There are dozens of methods to filling out a March Madness bracket. You can pick based on the combat abilities of team mascots. Or by colors, or your devotion to the schools, or how much you like each city or region. Some people have even watched a game or two, and try to base their choices on a studied understanding of college basketball.
There’s a new approach that tries to answer the question, “What bracket would expend the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions?” It tells you which teams could get to the championship using the most carbon-neutral path.
Hint: going to school near tournament sites helps a lot. The analysis, conducted by consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, bases their calculation on projected team and fan travel between the school and the tournament site, combined with the assumption that higher seeds will draw larger fan bases. Though traveling by plane rather than coach bus means a higher carbon footprint, fan travel represents a much higher impact than team travel.
So how’d they do? Louisville, Davidson, Northwestern State, and Mississippi filled out this bracket’s Final Four, with each team’s journey projected to emit nearly 152,000 metric tonnes of CO2. St. Mary’s had the largest projected footprint, with a little over 166k. Florida Gulf Coast ranks 50 out of 68. Both Wichita State and Lasalle snuck into the top half of the pool ranked 33 and 31, respectively.
The women’s bracket got the same treatment as the men’s, with Maryland, Tennessee Chattanooga, Baylor, and LSU representing the carbon-friendly Final Four and UCLA bringing up the rear.
I spoke to Joe Marriott at Booz Allen, who worked on this analysis, to ask him more about how he did the analysis and what it means.
Q. Did you find yourself rooting for teams based on their carbon footprint?
A. After doing the analysis, it’s hard not to. I taught at the University of Pittsburgh for a few years, so I was rooting for them until they lost in the first round. Ironically, I’ve been so busy with our carbon footprint analysis of the tournament that I’ve paid less attention to my own bracket. The Louisville story, being a tournament favorite and having a small carbon footprint, has made following them pretty compelling.