January 07, 2014

FYI: Going Green

The phrase "going green" may conjure images of tiny ultra-efficient European cars, hemp clothing, and celebrity activists, but for an increasing number of corporations and law firms, "going green" is simply the newest way of attracting clients, cutting costs, and boosting the bottom line. From going paperless to installing high-efficiency lighting, running a "green" office is easier than you might imagine and can pay real dividends for your firm in the money you save on overhead and the clients that are attracted by your policies.

Here are a few easy ways you can make your firm a little bit greener (and save some money at the same time):

  • Cut out the paper. Most lawyers swim in a sea of paper -- printed cases, multiple drafts of every contract, memoranda, and more. Take advantage of the digital age: try to review whatever you can on the computer, limit interoffice communication to email, and when you do have to print, try to print double-sided on recycled paper with a high post-consumer content.

  • Save energy! Set computers, printers, and photocopiers to enter standby mode when they go unused for more than ten or fifteen minutes, and shut them down entirely (or even unplug them) before you leave for the evening. If you have peripherals (like a scanner) that you use only rarely, leave them unplugged until you need them. Try replacing standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, and leave them turned off when you aren't in the room.

  • Think about the commute. Put together a carpooling group and encourage your coworkers to use public transportation or even to bike or walk to work. Also consider telecommuting a few times each month: not only does it save on the transportation costs, it also cuts down your office expenses.

  • Do the little things. Bring your lunch in reusable plastic containers; replace plastic utensils with washable silverware; use refillable pens rather than the disposable types; bring a mug to work to use instead of disposable paper or styrofoam cups; and make sure everyone at your firm has a recycling bin at their desk.

Remember that these strategies not only help the environment, they also help you: less paper, less energy, less disposable supplies -- all of these changes mean financial savings for your firm.

Some Green Law Firm Success Stories

  • Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP
    Read how this 130-employee firm became a certified green business in 2003, and what kind of impact the change has had on their practice.

  • Nixon Peabody LLP
    This article explores how Nixon Peabody "went green" when it opened its new San Francisco office.

  • Farella Braun + Martel LLP
    Another firm to receive the Bay Area Green Business Program certification as a Green Business.

Green Resources

  • ABA-EPA Law Office Climate Challenge
    The ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) has partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to launch a program to encourage law offices to take the practical steps towards a "greener" workplace. Law offices that meet the very reasonable environmental standards can receive official recognition from both the US EPA and the ABA.

  • American Bar Association: The Sustainable Law Office
    Brought to you by the ABA's Standing Committee on Environmental Law, this site is full of information, tips, and tricks for running a "sustainable" law office.

  • U.S. Green Builder's Council
    The USGBC is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting environmentally responsible building. The USGBC created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, whereby building projects (including commercial interiors) meeting certain criteria can receive a "green" certification.

  • Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency
    Need another reason to go green? The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) provides a comprehensive listing of incentives available at all levels (state, local, utility, and federal) to promote green initiatives. The incentives range from expedited permits to grants to tax exemptions.

  • Association of Legal Administrators - Annual Conference 2007 (scroll down to "Session of the Day")
    At its 2007 Annual Conference, the ALA hosted a session on "Green Law Firms: Building a Sustainable Future." A brief summary of the session is available on the ALA website along with the handouts prepared for the session.

  • Treehugger's How to Go Green Guides
    Recently acquired by Discovery, Treehugger.com is one of the foremost blogs on sustainability and "green" issues .Over the years the Treehugger team has put together a number of practical "How to Green Your..." guides including How to Green Your Work.

  • Getting Law Firms to Boot Up to Green
    Law Technology News offers up some suggestions on making your firm's computing habits a little bit more eco-friendly.