Green March Madness 2016: USGBC, Notre Dame Make the Finals


College basketball is speeding towards the conclusion of its month-long hoops-fest with the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Final Fours on tap this weekend in Houston and Indianapolis, respectively. This is the perfect time for GreenSportsBlog to take a look at how US Green Building Council and Notre Dame operate from the same playbook: Using the metaphor of NCAA tournament brackets to promote and/or highlight green behavior.

Filling out NCAA Tournament brackets is engrained in US culture. In fact, the “Bracketization” of America has gone beyond the world of March Madness and college basketball. If you think all this is hyperbole, consider the following:

  • According to an American Gaming Association study, approximately 40 million Americans filled out roughly 70 million NCAA Tournament brackets last year.
  • The Washington Post runs an annual Beer Madness bracket-based tournament, with Port City Optimal Wit of Northern, VA reaching the finals vs. Northern California’s 21st Amendment Toaster Pastry in this year’s version.
  • WQXR-FM, New York City’s classical music radio station is up with a Suite 16 (cute name, I’ll give ’em that) competition. Bach’s Cello Suites is my pick from a stellar Final Four that includes Bernstein’s West Side Story, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Copland’s Appalachian Spring.
  • Heck, there are Best Christmas Movie brackets–although I have to say that the voters in the St. Louis have no idea what they’re talking about when, a few months ago, they rated Christmas Vacation as #1 and It’s a Wonderful Life didn’t even make the Elite 8.

XMas Madness

Christmas Vacation, the Best Christmas Movie of all-time? Awful. (Bracket courtesy KEZK 102.5 FM)

Green has been well-represented in the bracket-style contest world. Last year, the Climate Change Fantasy Tournament, courtesy of Organizing for Action, had people vote on who was the worst Members of Congress on climate change–there were lots to choose from, sad to say. Senator Jim Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma “won” that designation. The year before, Davidson College’s Next Play Tournament won GreenSportsBlog’s admiration for its “venture-style competition for student-led businesses that use the March Madness model of ‘survive and advance.’”
This year, sustainability-focused, bracket-based programs from the US Green Building Council and Notre Dame drew our attention:
The US Green Building Council (USGBC), the organization that administers the LEED Certification standard for green building in the United States, jumped into the bracket business with its first-ever LEED Bracket Madness contest.
The goal is for fans to vote for their favorite LEED-certified college basketball arenas on Twitter. They can follow the results and share the tournament with their friends via #LEEDbracket hashtag. The tournament, which started with a Sweet Sixteen of LEED-certified arenas, is down to its Final Four, with the University of Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena facing off against George Washington University’s Smith Center in one semifinal and SMU’s Moody Coliseum battling the University of Colorado’s Coors Events Center.
LEED Madness

The first-ever LEED Bracket Madness contest is down to its Final Four (Brackets courtesy of US Green Building Council)

While Vegas is not likely taking action on this tournament, the high rollers would certainly favor arenas in green-havens Eugene, OR and Boulder, CO. But as anyone who, like me, picked Michigan State to win the basketball version of March Madness knows, upsets abound. So don’t go to sleep on GW’s Smith Center, which attained LEED Gold for Existing Building status in 2012, or Moody Coliseum, which, courtesy of HOK Sports architects, brought LEED Silver certified Green-Sports to Dallas.
Let the greenest arena win!
Let’s get this out of the way right now: I rarely root for Notre Dame’s sports teams. I did break that rule when the Fighting Irish men’s basketball team played North Carolina (I loathe the Tar Heels more) in the Sweet 16. And what did that get me? Nothing, as UNC won fairly easily.
That said, I love what Notre Dame’s students are doing with Megawatt Madness. 
Start with the name itself: It’s alliterative, it’s fun and it perfectly describes Notre Dame’s campus-wide competition this month to see which of its 29 dorms can save the most electricity. The winning dorm gets a Chipotle party and the much-coveted Megawatt Madness Trophy, with the 2nd place residence hall earning a FroYo party.
In “Megawatt Madness Begins,” a story that ran on GreenND.edu on March 14, author Chris Connelly laid out how dorms accrue points in the competition which ends tomorrow–by hosting dorm events, posting about the competition on social media, and winning challenges:

  • Dorm events in past years have included candlelit masses, group eco-movie showings, and “fair trade chocolate tastings.”
  • Social media points were awarded for “each ‘Save Like a Champion Today’* selfie posted on SustainableND’s Facebook page with the hashtag #savelikeachampion.” Selfies must show how one is saving energy. Points are also awarded for “each meme about energy saving submitted.” The best meme and the best selfie will win an Amazon gift card.

Megawatt Madness

Announcement of Notre Dame’s “Megawatt Madness” Social Media Meme Contest appeared on SustainableND’s Facebook page.


  • Challenges represent the final way to earn points. The Rival Dorm Challenge took place during the first week of competition and pitted “each dorm against its campus rival to see which could reduce the most energy.” Additional points were garnered via the Easter Weekend Vampire Energy Challenge. It encouraged students to “unplug appliances such as TVs and fridges that [wouldn’t] be in use while they [were] not on campus.”

Students can get real time score updates via the university’s energy dashboard. With one day to go, 28 of the 29 dorms are showing a decrease in energy use with Carroll Hall in the lead at an impressive 26.9% reduction. Megawatt Madness winners will be announced at a celebratory bonfire tomorrow night. And how great is this: The bonfire was moved to Carroll Hall from Holy Cross Hill to protect “a family of ducks in the woodpile.”
Does this great, green March Madness work mean I will now root for the Fighting Irish? That’s a bridge too far, but I commit cheer against them less vociferously. Do I get points for that?

* “Save Like a Champion Today” is borrowed from “Play Like a Champion Today,” the sign that is mounted above the doorway that leads from the home football locker room at Notre Dame Stadium on to the field. Each player touches the sign as he passes under the sign.
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