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Posts Tagged ‘Nixon Peabody’

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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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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If you’ve been reading The Sustainable Lawyer, you know that we have highlighted the MA Trial Court, WilmerHale, Nixon Peabody, Nutter McClennen & Fish and others. These large firms and organizations have undertaken some impressive green initiatives, and deserve to be highlighted. However, if any of our solo and small firm lawyers were wondering when we were going to give them something on a smaller scale, fear not! The wait is over.

The Sustainable Lawyer searched for a small office that was taking sustainable steps to reduce their environmental impact. Fortunately, we didn’t have to look very hard before finding boutique environmental law firm Mackie Shea O’Brien PC, a 7 person office located in the Back Bay. The Sustainable Lawyer touched base with Executive Director Denise Green (we promise, that’s her real name) to get a sense of what Mackie Shea O’Brien (MSO) was doing on the sustainability front. Denise broke down their initiatives in three major ways: kitchen, office and building.

Kitchen: The focus in the kitchen is using reusable products. That means MSO is stocked with real dishes, glasses, silverware and utensils. They have nearly eliminated paper towels from the office entirely, and in the kitchen primarily use cloth towels. Looking for plastic bags or tin foil? You’re not going to find it. MSO has a selection of Tupperware as for anything leftover from the office. Everything is piled into the on-site dishwasher, which, of course, is only run when completely filled. At first, Green says, “everyone brought in extra plates, silverware and the like from home. Later, we got matching sets of glasses and bowls. Next it was Tupperware, and so on.”

Office: Though you won’t find paper products in the kitchen, you need paper to run an office. So, MSO makes sure their copy paper, paper towels and even letterhead is made of at least 50% recyclable material. Did we mention that their letterhead is made at a paper mill that runs on wind power? As for computers, all computers and monitors are shut down at the end of the work day, which as the Sustainable Lawyer has mentioned, can save a considerable amount of energy. As you might guess, MSO participates in single stream recycling, but they didn’t always have that luxury. At their old office, the landlord (gasp!) didn’t recycle at all. Don’t think that stopped them! They hired a company to pick up and recycle all of their paper products. But what about their cans, bottles and other plastic, you ask? Get this – MSO employees volunteered to take the recyclables home or to local recycling plants on a weekly basis. Talk about commitment.

Building: When MSO moved offices from Newbury Street to Boylston Street, one of the things they kept in mind was a landlord committed to sustainable practices. Though in an older building, management had kept HVAC systems up to date and was planning another renovation, and was planning on upgrading recycling vendors shortly. As for the construction of their office space, MSO simply let their vendors and contractors know that they were interested in eco-friendly products and outlined their budget. The vendors made it happen….all within their budget.

“We don’t have an environmental budget or anything like that,” said Green. “We use good, common business sense and a commitment to sustainability from the top down. As environmental lawyers, being sustainable is the nature of our business, but these are steps that anyone can take.

As a small firm, you compete with big firms every day. You have to think that your firm is as good and as valuable in a legal sense, but the same applies when it comes to sustainability. The little things matter.”

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The Sustainable Lawyer is always on the lookout for green initiatives and projects to highlight. So, when we heard about A Better City’sChallenge for Sustainability,” we were intrigued. Once we saw the list of committed companies and organizations (including 4 BBA Sponsor Firms, Foley Hoag, Nixon Peabody, Nutter McClennen & Fish and WilmerHale), we were even more curious. What is the challenge? How does it work? What is the point? The Sustainable Lawyer touched based with A Better City’s Sustainability Coordinator Megan Ramey to see what they have up their sleeves.

In case you haven’t heard of A Better City (ABC), here’s some quick info: ABC is a nonprofit membership organization that provides business and institutional leadership on transportation, land development and public infrastructure investments vital to sustaining and improving the Boston area’s quality of life. ABC’s Board of Directors is made up of leaders from more than 100 major business and institutions in Greater Boston.

One way ABC accomplishes their goal is through the “Challenge for Sustainability,” a program designed for businesses to identify areas of improvement, benchmark their facilities, share best practices and implement strategic plans toward environmental sustainability. ABC works with organizations to meet a broad range of sustainability standards and practices, including increasing energy efficiency, reducing resource consumption, decreasing solid waste, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

That all sounds great, but how about a practical, real life example? One of the BBA’s Sponsor Firms, Nutter McClennen & Fish (who joined the Challenge in its 2010 pilot year), filled out a scorecard to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. They worked with ABC to implement a number of new projects including a food composting program; a “green” pledge for employees; distributing more “green” chairs and holding a fair to highlight alternative public transportation options.  The results of their recycling efforts alone are impressive:

  • Compostable Waste: 205,124 lbs of food waste, shredded paper and paper
  • Recyclable Waste: 50,622 lbs of single stream (aluminum, paper, plastic) and cardboard.
  • Solid Waste (Other): 5,627 lbs of lamps, ballasts, batteries, and construction waste.
  • Miscellaneous: 388 pieces of obsolete electronics equipment

Our friends at Nixon Peabody, who joined the program in 2011 (stats will be out in early 2012) have worked with ABC to implement some progressive practices, including:

  • Quarterly audits to track office-based compliance with its firm-wide commitments.
  • Developing an on-line system to facilitate reporting and use of the data collected.
  • Creating an on-line “Legally Green Pledge.”  The Pledge is an interactive educational tool that helps Nixon to make simple, personal commitments.  Office participation rates are at 68 percent.
  • Organizing an outreach program to help personnel take advantage of free energy assessments and other savings available through the MassSave and Renew Boston programs.
  • Working with Equity Office to coordinate an NSTAR energy assessment for its Boston space.

Want to share your firm or businesses ABC results? Sound off below!

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