Berea College hosted Kentucky’s first carbon-neutral basketball game in a doubleheader with Alice Lloyd College men and women’s teams on February 18 in the Seabury Athletic Complex. It was just the second time a carbon-neutral basketball game has been played in the country.

Called the Green Games, these contests helped draw attention to carbon offsetting, a process to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are linked to adverse effects on the climate. By measuring how much energy is used to heat and light the gymnasium during the events and the miles traveled by the opponents, college officials calculated that planting 24 trees is required to offset the games’ carbon emissions.

“While we have calculated the number of trees needed in one year to offset this game, the trees don’t turn off after one year,” says Joan Pauly, sustainability coordinator for the college. “That’s the message of the Green Games. that a one-time investment can have a 40-year return and you can help preserve our environment for the next four decades by simply planting a tree.”

The Blue Crew goes green for “Green Game”
The Blue Crew goes green for “Green Game”

The college will plant native tree species on campus in the spring. Each tree will remove an estimated 86 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year. Altogether, these two dozen trees will offset an estimated 2,064 pounds of carbon each year.

Matt Partain, grounds team leader at Berea, will select species that should thrive in the planting locations. “Trees are the atmosphere’s natural scrubber,” says Partain, who has been instrumental in the college’s recognition as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. “Over their lifespans, the trees we will plant should remove more than 37 metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere. That’s more than 80,000 pounds.”
Berea’s path to sustainability is a campus-wide effort with significant participation and leadership from students. The student-led environmental service group HEAL (Helping Earth and Learning) is instrumental in promoting energy conservation and the use of clean and renewable energy sources though direct-action projects and education opportunities in the community. HEAL helped coordinate the educational activities associated with the Green Games.

These carbon-neutral games are just the latest example of the college’s commitment to reducing and eventually eliminating or offsetting greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations and to promoting sustainability to the campus, local community and region. As a signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), Berea College has pledged in part to model ways to minimize greenhouse gas emissions with the ultimate goal of climate neutrality.


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