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Bracket busters and gas guzzlers

Booz Allen Hamilton ranked teams based on their carbon footprint. This view shows the minimum carbon footprint model, as calculated by the consulting firm.

In addition to broken dreams, shredded brackets and lost productivity, you can add higher carbon emissions to the adverse effects of March Madness.

Booz Allen Hamilton put a new spin on bracket tracking this year, developing an online game that allows users to measure the carbon footprint of their predicted winners.

Turns out, environmental activists should have been rooting for Louisville, Mississippi, Davidson and Northwestern State to reach the Final Four, as that would have yielded the smallest carbon footprint of any outcome, roughly equal to the annual emissions of 31,666 cars. However, half of those teams lost their opening-round games.

In traveling to the Sweet 16 this past weekend at the Verizon Center, Indiana, Syracuse, Miami and Marquette added about 140,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere — about the same impact of providing one year of heat and electricity to 7,147 homes.

“It’s rare that we get an opportunity to connect what we do with something in popular culture,” Joe Marriott, the Booz Allen Hamilton lead associate who oversees the team that built the game, said in an interview. His department typically works with research groups to assess the environmental impact of large energy systems, but the group decided to “use this year’s tournament to get [its] ideas out there.”

The game’s developers estimated the travel distance of each team and its fans along their potential path to the Final Four in Atlanta, assuming an average arena capacity of 20,000 people and an even three-way split of attendees between both teams’ traveling fans and local spectators.

Interestingly, Georgetown University did extra environmental harm by losing early this year. The Hoyas were stunned by Florida Gulf Coast University, which eventually reached the Sweet 16 in Arlington, Tex. Had the Hoyas been making that trip, as expected based on their seeding, their travels would have resulted in 2.1 percent fewer emissions than the FGCU Eagles.

J.D. Harrison covers startups, small business and entrepreneurship, with a focus on public policy, and he runs the On Small Business blog.



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