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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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Dry Clean Green

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.

Welcome back to TSL’s Green Glossary, where we help define and elaborate common sustainability terms, qualifications and certifications. This week, TSL is going to give our readers the low down on Energy Star. One can imagine nearly everyone has heard of Energy Star appliances, electronics and more, but how many people know what qualifies a product for the energy star label or who oversees this process? That’s what TSL is here for.

A quick history — back in 1992, before an inconvenient truth, the global warming debate and countless other landmark environmental events, the United States Environmental Protection Agency introduced Energy Star as a labeling program that identified and promoted energy efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The first labeled products were computers and monitors (I know, who knew there were computers back in 92!? – just joking). In 1995, additional office equipment and residential heating and cooling equipment was added. It didn’t stop there. The next year the EPA partnered with the US Department of Energy to develop particular product categories, which currently include new residential, commercial and industrial buildings.

Now that that’s squared away, let’s get down to the real question: how does a product obtain an Energy Star rating? How the product is rated and evaluated depends on the product, but there are set basic standards for all products. They are:

  • Product categories must contribute significant energy savings nationwide.
  • Qualified products must deliver the features and performance demanded by consumers, in addition to increased energy efficiency.
  • If the qualified product costs more than a conventional, less-efficient counterpart, purchasers will recover their investment in increased energy efficiency through utility bill savings, within a reasonable period of time.
  • Energy efficiency can be achieved through broadly available, non-proprietary technologies offered by more than one manufacturer.
  • Product energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified with testing.
  • Labeling would effectively differentiate products and be visible for purchasers.

Want a specific example? Sure, let’s talk about the process for certifying windows, doors and skylights. In this case, there are three main categories. They are:

1)      Products must be manufactured by Energy Star partners. A comprehensive list of partners can be viewed here.

2)      Products must be independently tested and certified for energy performance by a third party. That party is the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). If you want to learn more about the nitty gritty of their individual rating system, check it out here.

3)      The NFRC ratings also must meet the energy efficiency guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Energy. These guidelines are greatly dependent on region and can be viewed here.

So there you go. While it’s impossible to delve completely into the complicated world of Energy Star products from process to certification, TSL hopes you have a bit better of an idea what that label means and why it’s important to buy Energy Star products.

As our lawyer readers already know, one of TSL’s goals is to hear from sustainability experts or “green mavens.” This week we had the pleasure to do just that with Bob Pojasek, Sustainability Leader at The Shaw Group and Adjunct Professor at Harvard University. Naturally, Bob has a lot to say on the subject, but we tried to keep our initial talk focused on what law firms how law firms operate sustainable practices internally. Here’s what Bob had to say:

How do we define sustainability?

You might start with a definition: “Sustainability is how we transparently manage our responsibilities for environmental stewardship, social well-being and economic prosperity over the long term while being held accountable to our stakeholders.”  Once that definition is in place firms can do a better job planning to manage their sustainability efforts.

What do law firms need to do to be more sustainable?

If you look around at work, there is probably a lot of sustainability already going on in your operations:  purchasing of recycled paper; mandatory two sided printing, purchasing of Energy Star computers; time sharing and telecommuting options for your employees; contributions to local charities; code of conduct for ethics; and a variety of social well-being efforts such as diversity and wellness programs.  In many cases it is more about the firm needing to capture these and other activities so that it can show that it is indeed “walking the walk” with sustainability. One firm I work with, Nixon Peabody, does an excellent job owning their sustainability initiatives and even has a Chief Sustainability Officer within the firm. In many cases firms need to do a better job of owning their initiatives as part of an overall sustainability plan.

What are some pitfalls when it comes to measuring and evaluating success when it comes to sustainability?

There is a growing trend for larger companies to require all of their suppliers to submit answers to questions regarding their sustainability practices as part of the sourcing and procurement process.  Law firms have not been spared in this activity. I have found that law firms are often perplexed when the boilerplate questions are asking for information that does not pertain to them directly.  The questions seem to be more germane to a manufacturing firm.  There is further confusion because we often advise our clients on sustainability matters, but may not see that as theirs or their firms green practices.

After a great first talk with Bob, TSL is thinking of teaming up again to delve into some deeper issues. Sound off below if you have specific questions you want us to ask Bob.

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.

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.

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?