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Archive for December 7th, 2011

If you’ve been reading The Sustainable Lawyer, you know that we have highlighted the MA Trial Court, WilmerHale, Nixon Peabody, Nutter McClennen & Fish and others. These large firms and organizations have undertaken some impressive green initiatives, and deserve to be highlighted. However, if any of our solo and small firm lawyers were wondering when we were going to give them something on a smaller scale, fear not! The wait is over.

The Sustainable Lawyer searched for a small office that was taking sustainable steps to reduce their environmental impact. Fortunately, we didn’t have to look very hard before finding boutique environmental law firm Mackie Shea O’Brien PC, a 7 person office located in the Back Bay. The Sustainable Lawyer touched base with Executive Director Denise Green (we promise, that’s her real name) to get a sense of what Mackie Shea O’Brien (MSO) was doing on the sustainability front. Denise broke down their initiatives in three major ways: kitchen, office and building.

Kitchen: The focus in the kitchen is using reusable products. That means MSO is stocked with real dishes, glasses, silverware and utensils. They have nearly eliminated paper towels from the office entirely, and in the kitchen primarily use cloth towels. Looking for plastic bags or tin foil? You’re not going to find it. MSO has a selection of Tupperware as for anything leftover from the office. Everything is piled into the on-site dishwasher, which, of course, is only run when completely filled. At first, Green says, “everyone brought in extra plates, silverware and the like from home. Later, we got matching sets of glasses and bowls. Next it was Tupperware, and so on.”

Office: Though you won’t find paper products in the kitchen, you need paper to run an office. So, MSO makes sure their copy paper, paper towels and even letterhead is made of at least 50% recyclable material. Did we mention that their letterhead is made at a paper mill that runs on wind power? As for computers, all computers and monitors are shut down at the end of the work day, which as the Sustainable Lawyer has mentioned, can save a considerable amount of energy. As you might guess, MSO participates in single stream recycling, but they didn’t always have that luxury. At their old office, the landlord (gasp!) didn’t recycle at all. Don’t think that stopped them! They hired a company to pick up and recycle all of their paper products. But what about their cans, bottles and other plastic, you ask? Get this – MSO employees volunteered to take the recyclables home or to local recycling plants on a weekly basis. Talk about commitment.

Building: When MSO moved offices from Newbury Street to Boylston Street, one of the things they kept in mind was a landlord committed to sustainable practices. Though in an older building, management had kept HVAC systems up to date and was planning another renovation, and was planning on upgrading recycling vendors shortly. As for the construction of their office space, MSO simply let their vendors and contractors know that they were interested in eco-friendly products and outlined their budget. The vendors made it happen….all within their budget.

“We don’t have an environmental budget or anything like that,” said Green. “We use good, common business sense and a commitment to sustainability from the top down. As environmental lawyers, being sustainable is the nature of our business, but these are steps that anyone can take.

As a small firm, you compete with big firms every day. You have to think that your firm is as good and as valuable in a legal sense, but the same applies when it comes to sustainability. The little things matter.”

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