Posts Tagged ‘epa’

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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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.

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The Sustainable Lawyer loves shining the spotlight on firms and organizations that have built or renovated green office space. TSL has especially fond memories of touring the Environmental Protection Agency’s new office space back in 2010 — providing numerous examples of sustainability at work. Earlier this week TSL reached out to BBA Environmental Sustainability Task Force member Cynthia A. Lewis, Senior Enforcement Counsel at US EPA, Region 1. She was only too glad to provide us with all the facts and figures on the John W. McCormack Post Office and Courthouse (POCH) renovation, an effort of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the EPA.

The EPA is the primary tenant at the courthouse, and occupies about 329,000 rentable square feet of the approximately 700,000 gross square feet. The 23 story building, built in 1933, houses 840 EPA employees who reoccupied the space in August 2009 after a three year construction contract. The green features in the new building are extensive, and the results speak for themselves.

When building, the EPA and GSA:

  • Reused 99 percent of the historical structure.
  • Preserved interior features such as historical paneling, walnut wainscoting, terrazzo floors with marble inlay, and oak parquet floors.
  • Recycled and diverted from landfills 149.5 tons of construction debris, bringing the percentage of material recycled to 84.93%. This includes 6.17 tons of concrete, 8.59 tons of metal, and 19.26 tons of wood.
  • Used low-emitting construction materials such as paint, carpeting, and composite wood.
  • Used post-consumer recycled product used for many new installed finishes, steel and concrete

The results of the project are:

  • Approximately 70 percent of the occupied space receives natural light
  • To encourage alternative modes of transportation, the McCormack POCH offers 50 bike racks and 10 showers.
  • New plumbing fixtures reduce estimated water consumption by 642,000 gallons per year, which is 32% over code requirements.
  • Energy-efficiency components such as variable-speed drives for fans and pumps, motion sensors and daylight dimming for lighting, and new insulated double-pane, low-e windows.
  • The EPA offsets 100 percent of the electricity in the building with renewable energy certificates (REC’s) purchased through the Agency’s current blanket green power contract.

The project also included a special feature, a green roof, that:

  • Is the first of its kind in New England
  • Uses solar panels to power the irrigation pumps and cisterns collect rain water to irrigate the plantings
  • Encompasses more than 25% of the building footprint, providing an important open space for the building users.
  • The green roof is planted with native species and after establishment and requires little irrigation.

Though not everybody can commit to this level of sustainably while building or renovating, TSL tips its cap to the EPA and GSA for making sustainability its first priority.
To view photos from the BBA’s 2010 tour of the new EPA building, click here.

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The Boston Bar Association is a busy place. In Op Year 2011, the BBA held 385 Brown Bag programs and 50 CLE’s. Combined with meetings of leadership, steering committees, the Boston Bar Foundation and outside space use, the BBA held a total of 2,269 total meetings, with more than 17,000 people coming through the doors of its 16 Beacon Street headquarters. Early estimates point to higher rates for Op Year 2012.

As you may remember, The Sustainable Lawyer (TSL) recently highlighted some ways that the BBA is going green as far as saving money on electric and heating bills (thanks to an energy audit the BBA requested). Recently, the BBA has taken another step towards sustainability by participating in “Grounds to Grow On,” an initiative of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.

How did the BBA find out about the program? As part of the BBA’s ongoing effort to be more sustainable, Office Manager Patti Mazurkiewicz wrote to both Keurig and W.B. Mason to inquire if their K-Cups were recyclable. Both directed her to Green Mountain’s “Grounds to Grow On” program. Patti found out more when she checked out the W.B. Mason Trade Show, where she spoke to a representative about starting up the program at 16 Beacon.

Essentially, it works like this:

  • Used K-Cups are placed in Keurig “recovery bins” (which are made of 75% recyclable material, ship in packs of 5 and can be reused up to 15 times). Small recovery bins can fit 175 cups; large bins can fit 450. More information on purchasing recovery bins can be found here.
  • Once full, the recovery bins are sent back to Keurig’s disposal partner through UPS’s Carbon Neutral Program (the price of the recovery bins includes shipping). Each recovery bin arrives with UPS shipping label pre-affixed, so you can call UPS for a pickup, or give the used boxes to your UPS delivery person.
  • The recovered cups are separated into two parts, the coffee grounds and “everything else.” The grounds, which are 75% of the weight of the K-Cup, are converted to compost. The rest of the pack is burned to produce steam energy by Keurig partner Covanta energy. Creating energy from waste (EfW) is one of the cleanest forms of energy generation, is EPA approved, and is classified as renewable energy by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“We have estimated our annual usage of K-Cups at about 9,000 per year,” said Mazurkiewicz. “Grounds to Grow On permits the BBA to (1) prevent that amount of waste from end up in landfills, and (2) turn that waste into usable energy. The environmental benefit far outweighs the economic commitment, so we jumped at the opportunity. “

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Here at The Sustainable Lawyer (TSL) we are always looking for ways to inform our readers about new ways to reduce their environmental impact. In our interviews and conversations with the top green minds of the day, we noticed a lot of emphasis on e-waste recycling. While we were able to understand the basics — recycling electronic products like computers and cell phones — TSL wanted to delve a little deeper into the process and purpose of recycling e-waste. Thanks to some connections, TSL was able to call Senior Environmental Engineer Richard A. Marx and Senior Environmental Scientist Elaine B. Enfonde, both of Nixon Peabody’s Rochester, NY office, to find out more.

One of the first things TSL learned is that e-waste isn’t just recycled, it’s reused. Computers, laptops, telephones, cell phones, TV’s, inkjet printers and other gadgets can often be refurbished to working condition. In many cases, these refurbished items will be given to not for profit organizations or local schools. Just a few examples include providing working cell phones to a battered women’s shelter for emergency use or donating computers to underfunded schools or after school centers. Firms and offices should keep their ears to the ground to hear more about local programs and initiatives that will take in electronics you no longer need and put them to good use.

When products are unfit to be reused, they are disassembled into parts to be recycled. Your 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. Don’t believe me? Fine, let’s see what the EPA has to say:

“By recycling 100 million cell phones, approximately 7,500 pounds of gold could be recovered – allowing that amount of gold to go into new products.Recovering the gold from cell phones, rather than mining it from the earth, would prevent 12,000,000,000 pounds of loose soil, sand, and rock from having to be moved, mined, and processed.”

Computer and cell phone parts are harmful to the environment if not properly recycled. In addition to the aforementioned lead and mercury, e-products also include cadmium, arsenic, beryllium and brominated flame retardants. It gets worse. When heated (the way much of the e-waste is treated, especially overseas) these substances create additional toxins such as halogenated dioxins and furans which e-Stewards.com, a website dedicated to figuring out how to prevent the toxic materials in electronics from continuing to cause long term harm to human health and the environment, calls “some of the most toxic substances known to humankind… that can cause cancer, reproductive disorders, endocrine disruption, and many other health problems.” Essentially, this isn’t something that should be allowed to sit around in landfills or sent to other countries (like 70—80% of e-waste currently is). If not properly managed, materials in these products can be released into our environment, potentially contaminating our air, water and soil.  If you do not use a reputable recycler, the potential exists for these materials to be improperly decommissioned and potentially cause serious health risks to both workers and their communities.

So why isn’t everyone doing this? We’re not sure, but only 11-14% of e-waste is sent to recyclers. It is the responsibility of firms and offices to find companies that are operating to the highest standards of e-waste recycling. Fortunately, it’s not impossible.  EPA has established a voluntary program known as Responsible Recycling (R2).  Additionally, E-Stewards.com, who bill themselves as “the globally responsible way to recycle your electronics,” is one resource for identifying reputable e-waste recyclers. They have a location based map which provides certified recyclers that “conform to the e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Waste” and those that have “contracted with e-Stewards Certifying Bodies and are in the process of becoming certified to the e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Waste.”

As Elaine says, “it’s up to the individual to make the right decision when selecting a recycler to handle their e-waste properly.”

The take home message, Rick says, is that “it is up to each of us to conduct appropriate due diligence regarding where and how our e-waste is discarded and to consider not only the potential environmental and health implications, but also the social impacts.  Bottom line, it’s worth it.”

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You’ve probably heard about the Massachusetts Trial Courts funding woes. Court closings, shortened hours and lack of staff sparks angst among lawyers across Commonwealth. But you probably haven’t heard about the Trial Court’s EPA honored “Green Team,” a group of trial court staffers dedicated to greening the court system. If you asked “how can the courts afford that?” you’re in for a surprise — the “Green Team” operates on a $0 budget — and it gets even better.

The Sustainable Lawyer spoke with “Green Team” leaders Michael C. O’Loughlin and Linda Rowe. You won’t believe what we found out.

The Trial Court, led by the “Green Team,” is:

  • Participating in  an e-waste recycling program (e-waste is an informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their useful life) with the City of Boston to recycle computers, televisions, VCRs, copiers, fax machines and the like, all of which can be reused, refurbished or recycled (did you know that?). From FY 2008-2012, the Trial Court collected over 124,000 lbs. of e-waste, saving $174,000 in disposal costs.
  • Making recycling easier by ensuring there is a recycling bin next to every trash can. Sounds expensive, right? Wrong. When the “Green Team” told their supplier the purchase was part of a green initiative, they knocked the price down by 75%. Every Trial Court participates in single-stream recycling (that means paper, bottles, tin cans, glass, and everything else that is recyclable all goes into one bin). Eighty tons of material was recycled in 6 months — saving an estimated 1,425 trees, 587,088 gallons of water and 419 cubic yards of waste diverted from landfills.
  • Completing energy audits in 17 state owned courthouses, which will improve energy efficiency.  Wondering what an energy audit is? Find out here.
  • Launching a paper reduction effort. Each day, 115,832 pages are printed across the Trial Court. Now, all documents are printed double sided, and reminders are issued for documents of more than forty pages. If your document is more than 500 pages, you’ll need approval from IT before you can print. Early estimates have the paper reduction effort saving over $500,000.
  • Turning off equipment when it’s not being used. Seems obvious, right? Did you know it reduces energy usage 25%? When you factor in turning off computers at the end of the day, that number jumps to 50%.

Still not impressed? Check out this bottom line:

The Trial Court saved $2.9 million in FY 2009. That’s $2,136,143 in electricity, $362,327 in steam, $210,382 in natural gas, $99,122 in heating oil and $96,026.

They followed that up with an additional $2.5 million saved in FY 2010.

“This isn’t groundbreaking stuff,” Michael told The Sustainable Lawyer. “Our commitment to green initiatives lessens our impact on the environment, and saves money. By doing a few small things every day we were able to make a big impact on our bottom line.”

After all, Linda said, “green business is good business.”

…You got that right.

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