As Atlanta prepares to host the landmark 75th NCAA Final Four, the city and the NCAA are implementing initiatives aimed at operating the most sustainable championship in the seven-decade history of the tournament. For the first time in NCAA history, the same city will also host the Division II and Division III national championship games at Philips Arena, allowing the green initiatives to impact an even broader segment of the population.
The NCAA has worked on reducing its carbon footprint at the Final Four by utilizing hybrid automobiles for its courtesy fleet of vehicles, and has purchased renewable energy credits to offset the energy use at Philips Arena. In addition they have partnered with Atlanta public-transit agency MARTA to push for greater use of the system by fans to travel to and from the arena, as well as supporting bicycle travel to events with free bike valet services.
An extensive recycling program has been instituted throughout all 2013 Final Four events in the city, and the NCAA has also organized a drive to collect e-waste throughout the community. Banners and court surfaces have been designed expressly for reuse or recycling, and post-consumer products have been emphasized in materials procurement.
The association is also giving back to the community with tree-planting days and clothing donation drives among their volunteer staff. The NCAA has also offered support to extend the green initiatives to area hotels and restaurants involved with the crowds in town for Final Four events.
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A recent article penned by Forbes contributor David Ferris outlines the goals of sports organizations in implementing sustainability initiatives at their venues. Interviewing representatives from AEG, Vulcan Inc., the Philadelphia Eagles and NASCAR, Ferris centers on the main objectives driving sports sustainability:
- Organizations must make their operations more efficient in the use of energy and water and smart waste diversion, but there is also often an incentive to tailor your message in a way that engages fans and provides tangible showcase initiatives to which fans can relate.
- The project must be tailored to integrate into the unique limitations of the venue. For example, the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles seems a natural fit for a solar-energy installation. But the roof design and surrounding development guided the final implementation of the project. “We don’t have as much space as you think we do,” said Jennifer Regan, the global sustainability director at arena operator AEG, “and we have lots of constraints on the built environment.”
- Projects must show a return on the investment quickly and save money for the venue in the long run. More often than not, environmentally sustainable practices also result in economic savings, and the key is to develop initiatives that benefit all facets of the business.
- The biggest challenge in the greening of a sports organization is the constant push for newer technologies that improve efficiency. An organization must be cognizant of these new developments but ensure that they are viable enough to provide the full range of economic and ecological benefits.
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