By Nicole C. Kibert
Nicole C. Kibert, an associate with Carlton Fields, P.A. in Tampa, Florida, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next time you climb over the mountain of paper in your wastebasket at the end of the day, perhaps you should consider whether it is time to take a serious look at your business operations and determine how to reduce your environmental impact. By adopting just one new sustainable behavior a month, an individual can have a significant, positive environmental impact by the end of the year. Just imagine what greening your entire office or all the offices in your firm can do.
Employees at all levels of a firm or business can help green their working environment. Below are several areas for lawyers and their staff to explore in making their law firms more environmentally friendly.
Communication. Survey at least one attorney and one staff member in each office who can explain any existing sustainability initiatives and act as greening champions.
Ask them the following:
- What is currently being recycled (paper, plastic bottles, printer cartridges)?
- Are your shredding vendors recycling?
- What is the policy on electronics disposal?
- Does the firm distribute all firmwide communications electronically?
- post-consumer waste” products, including stationery, packaging materials, paper towels, and other supplies, which prevent waste from ending up in landfills;
- nontoxic cleaning supplies, inks, and other chemicals; and
- hrowaway products (plates, cutlery) made of materials such as cornstarch that will quickly breakdown in a landfill.
- Find innovative uses for excess inventory such as outdated electronics by partnering with local trade schools or recyclers.
- Ask employees to come up with ways to turn that waste into something useful.
- Turn off lights and appliances that are not being used.
- Replace high-energy-use light bulbs, fixtures, and equipment with their low-energy-use equivalents (look for Energy Star, LED, and compact fluorescents).
- Conduct more business online by transmitting documents as PDFs via e-mail rather than by delivery service (but make sure you can easily strip metadata away).
- Consider purchasing Renewable Energy Credits to offset your company’s energy consumption.
- Sponsor office challenges to encourage sustainable use of resources.
- Reduce fuel consumption and pollution by encouraging carpooling and use of mass transit.
- Encourage reuse rather than waste by asking employees to bring their own coffee cups and water bottles to work instead of supplying them with wasteful paper, plastic, and Styrofoam cups. To make this work, you may need to have dishwashing space in each break room or add dishwashers.
- Institute paper, can, glass, and plastic recycling if your office has not already.
- Consider including sustainable fund choices in investment plans, e.g., Calvert Funds (www.calvert.com) or Green Century Funds (www.greencentury.com). Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) balances financial investments with a wide range of social issues.
- Review your leases to identify recycling services that are to be provided in your Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges and take advantage of buildingwide activities.
- Encourage other tenants in your building to participate in your greening initiatives.
- If you are renovating or expanding an existing space or constructing a new office, be sure to ask your architect about green building options and installation of energy- and water-saving devices.
- ABA Website for Sustainable Law Offices: www.abanet.org/publicserv/environmental/sustainable_law_office.shtml
- EPA’s Green Power Partnership Program: www.epa.gov/greenpower/
- EPA’s Wastewise Program: www.epa.gov/wastewise/
- EPA/DOE’s Energy Star Program: www.energystar.gov/
- Take the ABA-EPA Law Office Climate Challenge! Visit the Section of Energy, Environment, and Resources at www.abanet.org/environ/climatechallenge/.