The Green Utah Pledge
by Jon Clyde, Kelly J. Latimer, and Kallie A. Smith
One million two hundred thousand! This is the number of sheets of paper used by Clyde Snow on a yearly basis. This equates to 100,000 sheets of paper each month or 25,000 sheets each week. Lawyers tend to print out everything and rationalize the excessive printing in various ways: “it is just too hard to read double-sided copies” or because “it is easier to edit that way.” Without a doubt, the practice of law is one of the more paper-intensive professions. However, a large number of firms do not purchase recycled paper or recycle used paper. Instead, this paper finds its way to the landfill.
Until last June, Clyde Snow was one of those firms. The firm had no recycling, and employees would throw all of their paper, plastic, and cardboard directly into the trash. Clyde Snow has now implemented a full-scale recycling program, with the help of Momentum Recycling. Clyde Snow initially began with four of the big blue household recycling bins, which were to be collected monthly. However, within a week all four bins were overflowing. The firm now has a twice-monthly collection of six recycling bins. Thanks to the handy quarterly diversion reports received from Momentum, Clyde Snow is able to report that from June to December, it has recycled approximately 5060 pounds of waste and diverted around twenty-one cubic yards of waste from the landfill.
Unfortunately, there are a number of law firms, both large and small, that still have no recycling or environmental policies in place. In an effort to address this issue, Jenifer Tomchak, President of the Young Lawyers Division (“YLD”), asked us to help her implement a new program called the Green Utah Pledge. Her vision for this program is to raise awareness of environmental waste and to encourage firms and practitioners to adopt environmentally friendly practices.
The goal of the Green Utah Pledge is to encourage local firms and practitioners to implement greener office practices by taking the modest steps necessary to participate in the American Bar Association (“ABA”)-Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Law Office Climate Challenge (“Climate Challenge”). Law offices that take these steps become signatories of the Green Utah Pledge and will receive recognition from YLD, including public acknowledgment in the Utah Bar Journal. Further, we are working on creating additional marketing and membership benefits to reward those firms and practitioners that demonstrate leadership in the arena of environmental awareness.
ABA-EPA Climate Challenge:
The ABA and EPA launched the Climate Challenge as a pilot program in 2007. It was designed to encourage law offices to take simple, practical steps to become better environmental and energy stewards. Interest in the program has grown steadily since its inception and currently more than 250 law firms participate on various levels, including the Utah law offices of Chapman and Cutler, LLP; Hobbs and Olson, LC; and Ban Law Office, PC.
The Climate Challenge program offers several ways for a firm to qualify as a Climate Challenge Partner or Leader. Specifically, law offices may qualify by:
1. Implementing at least two of the following best practices for office paper management: (a) purchasing office paper with at least 30% post-consumer recycled content; (b) recycling mixed office paper; or (c) using double-sided copying and printing as the default setting for draft and internal documents.
2. Participating in EPA’s WasteWise program. In addition to implementing at least two of the three best practices for office paper management described above, the WasteWise program requires an office to file an annual report quantifying both the amount of office paper waste avoided and the amount of attendant greenhouse gas emissions avoided (the WasteWise website has a number of resources to accomplish this).1
3. Participating in EPA’s ENERGY STAR program by reducing at least 10% of its energy usage, if the law office owns its own building, or 10% of its electricity usage, if the law office is a tenant. A law office that achieves at least a 10% reduction in its energy or electricity usage will be recognized as a Climate Challenge Leader.
A law office that adopts two of the best practices for office paper management or meets the minimum requirements for participation in at least one of the EPA programs will qualify for recognition as a Climate Challenge Partner. A law office that achieves a higher level of participation in at least one of the EPA programs qualifies as a Climate Challenge Leader. The ABA and the EPA will formally recognize qualifying law offices and, for those offices that participate in EPA programs, the amounts of greenhouse gas emissions avoided by their actions will be posted on the ABA’s Climate Challenge website.
EPA’s Green Power Partnership Program:
Law offices may also become a Climate Challenge Partner or Leader by participating in EPA’s Green Power Partnership (“Green Power”) program. This program requires that an office replace a minimum amount of its annual electricity usage through the purchase of green power (i.e., electric power generated by renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy). The required minimum replacements range from 20%, for offices with relatively low annual electricity usage (² 1,000,000 Kilowatt-hours (“kWh”)), down to 3% for offices with relatively high annual electricity usage (³ 100,000,001 kWh). The Green Power program also provides a special calculation methodology for offices that lease their space. All Green Power Partners are recognized on the EPA’s website. For details, go to: http://www.epa.gov/greenpower.
In Utah, EPA-qualifying green power can be purchased through Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky Renewable Energy Program (“Blue Sky Program”). Under the Blue Sky Program, residential and business customers can purchase renewable energy in 100 kWh “blocks” for $1.95 per block per month. The Blue Sky charges are added to a customer’s monthly bill and are in addition to any regular service charges.
Purchasing renewable energy through the Blue Sky Program does not result in any changes to the way electricity is transmitted to the customer or require any modifications to a customer’s meter. Rather, for each block of Blue Sky energy a customer purchases, Rocky Mountain Power purchases an equivalent amount of renewable energy credits from newly developed wind generation and other renewable energy facilities in the Western region. The amount of renewable energy purchased on behalf of Blue Sky customers is formally reported to the State of Utah and the program receives oversight by the Utah Public Service Commission.
Businesses qualifying as a Green Power Partner through the purchase of Blue Sky blocks can also qualify to enroll in Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky Business Partner program. Rocky Mountain Power actively promotes and recognizes Blue Sky Business Partners on its website, in press announcements, and in other promotional materials, which may include paid advertising. For details about the Blue Sky Program, go to: http://www.rockymountainpower.net/env/bsre.html.
The Utah State Bar:
The Utah State Bar (the “Bar”) has made a commitment to being an environmental leader within the legal community. The Bar has become a Climate Challenge Partner by adopting and implementing the Climate Challenge’s recommended best practices for office paper management. The Bar qualified by: (1) ensuring that 100% of its copier/printer paper contains at least 30% post-consumer recycled content, and (2) establishing an office-wide policy of recycling discarded mixed office paper and assuring that all office personnel have ready access to recycling bins. Additionally, the Bar strives to reuse paper as scrap paper and for the printing of draft copies.
Further, the Bar recently became a Champion Partner in the Blue Sky Business Partner Program by replacing 10% of its annual electricity usage with renewable energy. This equates to a replacement of 42,000 kWh per year with green power, resulting in an annual carbon dioxide offset of 50,331 pounds. This offset is the equivalent of planting 591 trees a year. However, the Bar’s commitment to the environment does not end there.
The Bar has implemented a recycling program for non-paper goods, including plastic, aluminum, and cardboard, and has made recycling containers readily available throughout the Utah Law & Justice Center. The Bar also uses energy-saving light bulbs, turns off lights after hours and on weekends, purchases biodegradable disposable cutlery, and utilizes xeriscaping to conserve water.
Although we applaud the Bar’s efforts, we recognize that many of these actions may not be possible for firms or practitioners that rent or lease office space within a larger building. We also understand that not all firms or practitioners are willing to “green” their offices to this extent. However, even small efforts can work big change. It doesn’t necessarily take a major commitment of resources to become a more environmentally responsible office – even modest efforts to improve recycling, reduce paper use, and conserve energy can qualify an office to become a Climate Challenge Partner. We thus urge firms and practitioners to look at the many options available for meeting the Climate Challenge and consider customizing a plan that works for their office. Even small changes can have a large positive impact on the environment when considered in the aggregate.
Apart from benefits to the environment, such as improving air quality, reducing U.S. dependence on fossil fuels, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there are many tangible business benefits that may result from undertaking such actions and efforts. Initially, there can be a significant cost savings in reducing consumption. For example, reusing office paper for drafts or scratch paper and utilizing double-sided printing will reduce paper consumption. This can save an office a shocking amount of money. In 1995, Citigroup determined that if each employee used double-sided copying to conserve just one sheet of paper each week, the firm would save $700,000 each year. See www.reduce.org. Obviously, most law offices are not going to see such savings. Nevertheless, the cost savings that can be achieved will likely surprise you.
A significant amount of savings can also be achieved by reducing an office’s energy use.
The Climate Challenge’s “Law Office Guide to Energy Efficiency” reports that “[e]nergy represents 30% of a typical office building’s operating costs, and is the single largest controllable operating expense.”2 This guide explains that by taking practical and reasonable steps, such as making sure your office’s lighting system is up-to-date, making prudent purchases of energy-efficient office equipment as your older equipment wears out, and implementing best practices for office energy management (e.g., turning off office equipment on nights and weekends or when idle for more than two hours, turning off unneeded lights, using motion sensors to minimize unnecessary use of lights, and calibrating thermostats to adjust for seasonal changes), you can reduce your office’s energy costs by 10% to 30%.
Similarly, taking a look at the purchasing habits of your office can result in cost savings. Are your employees using bottled water or plastic forks for lunch everyday? What are the costs of refilling these items? No doubt, a switch to reusable items would save money in the long run. The point being, there are cost savings to be realized by changing your habits, but it may require some creativity in the way you look at your office’s consumption and use.
Promoting green law office practices is also beneficial to a firm’s image and is good for business development. More and more companies are taking steps to make their businesses greener and are looking to work with green partners, including the attorneys they hire to be a part of their business team. This is particularly important for firms or practitioners that advise clients on environmental issues. Being committed to greener office practices can also serve as an important recruiting tool when hiring young lawyers. In sum, implementing green office practices not only results in environmental benefits, but results in significant cost savings, serves as a valuable marketing tool, and enhances a firm or practitioner’s reputation as a good citizen.
If you have any questions about how to help your office become an ABA-certified Climate Challenge Partner or Green Utah Pledge signatory, please contact a committee member or visit the YLD website for more information. To learn more about the Climate Challenge or view the application and instructions for becoming a Climate Challenge Partner, visit www.abanet.org/environ/climatechallenge. Kelly Latimer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kallie Smith may be reached at Kallie-Smith@rbmn.com. Jon Clyde may be reached at Jclyde@clydesnow.com.
1. See http://www.americanbar.org/groups/environment_energy_resources/projects_awards/aba_epa_law_office_climate_challenge/office_paper_wastewise.
2. See http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/environ/climatechallenge/lawofficeguide.authcheckdam.pdf.