Components of the Challenge

Components of the Challenge - Overview

The American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER), in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pleased to present the ABA-EPA Law Office Climate Challenge (Climate Challenge). The Climate Challenge is designed to encourage law offices to take specific steps to conserve energy and resources, as well as reduce emissions of greenhouse gases - which cause global climate change - and other pollutants. The ABA Law Practice Management Section (LPM) is co-sponsoring this initiative.

Law offices may meet the Climate Challenge simply by undertaking best practices for office paper management or by participating in one or more of three EPA partnership (i.e., voluntary) programs. Specifically, law offices may:

  1. Adopt best practices for office paper management by reducing paper usage, increasing recycled content in paper purchased, or increasing recycling.
  2. Participate in EPA's WasteWise program, which encourages organizations to save energy by reducing waste, and adopt best practices for office paper management (described above).
  3. Participate in EPA's Green Power Partnership (Green Power) program by purchasing energy from renewable sources to cover at least a portion of electricity usage.
  4. Participate in EPA's ENERGY STAR program, which encourages law offices to reduce energy use by at least 10% through, among other things, the purchase of ENERGY STAR-designated equipment and implementation of better energy management practices. This program has features that recognize the issues associated with tenant law offices.

Application procedures are streamlined for participation in the Law Office Climate Challenge and in these EPA programs. Participating law offices will receive recognition from the ABA and those that join the EPA programs will receive recognition from EPA, in accordance with those programs' requirements. Specifically, a law office that simply adopts best practices for office paper management or that meets the minimum requirements for participation in at least one of the EPA programs, qualifies for recognition as a Law Office Climate Challenge Partner. A law office that achieves a higher level of participation in at least one of the EPA programs qualifies as a Law Office Climate Challenge Leader. Qualifying law offices will be recognized, and, for those that participate in EPA programs, the amounts of greenhouse gas emissions avoided by their actions will be posted, on the ABA's Law Office Climate Challenge Website.

The Climate Challenge was initiated in March 2007 and is currently scheduled to continue through August 2016.

The Four Component Programs of the Law Office Climate Challenge

1) Adopt Best Practices for Office Paper Management

Law offices tend to be paper-intensive, which leaves a meaningful carbon footprint because the production and disposal of paper consumes substantial amounts of energy and generates significant quantities of greenhouse gas emissions. An informal survey conducted by Arnold & Porter of eight law firms, ranging in size from small to large, in several areas of the country, found that copier/printer paper use ranged from about 20,000 to about 100,000 sheets per attorney at those firms during 2006. This amount corresponds to about 10-50 sheets per work hour (assuming 2,000 work hours per year). The high end of this range – 100,000 sheets per attorney -- amounts to a half-ton of paper use per attorney per year. The life-cycle of a ton of paper, from production to recycling, results in the generation of about 9 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) - equivalent greenhouse gas emissions. (Disposal in a landfill results in two more tons of such emissions per year.)

Law offices can undertake simple and effective best practices to improve office paper management, including:

  • Assure that at least approximately 90 percent of all types of copier, printer, letterhead, and bond paper, as well as business and manila envelopes purchased have at least 30% post-consumer recycled content. As a practical matter, a law office can implement this practice by adopting a policy that 100% of its future purchases of copier/printer paper have at least 30% post-consumer recycled content.

  • Recycle at least approximately 90 percent of discarded mixed office paper (defined as all types of white copier and printer paper, bond and letterhead paper, note paper, colored paper, and envelopes). As a practical matter, a law office can implement this practice by establishing an office-wide policy of recycling these materials and assuring that all office personnel have ready access to recycling bins.