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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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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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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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As our readers have likely noticed, in the past few weeks TSL has been highlighting more environmental public services opportunities,  like the BBA’s Charles River Cleanup, the Sustainability Task Force’s partnership with The Food Project (event on June 16, btw) and their trail transformation event in Roslindale. If you have had enough public service talk for your liking, well…too bad. On June 14th the BBA’s Environmental Sustainability Task Force will host an impressive group of panelists (including keynote speaker Gregory Bialecki of the Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development) at “Promoting Sustainability Through Public Service.” Rather than offer a long write up on why you should attend, TSL decided to go straight to the source – Pamela Harvey of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Pam, who organized the event with fellow DEP colleague Danah Tench and Task Force Co-Chairs Ben Ericson (also of Mass DEP) and Michelle O’Brien (Mackie Shea O’Brien), offered to answer a few of our questions about the event.

Why did the task force decide to hold an event focusing on public service?

“Many attorneys understand the importance of sustainability, but their practices often focus on traditional legal services to their clients.  Public service allows attorneys to expand their horizons and use their skills to assist community groups within the greater Boston area to promote sustainability within those communities.”

What do you hope to accomplish with this program? 

“The program is designed to provide an introduction to the range of opportunities for attorneys to offer their legal talent to support sustainable community efforts.  Attorneys will learn the types of opportunities available, how the panelists have matched their skills with projects, and tips for getting the most from the experience, both personally and professionally.  The program includes many opportunities for attorneys with transactional skills, as well as for litigators.

The speakers will describe the representation of an environmental justice group concerned about the siting of an industrial facility, assisting a local group transform a vacant lot into a community garden, and market carbon finance.  Other panelists have served on the boards of nonprofits devoted to local food, wresting with the cost of greener facilities, or broadening the role of traditional organizations to include sustainability.  Greg Bialecki will address the importance of sustainability to economic development in Massachusetts, and prior to entering state government he was engaged in public service through his involvement with the Boston Public Market.”

Do you have anything else you would like to add? 

“Sustainability is not just for environmental lawyers.  The program features attorneys with specialized expertise in other fields that they have put to work on incredibly interesting and fulfilling projects.  Attorneys can engage in public service work promoting sustainability as new lawyers to gain experience, or as experienced lawyers to learn something new.”

For those interested in more ways to incorporate a commitment to public service and a passion for sustainability, this is a must attend event. We’ll see you there.

For more information, or to register, click here.

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TSL is always on the lookout for new ways our readers can reduce their carbon footprint. We thought we had provided some pretty solid suggestions, from offering personal tips to highlighting the green initiatives of some law firms and organizations (like the BBA). So when BBA Sustainability Task Force Member Carolyn Kaplan (and Nixon Peabody attorney and Chief Sustainability Officer) told us about the firm’s  participation in EDF Climate Corps, an innovative energy efficiency program, we were pretty impressed. We know Nixon Peabody is “legally green” but when we heard that they were the first law firm to sign onto the program (inspiring EDF to create a new legal category!) we knew we had to find out more.

No worries if you hadn’t heard about EDF Climate Corps, because until we spoke with Carolyn, we hadn’t either. Here’s a quick breakdown: EDF Climate Corps is a fellowship program developed by the Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization that places specially trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and universities to identify and assess cost-effective opportunities to save energy and reduce emissions. This summer, 98 fellows (from some pretty fancy schools) will work in 88 organizations across the nation. Where will they be working? Some top notch companies, including Boeing, Facebook, Google, Verizon as well as organizations like Boston Public Schools and UNICEF and of course, Nixon Peabody (see the full list here). The plan is that fellows will develop customized energy efficiency investment plans that cut costs and emissions. Well, that sounds well and good, but how about some tangible results? Don’t worry, EDF has that too. Since 2008 the fellows have identified energy-saving opportunities that:

  • Cut enough energy usage to power nearly 100,000 homes a year
  • Avoid the annual carbon emissions of 200,000 cars and;
  • Saved more than $1 billion in net operating costs over the project lifetimes

Ok ok, we are convinced. In case you are not, we asked Carolyn to speak about why Nixon Peabody decided to join Climate Corps:

“Hiring a Climate Corps fellow seemed to be a great way to fast-track our efforts to demonstrate the financial and environmental benefits of investing in energy efficiency,” says Kaplan. “We liked the idea of developing a customized energy plan to help us prioritize investments for our existing space and provide guidance as we consider renovations and lease renewals. It’s exciting to join the ranks of many leading companies and organizations, including some of our clients, in building the business case for energy efficiency. We’re looking forward to a productive summer.”

So there you have it. Nixon Peabody seems to be leading the way for sustainability in law firms, but it’s not like we are surprised. They have been recognized for their sustainability initiatives again and again (and again and yes…one more time).

Nixon Peabody’s fellow will start working on June 1st. TSL is looking forward to hearing how productive their summer really was.

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Last week The Sustainable Lawyer (TSL) asked the BBA’s Sustainability Task Force to keep us abreast of their upcoming activities after we highlighted the Trailhead renovation they took on last month. While we have plenty of confidence in our task force, to be honest, we weren’t expecting a response this quickly (read: two days). The task force let TSL know they already has another public service event planned, a joint effort with The Food Project scheduled for June 16.

A little background on The Food Project for those of you not familiar with the program:

Each year, The Food Project works with over a hundred teens and thousands of volunteers to farm on 37 acres in eastern Massachusetts. Food from their farms is distributed through community supported agriculture programs, farmers’ markets, and to hunger relief organizations. The Food Project also organizes a plethora of Youth and Community programs as well as trainings and other services.

Sounds like a great initiative, right? Task Force members Danna Tench (Mass DEP) and Dylan Sanders of Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak and Cohen thought so too. They serve on the board of The Food Project and helped organize this collaboration. TSL got a chance to ask Dylan a few questions about why the Task Force got involved with the Food project and what the event will help accomplish.

What do you hope to accomplish by holding this event?

Dylan: First off, we want people to get their hands dirty! On a more serious and philosophical level, we want to expose lawyers (some of whom may spent too many hours indoors) to urban agriculture that is very close to them, as well as introduce them to a diverse group of youth who work on these farms. Diversity is important in sustainability, on both the environmental and agricultural fronts.

Can you speak to the importance of urban farms when it comes to sustainability?

Dylan: The farms are valuable in two main ways. They are important to the youth who work on them as well as the community at large. In any city, getting access to fresh organic produce is a challenge. These farms make produce available to more residents, while providing education and tangible skills to urban youth on the development, production and harvesting of produce.

A Food Project youth harvesting lettuce.

So here’s the deal. On June 16, the Task Force will meet at the West Cottage Street Farm in Roxbury at 9am. All BBA members are invited, and are encouraged to bring their families to plant, tend, weed and possibly harvest vegetables. Volunteers will also have a chance to hear from the youth of the Food Project who will share their experience of learning about sustainable agriculture, food justice, diversity, leadership issues.

For more information or to register, contact Dylan Sanders at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen @ sanders@srbc.com or 617-619-3400.

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