Sustainability at the Office

"Green business" sustainable business...carbon footprint." The list goes on, but the use of such labels reflects a building trend in our business environment which challenges the notion that a firm's bottom line disconnected from a commitment to sustainable business practices. Here in Portland, professionals boast about the quality of life and a growing commitment to sustainability. Many young professionals choosing to live and work in Portland base this decision, in part, on the environment of sustainability that is being created here.

In many cases, consumers of our legal services may also be inclined to choose legal service providers based, in part, on their carbon footprint... at least that is what some local firms such as Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, Stoll Berne and Stoel Rives are betting. These firms and others, prominently incorporate a commitment to sustainability with their online presence. While the foregoing firms meld their commitment to a sustainable future with their marketing strategy, other Oregon firms are less vocal, but nonetheless actively increase employee morale by taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint.

For a small office or boutique firm seeking to adopt sustainable office practices, the assistance of sustainability experts can be essential. When the Portland firm Bodyfelt Mount began greening its office practices, they enlisted the assistance of the Recycle at Work Program and the BEST Business Center (BEST) at the City of Portland's Office of Sustainable Development. The BEST and the Recycle at Work Program (RAWP) are free resources committed to assisting Portland businesses with comprehensive and hands-on technical expertise in implementing sustainable office practices. Working together, BEST and RAWP conduct an initial audit of business practices and then help businesses identify possible improvements. To implement improvements in your business, BEST and RAWP provide access to conservation experts and also educate employees on sustainability issues.

Having worked directly with RAWP, Pam Stendahl of Bodyfelt notes education is important in maintaining a sustainable office environment. She credits RAWP's help and willingness to give onsite brown bag CLEs in making her office more sustainable. Pam mentions many changes, including developing first-hand relationships with waste and recycling haulers, establishing a battery recycling depository, choosing reusable utensils over disposables, rethinking firm purchases, reducing energy use after hours, offering employee incentives for alternative transportation to work including access to Zipcar for travel during business hours, being paper smart and remaining committed to educating employees about firm efforts to become more sustainable.

Regardless of the purpose for adding sustainability to your office ethic, BEST and RAWP stand ready and available to assist you in changing the way business is handled at your office. For offices located outside Portland, the RAWP's Web site references sister recycling programs for businesses in Beaverton, East Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.

There is a growing list of sustainable business resources to assist all Oregon firms. In addition to those identified above consider visiting the Oregon based Center for Earth Leadership and the ABA Standing Committee on Environmental Law's Web site for a Sustainable Law Office for more ideas and resources.

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