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Archive for the ‘Green Tips’ Category

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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While some of our readers are real go getters when it comes to sustainability — composting at home, only buying energy star products and biking to work — some folks say they don’t have the time or energy required to go green. For those people I ask: if TSL proposed an idea that was  more sustainable, cost the same as its competitors, and you didn’t have to actually do anything…would you be interested? Thought so.

Here’s the deal — whether they are practicing before a judge, meeting potential clients or going for a job interview, most lawyers know how important it is to dress appropriately. Looking good requires more than just fashion sense, it means keeping your suits freshly pressed and super clean – which is why a good dry cleaner can be a lawyers’ best friend. Most people might not know that the current process for dry cleaning is not exactly earth friendly, primarily because of a cleaning solvent called perchloroethylene, commonly known as PERC. About 90% of drycleaners in the United States use PERC as the solvent to lift stains from clothing in the dry cleaning process. Problem is, it’s bad for the environment, and hazardous to boot. Here are a few not so fun facts:

  • Studies conducted by the National Cancer Institute, the National Toxicology Program and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established PERC as a potential carcinogen and the EPA regulates PERC as a hazardous air pollutant.
  • Respiratory exposure to “high” levels of PERC,  can cause depression of the central nervous system, damage to the liver and kidneys, impaired memory, fatigue, nausea, confusion, dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, and eye, nose and throat irritation. Skin exposure to PERC can cause dry, scaly, and cracked dermatitis.
  • Workers in dry cleaning shops are at greatest risk. Because PERC can travel through floor, ceiling and wall materials, people living near or co-located in the same building as dry cleaners have also reported respiratory, skin and neurological problems.
  • A United States EPA report states that repeat exposure to of PERC in air may cause cancer in humans
  • PERC is also environmentally very unfriendly and when improperly handled can create health and environmental risks in the atmosphere, soil, groundwater, drinking water, and waterways threatening many forms of life. Small amounts of PERC have been shown to be toxic to some aquatic animals where it is stored in their fatty tissues. Small amounts of PERC contaminating soil or irrigation water can also damage or kill many kinds of plants.

So, what can you do about it? Don’t worry, we are not going to ask you do clean and press your suits professionally at home. In the past few years, many dry cleaners have made efforts to remove the use of PERC from their operations and are using biodegradable soap, liquid CO2 and liquid silicon. No need to whip out your smart phones, because TSL did all the work to find the green cleaners, many of them right here in the Boston area.

Clevergreen Cleaners: Boston, Medford and Cambridge – Use liquid silicon solvent called Green Earth

Bush Quality Cleaners: Boston (multiple locations), New Bedford, Fairhaven, Dartmouth – Use liquid silicon solvent Green Earth.

Oxford Laundry: Cambridge – Use “eco-friendly detergents and organic solvents”

Zoots: Statewide – Use a “cleaning fluid that’s 100% biodegradable.” More on their work here.

Dependable Cleaners: Statewide – Use “high quality, recyclable dry cleaning solutions that are environmentally friendly.” More on their green work here.

So do us, and everyone else a favor next time you need to freshen up your suit for that important meeting. Dry clean green.

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We know that lawyers are great at critical thinking, analytic reasoning, and yes…arguing. There’s something else that lawyers are well known for – drinking coffee. Here at TSL, we don’t want to just focus on big picture building renovations  or big law initiatives (even though these things are important!), we also want to provide a few reasonable tips on how lawyers can be more sustainable in their daily lives. Coffee, in case you didn’t know, is a great way to do this. A few months back, TSL highlighted a partnership between the BBA and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters  to recycle used k-cups. This week we want to provide some suggestions for making your daily cup (or let’s be honest…cups) easier on the environment. Here we want to show some ways for the individual to make a difference.

First, some stats. Now I am sure you believe us that altering your coffee consumption can make a difference, but just hear us out. TSL turned to the National Coffee Association and The Specialty Coffee Association of America to find out how much coffee Americans drink:

  • Over 50% of Americans over 18 years of age drink coffee every day, which represents 150 million daily drinkers.
  • 30 million American adults drink specialty coffee beverages daily; which include a mocha, latte, espresso, café mocha, cappuccino, frozen/iced coffee beverages, etc.
  • Among coffee drinkers the average consumption in the United States is 3.1 cups of coffee per day, 400 million cups of coffee per day making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world.

Enough stats. You get it, Americans drink lots of coffee. So what can you do to reduce the environmental impact of your daily dose (or doses) of caffeine? TSL has three suggestions:

1) Make your own.

Making your own coffee is more sustainable in a few ways, but for the sake of space, let’s talk about 2.

  • When making for yourself, you have more control over the amount of coffee you make, water you use and waste that is created. At home you can use a permanent coffee filter rather than using other filters (and they are cheap, as you can see) and you can compost your grounds for that garden you were thinking of starting this summer. Ever wondered what coffee shops do with all the extra coffee that is made? You shouldn’t. It gets tossed.
  • When brewing from home, you also have the ability to choose which coffee you buy and make (duh). The reason TSL mentions this is because buying fair trade coffee is the way to go. Fair trade coffee 1) was grown and harvested under fair labor conditions, 2) is purchased directly from growers/producer groups, eliminating the middle man and allowing the farmer to compete in the global market and 3) is made by farmers and workers who invest in community projects like scholarship programs and quality improvement training.

Plus, when you make your own coffee that means you will:

2) Use a reusable cup or mug. To be honest, this one is fairly obvious. We don’t even need to do the math of what impact 400 paper, plastic or even *gasp!* styrofoam cups per day can have on our environment. So if you want a reusable cup or mug that gets the job done, look no further. TSL himself uses a biodegradable Gordon Sinclair travel mug (that you can find here) and a porcelain mug for drinking coffee at the desk. The problem with the travel mug is that you can’t microwave it. If that is a deal breaker, you can get other types of reusable mugs. If you want to go on the cheaper side, try something like this for 5 bucks. If you want to get fancy, go porcelain designed with some of these options.

3) Now even TSL knows we can’t convince everyone to swear off coffee shops forever. If you must head to your nearest Dunkin, Starbucks or Au Bon Pain, so be it. But just for us, ask them to fill up your reusable mug instead (Starbucks even offers a 10 cent discount).  If you’re an iced coffee person, try one of these. Whatever you do, please don’t be one of those people who asks for a separate styrofoam cup to cover you iced coffee so your hands don’t get cold. Buy a coffee sleeve, they are cheap and you can use them 100 times over. You can get super artsy with these or basic here. Heck, you can make them yourself if you really want.

Just remember, even out of 400 million, every cup makes a difference.

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This past Tuesday, the BBA hosted program that provided engineering tips on greening an office and legal tips greening a lease. This sounded like a great opportunity to sit in on one of the BBA’s many brownbag lunches and hear from resident experts like Mark Walsh-Cooke (ARUP), Vernon Woodworth (AKF Group) and moderator Julie Taylor (Noble & Wickersham). If you have been reading TSL, you know that this has been a topic we have touched on before, but with all the new info we learned, we are eager to show it off.

Though many of the questions and conversations were at a very high level, TSL is going to do its best to break down what we learned into simple categories. Here goes:

Green leases are necessary:

Some basic facts (garnered from the 2012 Green Lease Workgroup of the Environmental Law and Real Estate Section of the BBA) about buildings in the United States:

  • Buildings account for over 50% of U.S energy use (in urban areas, it is closer to 75%)
  • U.S. Buildings emit more greenhouses gases than the transportation sector
  • Buildings in the U.S. use more than 38 billion gallons of water every day

Based on these state alone, it’s obvious that limiting the energy use and emissions of buildings is an extremely important sustainability initiative. But doesn’t that sounds really, really hard? Well, that brings us to our next point.

Green leases are not “heavy lifting”

One of the biggest misconceptions about a green lease is the amount of work involved and how complicated that work is. While it is true that not just anyone can (or should) write up a green lease, that does not mean the process is overly taxing. There are a few important things everyone considering a green lease needs to know:

1) Writing a green lease does not mean you need to write or approve an entirely new lease. All it means is including or editing your current lease to incorporate new sustainable processes.

2) A green lease, or green clause, need not be lengthy. Experts at the meeting mentioned that the most simple clauses ones are only a paragraph or two while more complicated ones may go on for *gasp* two whole pages!

Photo from Engineering Tips on “Greening” your Office and Legal Tips on “Greening” your Lease

The last (and maybe best) part about green leases? Most of the work is already done for you.

1) The most complicated part of the arrangement, landlord tenant concerns, have also been addressed.  Here’s the problem: the landlord doesn’t want to offer the initial payout to remodel, buy new lighting fixtures and the like unless they see the benefits on their bottom line. The tenant, because they are leasing the building doesn’t want to be held accountable for the initial payout but wants to reap the benefits when it comes to energy bills. The solution? Experts in their fields have developed model clauses that bridge the gap between tenant and landlord’s when it comes to green leases. This model lease holds both parties offering a portion towards the initial payout and both receiving benefits of the reduction in energy costs.

2) Many green organizations, government agencies and other associations wanted to make creating or editing a green lease as easy as possible, so the provide countless guides, green leases clauses, policies and procedures and the like. The BBA is no different — keep an eye out for the BBA’s Green Lease Workgroup’s Green Lease Guide, set to be released this fall. In the meantime, here are a few sources you can check out:

There you have it. Greening your lease is necessary, does not take up countless hours of billable time, and there is a bevy of available resources online to at your disposal to make the process as simple and easy as possible.

So…what are you waiting for?

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With Earth Day approaching (April 22nd, don’t forget!), TSL was looking for a way to provide some practical suggestions for our readers to be more sustainable (like we did in our New Years post) and dare we say…save the planet? Fortunately for us, Chris Davis, Director of Investor Program at Ceres (TSL posted on their initiatives a while back) and member of the BBA’s Environmental Sustainability Task Force, sent us a list of “Ten Things You Can Do to Help Save the Planet” that he composed based more than 30 years of experience as an environmental lawyer. TSL is happy to share them with you:

  • 1. Stop Eating Beef. Beef is a very energy inefficient and environmentally destructive source of protein. Corn fed, feedlot raised cattle cause a great deal of pollution—from nitrogen fertilizer and massive water use to grow the corn, petroleum to till, harvest and transport it; manure runoff, and methane emissions contributing to global warming, among other negative impacts (e.g., all the antibiotics fed to the cattle). If you can’t give it up, eat local, grass fed beef.
  • 2. Drive Less. Carbon dioxide emissions from our cars are a major contributor to climate change, and our gasoline use supports environmentally destructive oil production (e.g., expanded offshore drilling, Canadian tar sands mining). Look for ways to eliminate or combine trips, share rides, walk, bike or take public transportation (take the train to Boston). Keep your car well tuned, your tires fully inflated, and don’t idle. You’ll save money and reduce your contribution to global warming.
  • 3. Make Your Home More Energy Efficient. Buildings account for 40% of total energy use and their heating, cooling and lighting causes about 40% of US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause global warming. Adding insulation, sealing cracks, and installing a more efficient heating system will save energy and cut your heating and cooling costs. Also, try heating and air conditioning less—wear a sweater, use fans, save money. And of course, use only efficient CFL or LED lighting, and turn off computers and other electronic devices when not in use.
  • 4. Buy Organic, Local Food. Minimize the “environmental footprint” of your food—the energy and resources used to grow and transport it. Conventional food is produced using environmentally polluting fertilizers and pesticides, and on average our food travels over 2000 miles, increasing its “carbon footprint” of GHG emissions used to move it. Organic food is much easier on the environment—grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. And locally grown organic food has the smallest footprint, is fresher and healthier, and supports local farmers.
  • 5. Buy Less Stuff. We Americans comprise only about 4% of the world’s population, but use about 20% of global energy and resources– an unsustainable level of consumption. All of the manufactured goods we buy (think electronics, clothing, toys) use energy, water, oil, and mineral resources, all contributing to pollution in China or wherever our stuff is made. Buy only what you need, buy quality long lasting items, and observe the old Yankee credo: “use it up, wear it out, make do.” Think of all the money (and pollution) you’ll save.
  • 6. Use Recycled Products. Recycling all of our paper, glass metal and plastics is a good first step, but to close the circle and make recycling economical (and more widespread) we need to create demand for recycled products by buying them. Use recycled printer and copier paper, toilet paper and paper towels—all now widely available. Look for products made of recycled plastic (like decking) and metal. Ask stores to carry recycled products.
  • 7. Buy Green Power. Most of our electricity comes from burning coal (which is environmentally destructive to mine, and the largest source of carbon dioxide (GHG) and mercury emissions) or nuclear power (which generates radioactive wastes that we haven’t figured out how to manage). Renewable energy sources (wind, solar, small scale hydro) generate electricity with no GHG emissions. You can elect to buy 50% or 100% renewable source electricity through National Grid under their “green power” program . It costs more, but supports renewable energy and reduces pollution from your electricity use. Check it out.
  • 8. Support Conservation. The Earth’s forests, ecosystems and wildlife habitat are disappearing at an alarming rate, and their destruction exacerbates climate change and loss of biodiversity. Locally, development continues to replace farmland and woodlands with housing developments and strip malls. Support the preservation of our remaining natural areas by joining and contributing to a local land trust, Greenbelt, Mass. Audubon, the National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, or another conservation organization.
  • 9. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is. We have the choice of contributing either to the problem or the solution both through what we buy and how we invest our money. Stop buying the products of companies with poor environmental records. Patronize “green” companies. And invest in high quality “green” companies and mutual funds, instead of in oil, coal and power companies that perpetuate our unsustainable fossil fuel powered economy.
  • 10. Practice Green Politics. Make your vote, your voice, and your political contributions count for the environment, not against it. Support candidates that support environmental protection, and contribute to organizations that lobby for the environment. Let your elected officials know you support strong environmental laws and oppose efforts to weaken them. Contribute to the League of Conservation Voters. Help break the stranglehold of the fossil fuel lobby on our national energy and environmental policies. Collectively, we can make a real difference!

Do you have something you want to contribute to The Sustainable Lawyer? Send us a message or sound off below.


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The Sustainable Lawyer (TSL) is always looking for new ways to help law firms and offices  reduce their environmental impact, and this week, we have come across another one. The kicker? The product in question is something that is a necessity in the workplace (for lawyers especially!), is used many times per day (oftentimes more than one is used per day), and each year, millions of them needlessly end up in landfills across the country. What are we talking about? Anyone?

Pens. That’s right, pens. The program is called the Writing Instruments Brigade, and it started when Sanford Brands (a division of Newell Rubbermaid) partnered with eco innovator TerraCycle with a goal to create a “second life” for writing instruments. So how does it work? The process is simple — send used writing instruments to TerraCycle via mail and they either recycle or repurpose the materials. It can’t be that easy, you might be thinking. What products do they allow? How much does it cost to ship? Are there fees to sign up or cancel participation? Worry not, because TSL did all the research for you.

  • It’s not just pens. The Writing Instruments Brigade accepts any size pen, pencil, mechanical pencil, wooden pencil, marker, highlighter, sharpies and dry erase markers. Even though they partnered with PaperMate and Sharpie, the brigade accepts these products regardless of brand.
  • The Writing Instruments Brigade pays for you to ship your writing utensils to them. Once you sign up, you download a pre-paid UPS return label on your online account. TerraCycle will also send pre-paid labels to you via mail per request. In addition, there is no packaging requirement for shipping, you can send in boxes big or small or even envelopes if you like. TerraCycle does ask that you try and reuse your shipping materials, though.
  • Signing up to the Writing Instruments Brigade is free. All you need to do is have one contact person to oversee the instruments at your location, an e-mail address and a mailing address. It really couldn’t be any easier.

It doesn’t end there. Each approved writing instrument received earns you two TerraCycle point. What do you do with TerraCycle points? You can either redeem them for a variety of recycled products (they repurpose the materials sent to them to make creative and useful items), or convert it into money. Two points is one cent, and you can send that money to the non-profit organization or school of your choice. It just keeps getting better.

Currently, the brigade has over 1,250 collection locations that have collected 452,941 units, and is looking for more. Will you be the next to sign on to the brigade?

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As you know, The Sustainable Lawyer focuses on highlighting law firms and offices that are committed to sustainability, providing green office tips, and the like. This week, however, we are going to step away from that focus for one very important reason — Valentine’s Day. While one might not immediately associate lawyers and Valentine’s Day, TSL knows that this week is filled with last minute bouquet hunting, chocolate buying and restaurant reserving for your significant other. Plus, we all know that being green is important whether it’s inside the office or out.

Earlier this week, Julie Taylor of Noble & Wickersham LLP and member of our Environmental Sustainability Task Force, sent TSL an e-mail about the Sierra Club highlighting some ways to have a more sustainable Valentine’s Day. While not all of their suggestions are ones we would recommend here (I’m looking at you, eco-underwear) there are some good and plausible suggestions for a greener Valentine’s Day. Here are our favorites:

Choose a “green” restaurant

The most sustainable option when planning a Valentine’s Day dinner is to buy ingredients from your local farmers market and make them yourself. But hey, it’s Valentine’s Day, and you and your significant other deserves a treat (that doesn’t involve washing dishes). So if you’re looking for a restaurant, try using DineGreen.com, the Green Restaurant Association’s website that certifies restaurants as “green” based on 7 categories; Water Efficiency, Waste Reduction and Recycling, Sustainable Furnishings and Building Materials, Sustainable Food, Energy, Disposables and Chemical and Pollution Reduction. The listing of Massachusetts green certified restaurants is here.

If you prefer vegetarian or vegan options, try VegDining.com, a database that compiles vegetarian/vegetarian friendly restaurants and food stores (and even denotes them based on vegan and vegetarian “friendliness”).

Buy Flowers Sustainably

In case you didn’t know, the cut-flower industry is damaging to the environment. While TSL wishes we could suggest that you make your own bouquet from your garden teeming with flowers of all varieties, it’s February in Massachusetts — so that’s not happening. One way to go is to buy from OrganicBouquet.com, the “largest online provider or eco-friendly and organic floral gifts.” Monitored by numerous certification agencies and associations, Organic Bouquets partners with farms in California, Ecuador and Columbia to provide customers with high quality flowers and floral arrangements in line with their strict eco-standards. Worried about shipping? Organic Bouquets has partnered with Carbonfund.org to initiate a carbon offset program that mitigates greenhouse gases generated from shipping your flowers and gifts.

Organic Chocolate is the Way to Go

To many of us, Valentine’s Day means one thing — chocolate. No one is crazy enough to suggest that you don’t buy chocolate for your Valentine, but TSL thinks the Sierra Club is onto something when it suggests buying chocolate that is organic, local and shade grown. Quick fact — of all plants, cocoa demands the second highest use of pesticides (cotton is first).

The Sierra Club suggests avoiding names like M&M/Mars, Hershey, and Russell Stover and keeping an eye out for Green & Black’s, Newman’s Own Organics, and Endangered Species. They offer more suggestions for artisanal, organic and fair trade options here, while Rainforest Relief offers its own list.

We know everybody thinks about the color red on Valentine’s Day, but this year, start thinking green.

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