MBA Eco-Challenge honors three firms for their green practices

Issue June 2009 By Jennifer Rosinski

The Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyers Eco-Challenge honored three law firms for their leadership in greening the practice of law at a special reception May 21. Burns & Levinson LLP, Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr LLP and The Law Offices of Sean Cleary were presented their awards at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.

All three firms have signed the Lawyers Environmental Pledge to participate in the Eco-Challenge. They were selected for the honor by the MBA Energy and Environment Task Force.

“We are pleased to once again recognize those law firms and attorneys who have shown, by example, how to make positive changes toward a more Earth-friendly work environment,” MBA President Edward W. McIntyre said. “We congratulate them on their hard work, which benefits us all.”

Eco BL_V_4C_LC.BA.jpgBurns & Levinson in Boston was honored for expanding on the firm’s history of green practices by including green design elements in their office reconstruction project and promoting awareness of environmentally preferable practices. Burns & Levinson is a Signature Signer of the Eco-Challenge. One of the firm’s partners, Brian D. Bixby, serves on the Energy and Environment Task Force.

“For many years, Burns & Levinson has been involved with activities that are now deemed to be green,” said Paul Morton, the firm’s executive director and its Eco-Challenge environmental liaison. “In the past few years, we have expanded our activities and focus on being green even further.”

For decades, motion-detector lights have been used in private offices and paper and cans have been recycled. A program called “Clear the Clutter Day” expanded the recycling program several years ago. Burns & Levinson now has a committee in charge of its green practices that focuses on awareness and education, procedures to follow and the physical ability to pursue green behaviors, according to Morton. Some recent changes include:

  • the use of more recycled products;
  • reducing the amount of printed marketing materials;
  • upgrading printers to automatically print duplex;
  • increasing the use of imaged documents; and
  • reducing the volume of printed paper.
Currently in the middle of a major renovation and remodeling project, the firm is re-using many of the internal structures, undertaking selective demolition, contracting with vendors that demonstrate green behavior and following many Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines.

“There is a general awareness in the firm that we can all contribute in little ways, both in the office and at home, to reuse, repurpose and recycle,” Morton said. “We are very proud to be supporters of the MBA Eco-Challenge.”

Eco color_on_white.jpgWilmerHale’s Boston office was be honored for measurable reductions in plastics and other waste, in addition to promoting environmentally preferable transportation alternatives. The firm is a Signature Signer of the Eco-Challenge and a founding member and leader of A Better City Transportation Management Association, which promotes the use of mass transit and other forms of non-single occupancy vehicle commuting.

“WilmerHale attorneys and staff have taken great strides over the past several months to help make our firm more eco-friendly,” said firm partner Robert Tuchmann. “This is an ongoing effort, led by the Green Committee. As a result of this effort, the firm has taken several steps to cut waste and improve its conservation and recycling programs.” The committee of both attorneys and staff oversees the Practicing Green program. The firm has so far:
  • reduced the number of printed marketing materials;
  • selected products made with post-consumer waste for marketing materials;
  • chosen offset printers that use soy-based inks;
  • set all copy machines to print and copy double-sided using 30 percent recycled paper;
  • provided staff with reusable mugs;
  • using pitchers of filtered water instead of bottled water;
  • substituted biodegradable corn-based eating utensils for plastic ware; and
  • distributed a CFL light bulb to employees to encourage their use at home.
WilmerHale’s Boston office has also launched the “One Bin Recycling Program,” where all recyclables are placed in one bin, eliminating the need to separate metal, plastic and paper, according to Tuchmann. The system includes recycling of batteries, cell phones and other products containing hazardous components. The firm has also encouraged the building owner to pursue LEED operating certification and is exploring the possibility of LEED Commercial Interiors certification.

The Law Offices of Sean Cleary in Amherst was be honored for extensive and growing energy saving, recycling and waste-reduction practices. The office donates old appliances and materials and is a supporter of the Amherst Recycles Campaign.

Sean Cleary “has incorporated numerous sustainable practices into the day-to-day operation of his office,” said his wife and office administrator, Joanne Cleary. Among the most important are:
  • the use of energy-efficient lighting throughout the interior and exterior of the office (including daylight sensors on outside lights);
  • recycling of all paper, plastic, metal and glass items;
  • purchasing of recycled products;
  • scanning and e-mailing documents instead of copying them;
  • using Energy Star-qualified appliances;
  • installing a thermostat to control the temperature;
  • purchasing organic/fair trade supplies;
  • canceling all catalog mailings;
  • using reusable glasses and utensils; and
  • reusing office files/folders.
Cleary’s office has already reduced its use of bottled water, but plans to eliminate it completely once it installs a reverse osmosis filtration device in a sink that will prepare all drinking water, according to Cleary.

The MBA launched the Eco-Challenge in September 2007. The MBA and its partner, the Conservation Law Foundation, have so far released two editions of Green Guidelines: “Office Management” in 2008 and “Landscape Management” in 2009.

Nearly 100 firms, attorneys or organizations have signed the MBA Lawyers Environmental Pledge to join the Eco-Challenge. There are also Pledge Partners outside of traditional law firms and the state of Massachusetts.