created too many uncertainties for us to make any concrete plans. Our pivot to energy offsets was inspired after talking with friends at the Green Sports Alliance. We couldn’t do what we wanted BEFORE tip-off, but we could make corrections AFTER the games were over.
 

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No, we’re not stretching a long extension cord from Bankers Life Fieldhouse to an Indiana wind turbine. Instead, we will total up all the electricity used in the venues that host practice days and game days. Next, our partners at AES Indiana will go to the electricity market, where we will buy Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), which are tradeable commodities tied to renewable energy projects. We are purchasing an amount of Midwestern wind power equal to all the electricity we consume. 

We’re doing the same thing with all the other energy consumed. Our partners at Heritage Interactive Services will count up all the energy used during practices and games, and then purchase carbon credits on the market to offset all those emissions. A carbon offset might be the planting of a new forest, or injection of carbon dioxide deep underground.

Here’s the playbook. We couldn’t have done it without our partners at NCAA and Indiana Sports Corp, AES Indiana, Heritage Interactive Services, IUPUI’s Office of Sustainability, the City of Indianapolis, and so many more:

  • 100% Wind. The electricity consumed on practice and game days at all tournament venues will be offset with wind power. We have seen this done for the Final Four and Championship games, but never for the entire tournament. My co-chair of the Indianapolis Final Four Sustainability Committee, Jessica Davis (Director, IUPUI Sustainability) and I drafted the play. Our partners at AES Indiana jumped in from the bench to make it happen by purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) and apply them toward electricity usage at Hinkle Fieldhouse, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indiana Farmers Coliseum and the Indiana Convention Center.
  • Operationally Carbon Neutral. All of the carbon emissions will be offset to cover all the other energy consumption, including natural gas, chilled water and steam, even transportation of the teams to and around Indianapolis. Our friends at Heritage Interactive Services and their partner ClimeCo provided the alley-oop.
  • Clean Lanes. KIB and over 100 volunteers, along with Mayor Joe Hogsett, Butler students, and even Butler Blue IV, picked up litter along 12 miles of city streets along the routes that the teams will be traveling. We also partnered with Butler University, the Indiana State Fairgrounds, INDOT, and the Department of Public Works to provide dumpsters and collect hundreds of bags of litter. Other groups, including Downtown Indy and Cultural Trail, lead cleanups downtown.
  • 68 Trees for 68 Teams. Our own Mark Adler came up with the idea to honor each team playing in Indianapolis by planting 68 trees in Andrew Ramsey Park and Elwood-Mary Black Park, near the Butler campus.
  • Re-wrapping Recycling. Our friends at Coca-Cola and hundreds of other volunteers re-wrapped hundreds of recycling bins at Lucas Oil Arena and at the Convention Center to reduce confusion, and increase successful recycling opportunities.

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This all feels like a slam dunk. Keep Indianapolis Beautiful has pursued our mission as an environmental and community organization in a way that will have ramifications on larger stages and with larger audiences. One last note on renewable energy, did you know that even if you don’t have a solar panel on your roof, you can purchase 100% renewable energy for your home? Here in Indianapolis, if you go to your account with AES Indiana, you can select up to 100% renewable energy to power your home. Check it out! https://myaccount.aesindiana.com/Account/GreenPower/greenpowerenroll.aspx. 

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