Law offices across the country are trying to make their day-to-day operations less wasteful of energy and other resources. They're cutting paper and plastic, turning off computers, buying carbon offsets, and seeking LEED certification. Arnold & Porter; O'Melveny & Myers; Drinker Biddle & Reath; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Foley & Lardner; and Mayer Brown open a window onto their green efforts.
|March 31, 2008 at 12:00 AM|The original version of this story was published on Legal Times
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Trimming The Paper TrailBy Jonathan S. Martel and Kristen Klick White The image of a lawyer buried under mounds of paper is no exaggeration. Each lawyer in this country uses an estimated 20,000 to 100,000 pages of paper per year. Multiply by one million lawyers working in the United States, and those mounds turn to mountains 20 to 100 billion pages high. Producing so much paper consumes nearly 9 million trees and releases some 4.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. Two years ago, Arnold & Porter began to pick away at that mountain by suggesting that together the American Bar Association and the Environmental Protection Agency challenge law firms to reduce their use of paper and by offering to test methods to do so. Since then, Arnold & Porter has identified many ways to reduce its overall paper use and to reduce its reliance on products made with the virgin pulp of felled trees in favor of paper made with post-consumer waste. And since the ABA and EPA initiated the Law Office Climate Challenge, dozens of other law firms and government legal offices have signed on to do the same. At Arnold & Porter, we started with small, simple changes in our routine business practices. First to go was our habit of printing all faxes. We had been delivering lawyers’ faxes by e-mail and then sending hard copies by interoffice mail, at a cost of 30,000 unnecessary pages each month. Similarly, we moved our internal correspondence, such as conflict checks and “in the news” publications, from hard copy to e-mail. We switched all of our holiday greetings to recycled cardstock or e-cards, purchased recycled legal pads, and gave preference to vendors who use recycled paper. Our next step was to look at the more complicated, costly projects that would take a big bite out of paper use. Our plan was to switch all printers to default to double-sided printing. We investigated costs, suppliers, equipment, and contract agreements. Changing to recycled paper required a fairly simple renegotiation of our printer service contract. And luckily, our paper supplier offered recycled options at a marginal increase in cost. But retrofitting the majority of our printers with “duplexers” has required a modest investment in printing equipment and reconfiguration of printer stations to make room. It helped that when we pitched our proposal, the firm’s management was quick to approve an overall plan to work consistently and comprehensively toward conserving natural resources. The partnership adopted the new Green Office Initiative and approved a budget. Before rolling out the paper program, we conducted a two-week pilot test using 24 recruits from secretaries, administrators, and legal assistants to senior attorneys and had them try out various types of paper and double-sided printing. We found that switching to paper containing 30 percent post-consumer waste would be easiest. It looked identical to the virgin paper we had been using and worked well in the machines. Paper with higher recycled content looked “grainy” by comparison and occasionally jammed the printers. Some of the testers loved double- sided printing, felt good about doing something for the environment, and appreciated having lighter briefcases to carry home. (Some now occasionally double the actual amount of work they carry with the same amount of paper.) Other testers were slower to warm to the idea. Indeed, as we have implemented the change firmwide, a small minority still prefer the “old-fashioned” way. By and large, however, we’ve found that many people, especially the newest generation of lawyers, are looking for ways they can do their part to reduce our collective environmental impact. Many now even opt to print up to four (or more) pages on each side to further reduce the size of the longest documents. We are aggressively pursuing other ways to cut back on paper use by further tweaking our practices and increasing our reliance on technology. We continue to investigate options for 100 percent recycled paper, look for ways to modify business as usual, and encourage everybody to think before printing. And paper is only one segment of our Green Office Initiative. We also have improved our recycling program, reduced our energy consumption through HVAC adjustments, offset our business airline mileage, cut our reliance on water bottles, and continue to replace disposable cups and cafeteria wares with recycled, recyclable, or reusable options. Jonathan S. Martel, a partner, and Kristen Klick White, an associate, are members of the Green Office Initiative in the D.C. office of Arnold & Porter.Small Steps Can Add Up BigBy Lisa Wing Stone At O’Melveny & Myers, we have found that easy changes in our day-to-day practices can make a noticeable environmental impact and produce cost savings as a bonus. From the cup holding our coffee to the management of our computer networks, the life of our firm is growing more ecologically sensitive. For example, we’re installing energy optimization software on all networked personal computers in the D.C. office. This software which is invisible to the computer user provides remote, network-level control over power settings. When a computer is not in use, the software automatically shifts it into a low-power state. Through this investment alone, our office will save about 200,000 kilowatts of energy each year, which is roughly equivalent to 100 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Of course, cutting energy doesn’t always require new technology. We’re also reinforcing good workplace practices such as turning off the lights and computers at night and drawing the shades on warm summer days. By changing our vendor, we opened up a whole world of greener options in office supplies. For example, we were using expandable files containing 10 percent post-consumer recycled content; we now purchase nearly identical expandable files with 30 percent post-consumer recycled content (the same as our copy paper). We also found three-ring binders, pens, and steno pads that are nearly identical to those we previously used, but that contain more post-consumer recycled content. We adopted similar changes in our kitchens and break rooms. We distributed ceramic mugs to replace disposable cups. For those times when only disposable kitchen ware will do, we switched to products made either from 100 percent recycled content or from a 100 percent renewable resource. Our recycling program was expanded to cover batteries and cell phones in addition to aluminum cans, glass bottles, and discarded computer equipment, which we had already been recycling for many years. In the first three months of 2008 alone, the D.C. office of O’Melveny & Myers recycled 35 pounds of alkaline batteries and 25 used cell phones. Our office cleaning service has converted to “green” products. Now at least 95 percent of the products used to clean the D.C. office are Green Seal certified as having a lower impact on human health and the environment. Periodically the lawyers and staff of O’Melveny & Myers take a day off to improve the environment outside the four walls of our office. Last year, we organized a service day with the Earth Conservation Corps restoring a section of the Anacostia River, and we’re looking forward to participating in the 20th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup on April 5 this year. Our purpose in making these changes is to fulfill our firm’s commitment to sustainable business practices. One unanticipated secondary benefit has been saving money. We anticipate that the initial investment in the network optimization software will pay for itself in energy savings after approximately six months. Going forward, it will save thousands of dollars annually in energy costs. We also anticipate that overall costs for office and break room supplies will actually decrease through our switch to more eco-sensitive products. Growing consumer interest in green products has dramatically expanded the market for these materials and thus brought prices down. In short, adopting more sustainable practices has proved to be good financial management as well. Lisa Wing Stone, a counsel in the D.C. office of O’Melveny & Myers, chairs the office’s Green Office Initiative committee.It Has to Be A Green TeamBy Mercedes Meyer and Joshua Kaplowitz “Going green” has become a rallying cry in the American workplace. But moving to a new, greener paradigm is often challenging as Drinker Biddle & Reath discovered when we began tackling the goal of greater sustainability. Until recently, several of our 12 offices across the United States were developing their own strategies for reducing waste and energy consumption, setting individual goals and implementing a variety of programs. While this was having some impact, it was clear that significant action required a more coordinated effort. Two key factors changed the status quo. First, the past year brought widely publicized efforts by the legal community to address climate change. Several national firms announced sustainability initiatives, and the American Bar Association partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency to publish green guidelines for law firms. Second, a group of young associates became advocates within the firm, working with key partners and representatives of the building facilities, administration, marketing, and information services departments to establish an in-house task force. The new committee started as a one-year trial based in Philadelphia, with ad hoc input from other offices. The goal was to increase awareness of conservation within the Philadelphia office, gradually implementing energy-saving policies and later expanding to other offices. But it soon became clear that we needed to include all our offices if we were going to integrate sustainability into the day-to-day operation of Drinker Biddle. Thus, the firmwide task force informally dubbed the Green Team was born. A critical first step was outlining a number of low-cost, high-visibility policies that could be implemented relatively quickly. For instance, we set out to add recycling bins to all offices, improve communication with employees regarding what should be recycled, switch to paper with higher percentage post-consumer waste for office stationery, install motion-sensor light switches, and replace all incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. By undertaking these easily attainable steps first, we not only raised immediate awareness of the firm’s new cross-office commitment to sustainability, but also generated momentum for future efforts. Even as these early efforts are still in progress, the Green Team is already planning next steps. The team has created an internal Web site, which will eventually feature detailed information on how to save energy and cut waste in the office and at home, profiles of individual employees who are going green, a carpool bulletin board, and more. Because individual habits are key to going green, the firm introduced a voluntary “green pledge” for lawyers and staff that commits individuals to taking mass transit whenever possible, reducing the amount of paper they consume, turning off lights and computers when not in use, and bringing reusable cups to work. We’re still encouraging individual offices to come up with new ideas to share with the rest of the firm. For example, the Philadelphia office will host an Earth Day event on April 22 in the lobby of its building. In addition to food and music, vendors and nonprofits will set up tables with information and samples of green products. The event will also kick off a competition to see which floor can cut its electricity and paper consumption the most. “Going green” is more than a goal it’s a constant work in progress. As we’ve learned at Drinker Biddle, it works best when the whole firm comes together to harness new technology and new approaches to cutting waste and improving efficiencies. Mercedes Meyer, a partner in the D.C. office, and Joshua Kaplowitz, an associate in the Philadelphia office, are leaders of Drinker Biddle’s Green Team.
Green Aid on the Web
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