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This past Saturday was a day of celebration for many in Boston. An estimated 2 million made the trek to downtown Boston for a day of revelry honoring the Red Sox 2013 championship win. 15 miles north of Boston, a special group of 11 volunteers from the BBA’s New Lawyers and Environmental Law Section were involved their own celebration of “youth, food , and community” at The Food Project (TFP) in Greater Lynn. Longtime readers will have heard of The Food Project before, but if you haven’t, TSL has you covered.

The Food Project works with over 150 teenagers and thousands of volunteers to farm on 40 acres of land in different locations across Eastern Massachusetts. Food from the farms is distributed through community agriculture programs, farmers markets and local hunger relief organizations. TFP also offers and educational element and training and services, so youth and volunteers can learn more about farming, healthy eating and sustainable processes.

Turner, PhelpsBased on that description, it’s pretty clear why our lawyers decided to volunteer at the Food Project again. We reached out to one of Saturday’s volunteers Phelps Turner, of Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen (who boasts a renown environmental law practice) to get a sense of his experience volunteering.

1) Why did you decide to volunteer for the food project serve and grow program?

I jumped at this opportunity to volunteer with the Food Project’s Serve and Grow program because I’m very interested in urban agriculture as a means to increasing urban residents’ access to healthy, energy-efficient and affordable food. I was also excited to volunteer because I’m inspired by the Food Project’s mission of bringing urban and suburban youth and adults together to work on farms, to learn about the food we eat and to build a sustainable food system.

2) What did you enjoy most about the experience?

We had beautiful weather for our morning of farming. I especially enjoyed transporting compost that had been produced on the farm and using it to create planting beds, in which we planted garlic for next season. I also enjoyed meeting and working with the local youth, who have developed excellent leadership skills, and seeing old friends and new faces among the BBA volunteers.

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3) Did you learn anything new or interesting?

This is my third time volunteering with the Food Project, and I learn new things about the Food Project and the food system every time. This time, I learned, among other things, that 25% of young adults are too obese to qualify for military service, and that the average fast food meal consists of over 1,600 calories, compared to 500 in the average homemade meal. Facts like these underline the importance of increasing access to healthy and affordable food in heavily populated urban settings, which can be achieved in part by growing the food locally, at farms like the one in Lynn.

Thanks, Phelps – we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Kudos to the 11 who spent their Saturday morning making an impact on the local community… and on parade day, no less.

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Our friends at Nixon Peabody are well known leaders when it comes to sustainability. TSL has talked about their innovative Legally Green initiative in past posts (here and here), so you already know plenty about that. As a quick refresher, the initiative includes three commitments, 1) implementing sustainable policies and practices throughout the firm, 2) serving as a sustainability “thought leader” in the communities they serve and 3) assisting clients to create long term value through sustainable business strategies.

lfsnSo it was no surprise to us when a representative at Nixon reached out to TSL about yet another sustainability effort, but with a twist…Nixon wasn’t going at this one alone. They helped create and organize the newly incorporated Law Firm Sustainability Network (think the Justice League for environmentally conscious law firms) which is committed to developing key performance indicators and best practice guidelines, fostering knowledge sharing, and promoting sustainability innovation in the U.S. legal sector. In addition to helping to spearhead the initiative, Nixon also serves on the Leadership Council and Board of Directors for the LFSN.

That sounds great and all, but if you’re wondering what the LFSN actually DOES, fear not, we’ve got that covered too.  We reached out to Carolyn Kaplan, Chief Sustainability Officer at Nixon, for a more in-depth look.

The LFSN began informally in 2011, with a handful of firms, all focused on the nuts and bolts of sustainability, a desire for practical knowledge they could implement at their offices. So they started sharing case studies and informational webinars on key issues, such as dealing with large buildings, paper purchasing, and the like. Over the course of time, the informal network became more formal, and decided to incorporate in November of 2012.

Carolyn explains: “The firms involved saw the benefits of collaborating with their peers. Our clients recognize the importance of entering into partnerships to achieve sustainability goals. If law firms collaborate, we too have a greater ability to make an impact and drive change. Issues we are dealing with are broad and global and require collective effort.

A global and collective effort? Really? As a matter of fact, yes. The LFSN has already officially partnered with global organizations like the Legal Sector Alliance UK and the Australian Legal Sector Alliance, furthering their goals to further raise awareness and reduce environmental impacts globally within the legal industry.

Currently, they are working to finalize the American Legal Industry Sustainability Standards (ALISS), a self-assessment tool that comprehensively measures law firms’ implementation of practices that promote energy efficiency, conservation of energy and resources, recycling, commuting, and more. Firms can rate themselves and earn recognition for taking a leadership role. They have continued their webinar efforts, holding programs on enhancing market reputation and increasing business efficiencies. Learn more here.

Now it’s your turn to get involved. Learn more about how to be a member here. There’s still plenty of time to make an impact. The Justice League (ahem, Law Firm Sustainability Network) hasn’t even cast the Green Lantern yet.

Weather in Boston has cooled down (thanks to a few rainy days) since our first heat wave of the year nearly two weeks ago. Most New Englanders made sure to stay inside and enjoy the air conditioning, while quite a few headed to the nearest lake, beach or pool. The Public Service Committees of the Environmental Law and New Lawyers Section, however, were braving the sweltering heat on one of the hottest days of the year to spend three hours on a farm, volunteering with the Food Project’s “Serve & Grow Program.”

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TSL has posted on The Food Project, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting urban and suburban sustainable agriculture before, but here’s a quick rundown. The program is essentially split into two parts:

  •  The Youth Program, where teenagers from Greater Boston and the North Shore cultivate farmland, participate in workshops, work with hunger relief organizations, and lead volunteers in the fields.
  • Serve & Grow Program, where volunteers help the Food Project achieve their mission by visiting our farms to help tend the fields planting, weeding, harvesting, washing vegetables, and preparing beds.

Naturally, after hearing about this volunteer experience, TSL wanted to know more, so we touched base with Staci Rubin of Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), who serves as Co-Chair of the Environmental Law Public Service Committee to learn more about the experience.

1)      Why did you choose The Food Project as a volunteer opportunity?

We chose to volunteer at the Food Project because we wanted to continue the BBA’s practice of supporting The Food Project’s work and exposing the legal community to a rewarding community service opportunity.  One recommendation of the BBA’s Sustainability Task Force was that a group from the BBA volunteers annually at The Food Project.  The Food Project manages 40 acres of farmland in Eastern Massachusetts (Beverly, Boston, Lincoln, and Lynn), primarily through the work of young people and volunteers.  At the West Cottage farm in Dorchester, we had the opportunity to help maintain crops that will be sold to farmers’ markets and donated to hunger relief organizations.  This event was a nice follow-up to the urban agriculture brown bag lunch on February 28 sponsored by our committee.

2) What was your experience like?

We began the day learning about the food system: the process of getting food from the earth (through cultivation, production, transportation, distribution, and consumption) to people.  The youth from The Food Project led us in a series of exercises to learn facts about the farm bill, worker conditions, and the average price growers get for producing a pound of food.  We then divided into groups to focus on weeding and maintaining the pathways between beds.  We spent three hours working the land, with plenty of time for water and food breaks.  We then had a short closing conversation to reflect on the day.   A highlight for me was meeting new people and engaging in good conversations while weeding the beet beds.  The aroma from the nearby chives and hot sun provided the perfect setting for a morning on the urban farm.

Kudos to our volunteers for their commitment to continuing the hard work of the BBA Sustainability Task Force and working with a community initiative that increases the accessibility of fresh produce to low income families. On a 91 degree day, no less.

hubwayTSL is back in action again, this time to highlight a new corporate partnership between the BBA and one of the fastest growing sustainable organizations in the Greater Boston area. That’s right, we’re talking Hubway.

So you’ve probably heard of Hubway at this point. If you haven’t, you must have seen the ports of bikes in Downtown Boston and spanning to Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline. For Hubway newbies, here’s a quick history lesson for you.

  • In 2007, Mayor Menino and the Director of Boston Bicycle Programs Nicole Friedman began looking into bike sharing programs and got the Metropolitan Area Planning Council involved, figuring (rightly) that this effort would need to encompass more than just Boston.
  • After doing copious research, they settled on Hubway (or Alta Bicycle Share if you want to get technical about it), who launched in 2011 with 600 bikes at 60 stations in Boston. One year later, after gauging Boston’s success, Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline added ports of their own.
  • Fast forward to today– it’s popular. Like really, really popular.  There are currently 108 stations with more than 1,000 bikes across Boston’s metro area, and no signs of slowing down. If that doesn’t impress you, this will: in less than two years, Hubway has logged more than 810,000 rides, including 130,000 since April 2 of this year.

If you’ve read TSL before, you know that the BBA has taken multiple steps to be more sustainable, from building changes, participating in Grounds to Grow On (the K-Cup Recycling plan), undergoing an energy audit and even replacing all of its exit lights. This one’s a little bit different. Rather than making changes to the energy consumption of its building or day to day procedures, the BBA has given its employees the opportunity to be more sustainable on their own time – at significantly discounted rates.

Thanks to a few particularly industrious BBA employees, who surveyed staff interest and wrote up a proposal, the BBA elected to participate in Hubway’s Silver Corporate Sponsorship –which provides staff with a convenient, economical and environmentally form of transportation, for just $25 bucks a year per person. The best part? Rides inside 30 minutes are free of charge with a membership. So unless you get lost on those cow paths, it should be smooth (and free) pedaling.

If you’re worried about the safety of the BBA Staff, don’t be. In a few weeks, Boston will be rolling out Helmet Hub, a helmet sharing program (whose dispensers were invented by MIT), the first in the nation to do so. Did we mention the helmet dispensers were solar powered? Can’t beat that.

See Hubway’s Corporate Sponsors here.

community-garden-in-boston-cmpThough winter is not quite over, TSL has decided to come out of hibernation. Why, you ask? A February 28 program at 16 Beacon Street, “Cultivating Local, Health Food: Urban Agriculture Initiatives & Pro Bono Opportunities,” caught our eye.  This program stood out for a few reasons:  1) Urban Agriculture is a hot topic in Massachusetts and across New England; 2) The Commissioner of the MA Department of Agriculture is one of the panelists, and 3) TSL is always on the lookout for environmentally focused pro bono opportunities. With this in mind, TSL touched base with Staci Rubin (Alternatives  for Community and Environment) and Jennifer Rushlow (Conservation Law Foundation) to give us the lowdown on the upcoming event.

As we know, the BBA has a reputation for developing cutting edge programming on relevant legal and business issues both state and nationwide. Some recent examples? The BBA’s Update on the Jamaica Plain Drug Lab Crisis, and  Apple-Samsung $1 Billion Judgment and its Impact on the Smartphone Market. So why Urban Agriculture? Staci explains:

Rubin, Staci1“When it comes to urban agriculture, there is great public interest on the topic, and the pace of policy development in this arena in the last few years has been swift, which makes this an ideal topic for the BBA — there is much new information to report. This is an area of great opportunity for our legal community in terms of providing support for the growing urban agriculture movement and this program will provide clarity as to how they can get professionally involved in this movement – by providing pro bono legal services to urban gardeners, farmers and food entrepreneurs and by engaging in public service with urban agriculture focused organizations.”

TSL gets that not everyone wants to listen to a panel of speakers during their lunch break, but frankly, this program will be worth it. How do we know? Jennifer Rushlow gave us a primer on the speakers and their topics, so you can make your own decision:

Rushlow, Jenny“Panelists will address recent developments in environmental and land use laws that will impact environmental lawyers’ work, illustrate how environmental lawyers can provide support for urban gardeners facing legal challenges, comment about the recent policy developments affecting urban agriculture and the Boston rezoning process and share expertise on interagency efforts related to sustainable food production.”

Speakers:

Gregory Watson – (Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources)
Attorney Philip B. Posner – (Volunteer, Massachusetts Environmental Justice Assistance Network
Paul Locke – (Director of Response and Remediation for Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection)
Danah Tench – (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection)

So far so good, right? But that’s not all. The program will also highlight one of TSL’s favorite things, environmental pro bono and public service opportunities for lawyers! Yes, the program is a week away, but TSL is already getting excited to hear from our panelists on how to:

1) Represent groups of low income residents and residents of color to convert vacant lots into green space for gardening,
2) Find transactional pro bono work on behalf community gardeners,
3) Serve as a board member for organizations working on urban agriculture and
4) Participate in an upcoming (June 1st) public service day with the Food Project (remember them?).

For now, TSL is signing off, but we will see you next Thursday…right?

Many of our loyal readers will fondly remember TSL’s first post: “Who Knew? The MA Trial Court has a Green Team – and It’s Saving Money.” Almost a full year later, TSL once again touched with Michal O’Loughlin to find out what green efforts are going on at the Massachusetts Trial Court, and as it turns out, the City of Boston.

When we spoke with Michael he let us know about an E-waste program (that the Trial Court has participated in since 2008) run by the City of Boston is only weeks away on Saturday, September 29th. The event, which will be held from 9am to 3pm (rain or shine), at the Bayside Expo Parking Lot at 200 Mt Vernon St, Dorchester, MA. Here you can recycle computers, monitors, televisions, cell phones, microwaves and much more. For more information and a list of what is and is not accepted as e-waste, click here.

TSL has talked about the benefits of recycling e-waste before, but for now, here is a quick refresher:

  • In many instances, computers, laptops, telephones, cell phones, TV’s, inkjet printers and other gadgets can often be refurbished to working condition and given to non-profits or local schools.
  • Everyday appliances are made from materials including plastic and precious metals such as gold and silver, tantalum, mercury, lead and more. Reusing these products rather than making more plastic or mining more metals can significantly impact the environment.
  • According to E-Steward.com, electronics include lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, beryllium and brominated flame retardants. If improperly decommissioned, these materials can potentially cause serious health risks to both workers and their communities including cancer, reproductive disorders, endocrine disruption, and many other health problems.

So for law firms and offices or anyone with old electronics lying around that they need to get rid of, save the date for September 29th to make sure you are disposing of your electronic waste properly. Take a hint from the Trial Court. Since participating in the City of Boston’s e-waste program in program 2009, the Court has collected more than 199,000 lbs. of e-wasteand saved more than $276,000 in disposal costs.

Saving the environment while saving money? Sounds like a win-win.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more on the Trial Court’s Green team.

Now nearly halfway through August, some folks are already preparing for fall, with back to school specials, fall beers in stores and planning last minute vacations. TSL knows that there is plenty of warm weather on the way, which is why we reached out the members of our Environmental Sustainability Task Force to see if they had any tips for a more sustainable summer. Thankfully for TSL, Carolyn Kaplan (Nixon Peabody), Michelle O’Brien (Mackie Shea O’Brien) and Pamela Harvey (Mass DEP) came through with some great suggestions on staying green while still beating the heat.

1) Put Pedal to the Metal. Everyone knows that riding a bike or taking the T to work is the way to go. That said, in the sweltering head or in a time crunch (no offense, MBTA) it might not be for everyone. That said, why not bike rather than drive to a friends for a nice weekend lunch? Want to go to the beach? TSL knows from experience that the Blue Line takes you right to Revere (and Kelly’s Roast Beef) for a fun day out with the family. And don’t scoff, with brand new sand and a renewed emphasis on keeping the beach clean, you might just mistake Revere for a quasi-tropical paradise.

2) Skip the Supers. Farmers Markets are all the rage of late, and for good reason. Who can resist op notch produce coming from countless farms across Massachusetts? The sustainable benefits go without saying, but naturally, we are going to say it anyways. Farmers markets:

  1. They help reduce food miles, thus vehicle pollution and fossil fuel use.
  2. Help to reduce packaging.
  3. Help to improve diet and nutrition by providing access to fresh food.
  4. Cut out the middleman allowing increased financial returns through direct selling and price control
  5. Stimulate local economic development by increasing employment and encouraging consumers to support local business.

So whether you are stopping by a market on in Boston on your way home, or making a weekend trip (bike ride to the farmers market, anyone), support local farms and pick up some of the fantastic produce they have to offer. Here’s a list of Massachusetts farmers markets and their hours of operation.

3) Cool it with the AC. Pamela Harvey recommends turning off the AC and having a relaxing dinner on your deck or patio. Worried about coming home to a sweltering house? If you have central air – use it to your advantage. Michelle O’Brien recommends installing (or using) a timer so you can come home to a cool home without blasting the AC all day. If your unit has an energy saver mode, always use it. It’s the little things that count.

4) Lay off the bottle. Summer is hot, and water is necessity. That said, try and stay away from bottled water whenever possible, or as Pamela Harvey says “enjoy the Quabbin on Ice.” Use a Brita if you are a stickler for filtered water, and if you need water on the go, buy a water bottle (a green one if possible). Vapur.com tells us that 17 million barrels of oil are used each year to make water bottles.  Whoa…let’s put a stop to that.

Think we missed some tips? Want to hear more? Sound off below!

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