Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

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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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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