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Courting the Environment

December 17, 2014
This week’s blog isn’t for law offices only!  In the course of our lives, professionally and personally, at some point we are likely to be dealing with our court systems at the local, state, or federal levels.  Among the many innovations that courts have undertaken in recent years is to adopt technologies that improve the courts’ efficiency and accessibility to the public.  One important trend is e-filing, which refers to the transition from a paper-based system to electronic filing and processing of actions, from traffic citations to litigation. 
The leading institution in the U.S. that serves as a clearinghouse of information and knowledge that is shared among the courts and as a leading think tank for innovation is the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), based in Williamsburg, Virginia.  The NCSC produces an annual report, Trends in State Courts, which is a compendium of articles with special focus on major issues and highlights significant projects and achievements in courts across the nation. 
Among the key trends reported this year are the adoption of e-filing and the conversion from paper-based processing and records management to digital images.  This trend is good news for the environment.  Law offices have been among the highest consumers and producers of paper.   When the courts mandate electronic transmission of documents, a beneficial side effect is the conservation of paper, toner, and even equipment.  We may not see reductions in overall consumption, but we can expect a reduction in the increase of both paper and equipment needed to meet future needs. 
Here are a few samples of the accomplishments from this year’s report:
Kentucky—e-filing will be implemented for all 120 counties by the end of 2015
South Carolina—the appellate courts have adopted a web-based case management system.  A 32 pound case box is now handled by a 23 ounce iPad.
Virginia—relies on e-filing for civil actions in 16 circuit courts and continues to roll it out statewide
Utah—E-everything!  Among the earliest adopters, Utah is expanding its e-filing to all civil and criminal cases and is shifting to electronic processing of payments, warrants, service, notice, etc.
Read the state-by-state summaries here; they start on page 41 of the annual report.
The NCSC practices what it preaches.  The 2014 e-Courts conference held this month was a paperless conference—no printed programs or handouts.  And the NCSC arranged for live streaming to the desktop and mobile devices of the keynote speaker presentation and all educational sessions.    
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Greening the Holidays Starts...Now!

November 26, 2014
Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.  One of the coolest ideas to come along for the holiday season (and a good excuse to stay home from crazy shopping this Friday) is Small Business Saturday on November 29.  American Express gets a lot of credit for initiating it in 2010 to encourage people to patronize their locally owned and operated small businesses.  It has grown into a movement and each year, has grown, well, bigger!
Check out the site for links to businesses in your area and look for signs and ads promoting the opportunity to spend some “green” in your neighborhood.  This past week, an article in USA Today by Rhonda Abrams offers ten reasons to support shopping local.  One reason is that of $100 spent in a local business, $68 stays in the local community supporting schools, police, roads, jobs, and other improvements.  Contrast that with a big box branch store at $43 and virtually no dollars added to the tax base from shopping online, which incurs shipping miles and added energy expended.  And according to Sustainable Connections, “Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.”
It’s that time of year again, when GreenWorksGov gives you an early Christmas present—your guide to green holiday shopping.  This year, we’re linking you to some of our favorite sources for gift ideas and eco-friendly shopping tips and a couple new ones. 
As in past years, we really like Greenopia.  This link takes you to Greenopia Los Angeles, but just scroll down to the bottom and click on a city or the “all cities” link and you’re bound to find USA and Canada shopping options in a town near you.  You’ll discover links and info about green electronics, clothing and jewelry, food and beverages, toys, bath and beauty, home and garden, vehicles, and more. 
Green America’s Responsible Shopper’s Guide is another super resource with listings for dozens of products and categories.  Green America also has a list this year of Ten Ways to Green Your Holidays.
Updated this year is a Green Electronics Shopping guide completed by the Alliance to Save Energy for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Noah Horowitz’s NRDC blog, Switchboard, publishes the guide. The article points out three things we all can do to enjoy our new electronic gifts and conserve energy, too.  First, buy energy efficient (EPEAT or Energy Star ™ rated) electronics, set them to turn off or use the minimum amount of power when not in use, and recycle old and broken electronics responsibly.  The NRDC has a variety of shopper’s guides to products, such as food storage containers, poultry, bathroom tissue, laptops and TVs.
A continuing recommendation from 2013 is Greenopia’s Research Director Doug Mazeffa’s book, “Learning to Shop Sustainably: The Consumer Guide to Environmental Impact Assessment and the Green Marketplace.”
Please share these ideas with your employees in your office newsletters and Intranets.  GreenWorksGov wishes all its readers around the world a peaceful, and joyous Christmas and holiday season. 
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Partners in Sustainability--Just a Click Away

October 29, 2014
Last week, GWG explored some recent news and developments in the environmental world that can be applied by a green team to help raise awareness of a need, add documented justification to support a proposal, or incorporated into an existing project to boost its environmental impact and/or benefit to the bottom line.  This week, we explore what some leading groups and institutions are doing and the resources available from their websites that are accessible to all of us.  Lucky, indeed, are those entities and the public agencies and private sector operations located in proximity to each other that they can actively collaborate on projects of mutual interest and benefit. 
Our first stop on our swing through the continental U.S. takes us to Michigan where the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum has dedicated twenty years “to promote business practices that demonstrate environmental stewardship, economic vitality, and social responsibility.” It’s a diverse group of large industries to small businesses who learn, exchange information, and progress together on the path to sustainability.  Earlier this month, the Forum held a conference on Climate Resiliency to facilitate an understanding of the vulnerabilities in that region in the event of severe weather and other climate events and presented an initiative to build a framework for how businesses and organizations in West Michigan can start to improve their resilience.  The program was a joint venture with Michigan State University and the Rand Corporation, among others.  The principles and goals set forth in the initiative are generally applicable and progress on this initiative bears watching. 
Next, we stop at the League of Cities in Kentucky which is playing a lead role in theKentucky Sustainability Institute, a partnership between the NewCities Institute, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet- Division of Compliance Assistance, to promote the “greening” of the Bluegrass State through education and resources.  The Institute has published a tool kit that is loaded with information, suggested steps, and examples from across the U.S. to help offices establish sustainability policies and programs.  This is a great resource and aid to any green team seeking ideas about what to include and consider for their organization.
Our last stop this week takes us to North Carolina State University, which has a robust campus sustainability program to ignite any program.  Also, NC State is but one of hundreds of universities and colleges across the US and around the world that are excellent resources to their communities and are often engaged in research and programs involving regional and national sustainability efforts.  NC State’s “Change Your State” web page offers numerous suggestions to encourage students to adopt practices and habits that are pro-environment.  Green teams can apply these in their own organizations, too.  GWG has often written about the value of educational institutions and potential opportunities for office green teams to participate in events and activities that benefit both the work environment and the larger community. 

The message this week—we share the earth and its resources together.  And only by helping each other and working together will we solve the challenges we face. 

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Knowing Your Environment

October 22, 2014
There are at least two reasons why green teams and sustainability officers should follow the news, local, state, national and global—about climate change and environmental issues.  The first is because information is power and knowledge can be applied to demonstrating the impact of practical actions on lowering both the bottom line and the office’s carbon footprint.
The second reason is that issues, events, and political or governmental action will affect us all, directly or indirectly, and it is increasingly important to be prepared to adapt, to be resilient, and ideally to be in a position to be a productive partner on solutions to the challenges we face together at work, at home, in our communities and beyond our borders.
Ideally, every member of a green team will stay abreast of news and developments on the green front.  But as a practical matter, there is so much information to be had that it’s impossible for any one person to know it all.  Consider divvying up the info gathering among your team members by topic or area.
There’s a wealth of online news sources and you can find a good start under GWG’s Resources tab.  Here are a couple examples from my info download this past week—EcoWatch posted a news report on a movement in Florida to split the state in two because proponents in the south of the state, namely the mayor and city council of South Miami, believe there has been insufficient action from the power base in the north to address rising sea levels and flooding. This is a tip off to businesses and agencies in low-lying coastal areas to ask themselves how prepared they are for unanticipated power outages, flooding, and weather events that could interrupt the conduct of operations.  GWG has written in the past on the topic of resiliency and the value that informed green teams can provide to emergency planners and facilities managers.
Along those lines, the EPA this week released an abstract on the connection between sustainability and resilience.  The summary, by co-author Alan Hecht, highlights the new thinking and actions underway by leaders in government, educational institutions, business and industry that are redefining the “resilience” of a community or an enterprise from simply bouncing back to “the capacity for a system to survive, adapt, and flourish in the face of turbulent change and uncertainty.”  Click here to read the full report published in “Solutions”, an online journal.

Next week’s column will highlight examples of sustainability leaders, projects, and opportunities that will inspire your office green team and are valuable resources for ideas and information.  In many instances, there are local environmental groups, institutions, and community organizations that welcome collaborative partnerships and participation in volunteer projects.  So even if your office green program is but a fledgling enterprise, newsletters and bulletin boards can inform interested and supportive employees about the numerous ways they can become involved in advancing sustainability goals. 

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CVS Aims to Take Care of Mother Earth and Us, Too

October 15, 2014
Most of us who are familiar with CVS know it as the pharmacy we use or the drug store in our neighborhood that seems to have just about anything you would expect or hope to find.  CVSCareMark, the corporate home for CVS, defines itself as “a pharmacy innovation company”.  If how CVS has designed and implemented its environmental management program is an example, we would have to agree with that definition. 
CVSCareMark’s 2013 Corporate Social Responsibility Report  (CSR) identifies protecting the planet as one of the three priorities of the company’s CSR strategy.  This broad strategy is translated into specific, measurable areas of focus and objectives--energy, water, waste, buildings, and transportation.  CVS is on track to reduce its carbon intensity by 15% by 2018, already seeing a 9% reduction since 2008.  A new energy efficient store in Connecticut represents the latest in green design standards--solar roof panels, zero irrigation landscaping, electric vehicle charging stations, and daylighting.  CVS incorporates green building standards wherever possible, including site consideration for new buildings.
CVS also recognizes the important role it can play in ensuring the products sold and medicines dispensed are designed, manufactured, packaged and disposed of in a more sustainable manner.  CVS offers a variety of CVS Brand products with environmental attributes and has added product lines to its offerings that meet standards for reduced environmental risk and impact.  CVS suppliers must submit to a rigorous review of environmental compliance with laws and regulations, but also must conform to CVS’s environmental impact principles.  
These accomplishments, ongoing strategies, and commitment to environmental responsibility are supported by a strong infrastructure. A sustainability leadership council  reviews the sustainability strategies and sets carbon reduction goals, an executive environmental management council of senior-level executives  direct the overarching strategy, an energy technology assessment committee  monitors trends and evaluates opportunities for improvements, and a sustainability committee drives initiatives across the enterprise.  This cross-corporate network ensures that sustainable policies and practices are closely integrated with CVS’s mission to help people on their path to better health, which the company states is intrinsically linked to the sustainability of our planet.
This is but a short and incomplete summary of what CVSCareMark is doing to meet its commitment to environmental protection.  The pdf of the annual report, which also is available as an interactive link on the website, is worth the click here.  If you’re looking for an example for establishing or expanding your green office effort, CVSCareMark is one of the best in the business.
Upon reaching the first anniversary of our office’s green office initiative and my role heading up our sustainability committee, I set about to document our efforts and the progress we had made toward our goal of adopting environmentally friendly business practices and lowering our carbon footprint.  Our report was duly written, statistics depicted where we had been able to measure changes, and the short, but informative report was published on our public internet website and office intranet.  At the time, we were pretty happy with the product.  That was five years ago and times change.
If I were in the same position today, I would head to the Internet and the numerous examples there are of annual reports on sustainability, particularly from corporations that have adopted environmental values and goals as part of their platform principles of corporate social responsibility.  In fact, not only would I find examples of content information, I would find outstanding examples of how impactful environmental management programs are structured and integrated into the core business.  This is the best kind, and the highest evolution to which green office programs can aspire.  It’s one thing to reduce paper consumption, it’s another to ensure your suppliers have adopted environmentally sustainable business practices and conform to certified production standards.  And beyond changing business practices, it’s quite another thing for environmental values to lead to new products and services.  In a previous column, GreenWorksGov wrote about the hierarchy of success that is possible and desirable based on a study by AltaTerra Research in Palo Alto.  One company that stands out as a leader in optimizing its environmental management program is CVSCareMark
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