This year, 2023, marks the 53rd anniversary of the first Earth Day, viewed by many as the birth of the modern environmental movement. Organized to raise awareness and encourage action to protect our natural earth, it seems like Earth Day is more relevant than ever as extreme climate variability is already being experienced by people around the globe.
The frequency and intensity of weather-related events is growing and will continue to grow and affect all of us. For businesses, including law firms, it will impact every part of operations, including employee safety and well-being, communications, power supply, logistics, and transportation. So, this Earth Day I challenge you to reflect on what you can do to protect the health of our planet. Here are a 5 ideas to get you started.
1. Make Green a Priority
The best ideas will flounder without a committed leader or team to make them a reality. Baker McKenzie recently made waves by naming its first Chief Sustainability Officer to lead its global sustainability strategy. Find the members of your own team (unless that’s you!) that are most passionate about sustainability issues and give them the mandate to move forward. Make sure they have the resources they need to make the changes that will benefit the Earth—and the firm. If you aren’t in a position to make firm or workplace initiatives yourself, it never hurts to volunteer to start a committee to tackle specific issues.
2. Go Paperless
The average office worker uses up 10,000 sheets of paper annually. About 45% of that ends up in the trash by the end of the same day it was created. Cutting down on paper not only saves forests — it also helps with soil erosion and water pollution as well. While most of us may have converted to digital document storage already, think twice about printing that document for convenience’s sake.
Cutting out paper can also help the bottom line. In most offices, paper costs around $80 per employee per year. Add to this the costs of toner, filing cabinets, mailing, copiers, fax machines, shredders, staplers, paper clips, folders, and the extra office space needed to store those mammoth filing cabinets.Paperless firms are also more productive and efficient, with fewer lost documents, better collaboration, and easier document retrieval.
3. Hybrid Work
If you need another reason to convince the boss that WFH is here to stay, cutting down commutes helps eliminate greenhouse gasses—a substantial share of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. If your office already went paperless, hybrid is even easier. With all of your files, notes, and tasks accessible from every device, you can skip the commute and work from home.
4. Energy Use
Cut down on energy bills by using Energy Star appliances, smart thermostats, LED light bulbs, and motion sensors that turn power off on their own. Avoid “phantom power” by turning off computers at night and unplugging unused appliances.
5. Encourage Your Workplace to Join the Movement
In every community, there are groups of committed people working to protect land, water, and air. Find them and give them your support. Here are a few ways to do it:
Sponsor a local environmental group or event. A modest donation can go a long way to fix environmental problems, motivate volunteers, and demonstrate publicly your commitment to the long-term well-being of your community.
Join an activity as a team. Is there an initiative to build a community garden, plant trees, or clean up a river? Spending time together on a meaningful project outside the office can build a sense of teamwork and improve morale.
If available, utilize your workplace’s ‘volunteer time off.’ This is an extra day of paid time off which lawyers and staff can spend on volunteer work.
Implement or propose pro bono work for environmental causes.
Check if your employer has a donation matching program and make use of it for an environmental cause.
Thanks for reading and happy Earth Day!
Marie Kazmer obtained her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Toronto and worked for a few years in financial services and investments before returning to school to obtain her J.D. from Western. She is currently completing her articles at a boutique estate litigation firm in downtown Toronto and expects to be called to the Bar in June 2023. During law school Marie was a member of the Western Business Law Clinic assisting local start-ups, Western's In Vino Veritas wine tasting club and participated in several moots and competitions including coaching the Walsh Family Law Moot in her third year. Outside of work Marie enjoys cooking, skiing, travelling and volunteering with Second Harvest.