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Archive for the ‘Spotlight’ Category

Here at TSL, we have a long history of identifying programs and initiatives that benefit sustainability and green living. That’s why when we heard about Conservation Law Foundation’s Legal Services Food Hub, we thought it was the perfect chance to return to the spotlight.

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First things first, TSL did our due diligence by reaching out to Elena Mihaly, Legal Services Food Hub Coordinator, for the lowdown on the initiative. Elena was a bevy of knowledge on the Food Hub and sustainability in general, and we learned a lot – but for our readers’ sake, we’ll try and keep it brief.

The Legal Services Food Hub, in simplest terms, is a legal services network that will provide pro bono services to lower income farmers, food entrepreneurs and food related organizations/groups (hereby known as the three f’s). Pretty brief right? Well there’s more…obviously. TSL didn’t make a comeback for just one sentence!

Farmer on local sustainable organic farmThe origins of the initiative are simple: about a year ago, folks at CLF working on the organization’s Farm & Food Initiative started to hear from their community partners that the three f’s were having difficulty navigating the legal maze that affects their farms and businesses. They either didn’t have access to a lawyer for financial reasons, or didn’t think to involve a lawyer in the first place. An idea was born to create a pro bono legal referral service for the three f’s, but that wasn’t enough. Over the next four months, CLF set out to ground truth whether this group of constituents was in need of such legal aid through a series of interviews. What they found was all they needed to hear:

  • The three f’s generally didn’t have identified lawyers to turn to when it came to answering questions or providing legal advice on issues like land acquisitions, contracts, estate planning issues, corporate formation, and more
  • There was an absence of lawyers making themselves available pro bono to these professionals
  • The three f’s were receiving support from other community groups and organizations, but there was a shortage of legal help
  • Many of the three f’s operate on tight budgets, and a lawyer was often a luxury they couldn’t afford (or one that would “break the bank”).
  • Lawyers and law firms were eagerly looking for transactional pro bono opportunities
  • CLF saw what we can clearly see based on the above – the three f’s had an  unmet legal need , and attorneys were willing to help out to meet that need.. Now all CLF had to do was organize the entire project. Easy, right?

Needless to say, CLF worked out the logistics internally. The process is similar to a lawyer referral service: CLF recruits and pre-screens attorneys to be part of the volunteer network and runs an intake hotline for the three f’s. They vet the issues/cases they receive, check for income eligibility (since the program targets lower-income folks), and then place them with an attorney based on experience and area of expertise. Done.

With that taken care of, CLF is ready to launch their pilot program –which they will do with a free kickoff and training session on June 23 at Nixon Peabody. At the kickoff, interested lawyers will get a crash course in some of the issues they’ll be dealing with when helping farmers, get pressing questions off their chests, and hear from Roger Noonan, a farmer and President of the New England Farmers Union. They’ll also get their hands on a hot off the presses legal guide chock full of common issues the three f’s encounter, created by CLF’s fellow foodie friends at Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic.

So, consider the Legal Service Food Hub officially endorsed with the TSL stamp of approval (actual stamp pending).  If you’re a lawyer who:

  1. wants to help  the three f’s
  2.  cares about creating a more robust and just local food economy
  3.  believes actions speak louder than words
  4. wants to use your expertise to help someone who’s making the world a greener place
  5. thinks providing legal advice to a farmers market is a pretty cool thing to do

….we know you’ll be heading to 100 Summer Street on the 23rd. Make sure to register online so you get your share of the delicious (and yes, locally-sourced) breakfast. See you there.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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After a week of chasing around family and friends to remind them to only buy grass fed beef for the cookout, to make sure all the scraps from their exploding fireworks were properly confiscated and yes, making sure all bottles, cans, plates (paper only, no Styrofoam!) and utensils were properly recycled, TSL is back in action. For this week’s post TSL has done some research on another courthouse undertaking green initiatives — the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse.

If you have ever seen the Moakley Courthouse, you would know it is a beautiful building. What you might not know is that the courthouse consumes more energy and water than any building in the GSA New England Region. So…what to do? The answer (in theory) is simple: use less. The courthouse works with the General Services Administration (who oversees and tracks their process on these initiatives) so our courthouse  contact directed us to a GSA Public Affairs Officer who gave us the lowdown on what the Moakley Courthouse has done to reduce their environmental impact.

Moakley Courthouse’s green initiative can be broken down into two main parts, the GSA Shave Energy program and single stream recycling:

  • Shave Energy is a new GSA program that assists field offices to identify and implement simple and no cost energy measures on this like inefficiencies in operations, reduction of energy consumption and the like. According to the GSA, the program bridges the gap between identifying energy-saving opportunities and implementing energy retrofits by outlining actionable items based on best practices. If that line confuses you, how about this one: Since 2007, the Moakley Courthouse has reduced its electric consumption by 4.27% and water consumption by 23.49% since 2007.
    • In addition to the no cost energy measures, the GSA installed lighting occupancy sensors, higher efficiency lighting in the garage and demand response ventilation to improve indoor air quality within the courtrooms. As a result of some of the observations from the Shave Energy program, the Moakley courthouse underwent a Variable Refrigerant Flow Project (essentially a modified HVAC system designed to minimize efficiency losses and provide sustainable energy benefits. With a building as big as Moakley courthouse (945,423 gross square feet – whoa!) this can make a huge difference. Expected annual cost savings of this project (completed in May 2011) is $271,800.
  • TSL has touched on single stream recycling in past posts, but single stream is the best way to make recycling easy. GSA recently signed a contract with Save THAT Stuff Inc. a full service recycling and solid waste removal business that specializes in single stream. In addition to helping reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, single stream also results in cost savings by eliminating waste hauling fees. AS a result, the courthouse is achieving a 35% recycling rate, recycling over 30 tons from Jan-May2012. This is equivalent to 185 adult trees, 308 cubic yards or landfill space or 9,655 kilowatts of energy or 114 barrels of oil.

Big building = big savings. Hat tip to the GSA and Moakley Courthouse for taking on some serious initiatives.

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