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Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

This past Saturday was a day of celebration for many in Boston. An estimated 2 million made the trek to downtown Boston for a day of revelry honoring the Red Sox 2013 championship win. 15 miles north of Boston, a special group of 11 volunteers from the BBA’s New Lawyers and Environmental Law Section were involved their own celebration of “youth, food , and community” at The Food Project (TFP) in Greater Lynn. Longtime readers will have heard of The Food Project before, but if you haven’t, TSL has you covered.

The Food Project works with over 150 teenagers and thousands of volunteers to farm on 40 acres of land in different locations across Eastern Massachusetts. Food from the farms is distributed through community agriculture programs, farmers markets and local hunger relief organizations. TFP also offers and educational element and training and services, so youth and volunteers can learn more about farming, healthy eating and sustainable processes.

Turner, PhelpsBased on that description, it’s pretty clear why our lawyers decided to volunteer at the Food Project again. We reached out to one of Saturday’s volunteers Phelps Turner, of Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen (who boasts a renown environmental law practice) to get a sense of his experience volunteering.

1) Why did you decide to volunteer for the food project serve and grow program?

I jumped at this opportunity to volunteer with the Food Project’s Serve and Grow program because I’m very interested in urban agriculture as a means to increasing urban residents’ access to healthy, energy-efficient and affordable food. I was also excited to volunteer because I’m inspired by the Food Project’s mission of bringing urban and suburban youth and adults together to work on farms, to learn about the food we eat and to build a sustainable food system.

2) What did you enjoy most about the experience?

We had beautiful weather for our morning of farming. I especially enjoyed transporting compost that had been produced on the farm and using it to create planting beds, in which we planted garlic for next season. I also enjoyed meeting and working with the local youth, who have developed excellent leadership skills, and seeing old friends and new faces among the BBA volunteers.

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3) Did you learn anything new or interesting?

This is my third time volunteering with the Food Project, and I learn new things about the Food Project and the food system every time. This time, I learned, among other things, that 25% of young adults are too obese to qualify for military service, and that the average fast food meal consists of over 1,600 calories, compared to 500 in the average homemade meal. Facts like these underline the importance of increasing access to healthy and affordable food in heavily populated urban settings, which can be achieved in part by growing the food locally, at farms like the one in Lynn.

Thanks, Phelps – we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Kudos to the 11 who spent their Saturday morning making an impact on the local community… and on parade day, no less.

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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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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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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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Back in fall of 2011, BBA President Lisa Goodheart convened the BBA’s Environmental Sustainability Task to look at the issue of environmental sustainability and determine how the BBA can contribute to the “greening of the profession.” Two principal ways to accomplish this goal are 1) gathering evaluating and presenting green practices for lawyers and law firms and 2) creating public service and pro bono opportunities focused on environmental sustainability. The solution to number 1? – you’re looking at it. The Sustainable Lawyer (TSL) was started to help to create a conversation about sustainability as well as provide green tips, practical examples of law firms and businesses embracing sustainability, and so on. Not to toot our own horn, but we think we are doing a pretty good job at it. As you can see, however, that is only one aspect of the Task Force’s charge. On the public service front, TSL is happy to be the bearer of good news and fill you in on a recent project the Task Force participated in — the Earth Day Trailhead Renovation at the Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild.

On April 20th, task force volunteers teamed up with the Boston Parks and Recreation Department to make the trek to Roslindale’s “urban wild” (sounds kinda spooky, doesn’t it?) — 10 acres of forested wetland habitat held by the Boston Conservation Commission.  Volunteers removed invasive plant species, reworked trails, helped prep the land for future plantings and even helped haul heavy boulders in an effort to make the wetlands a more inviting place for the local community to enjoy nature in an urban setting. Their hard work did not go unnoticed. Paul Sutton of the City of Boston Parks Department was quoted as saying: “Thank you! What a great group of Boston Bar Association participants this year! With your enthusiasm and energy, we were able to significantly transform the trail head at the 10-acre oasis.”

Well done, task force! TSL is keeping its ears to the ground to let our readers know about what’s next on the agenda.

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