Friday, January 25, 2008

Lawyers Push for Energy Conservation

David White Jr. doesn't fit the mold of an environmentalist.

An attorney and partner in the Boston firm of Breakstone, White and Gluck, White is more comfortable in a suit and tie than tie-dye.

Before joining the Massachusetts bar, however, White was a student at the University of Vermont, where he received a degree in environmental studies. After graduation, he spent three years working as an environmental advocate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

Now the president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, White is putting his environmental pedigree to use, leading the industry group in a push to encourage lawyers to be more environmentally friendly.

Called the Lawyers Eco Challenge, the program urges lawyers to sign an "environmental pledge" to take steps to implement a set of green guidelines drafted by the association.

"It's not a whimsy, it's a real concern," White said this week, of promoting "green lawyers." "The why of it is we all have a duty to fight global warming and protecting environmental resources, and one way we can definitely do that is by reducing our energy usage."

Taking even simple steps to reduce energy usage, like turning off lights or installing motion-activated lights in law offices, turning off computers and other electronics, reducing paper use and increasing recycling, White said, can have dramatic impacts.

Read more about green guidelines

"What we've done in my office is...we took out all incandescent bulbs and replaced them with compact fluorescents," White said. "We put the common areas on motion sensors, and we've just adopted good habits about turning off equipment that's not being used."

Those few steps, he said, combined with a plan to replace traditional fluorescent bulbs with the super-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs should cut the firm's energy use by as much as 25 percent.

"I'm pretty confident most firms around the state can do the same thing," he said. "We want to be an example for other businesses around the state. If lawyers can do it, accountants can do it, and insurance people can do it."

White's sentiment already seems to be catching on.

Barely a day after the Eco Challenge campaign was unveiled this week, more than two dozens lawyers and law firms had signed the online pledge. By week's end, more than 30 had signed up.

"My desire to go green started with my daughter" Rachel, said Alan Klevan, of the Wellesley firm Klevan and Klevan. "She's in middle school, and over the past several months she's become very environmentally conscious."

Spurred by his daughter and his work with the MBA's Law Practice Management Section, Klevan uses technology like document scanners to cut back on the amount of paper his office uses.

"I personally believe I'm 50 to 60 percent there," he said, of his goal of a paperless office.

"Lawyers have been so focused on their practice of law and doing right by their clients, they're not understanding the idea that there's other means out there to represent their clients as efficiently, if not better."

Even for lawyers who already consider themselves "green," the guidelines have been eye-opening.

"I've gotten all kinds of new ideas from this group," Sudbury attorney Susan Crane, who served on the MBA task force which helped draw up the guidelines, said this week.

"I've done a whole lot, but I could always do more, and I think we all could," she added. "A lot of lawyers focus on the environment and energy - this seemed like something we should be doing so our clients can model our behavior, and send a message out there that we're all trying.

"Lawyers need to be doing this. We can't just be taking on causes for others and forget what we're doing ourselves."

"For us, it was something that made a lot of sense, because it makes a good statement," said Tim Borchers, senior partner at Borchers, Ware and Guglielmo, which has offices in Medway and Franklin. "Every profession ought to have some kind of commitment to cutting back on the use of resources."

Like Klevan, Borchers is exploring the notion of the paperless office, and said the firm may purchase equipment and software to help cut back on paper usage.

"In our business, paper is king," he said. "We do a lot of printing. One thing we're actually studying right now is the impact of printing on both sides of the paper."

The firm has also urged employees to turn computer monitors off at night, switches to energy saving light bulbs and is upgrading its office to use programmable thermostats.

The idea of the challenge, though, isn't to mandate lawyers or law firms follow the MBA's strict rules on environmental awareness.

"It's more about planning," said Nancy Reiner, who co-chaired the task force. "The idea is just to get people and lawyers and law firms thinking about it.

"When you have a can, don't just throw it in the garbage. If we all, if a lot of firms do work to save energy, then it will have an impact."

"It's very exciting," said Philip Warburg, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, the MBA's partner in the Eco Challenge, of the commitment from lawyers and law firms. "I think that we are encouraging leaders in the Massachusetts professional community to walk the walk about climate change and other environmental practices they can show leadership on.

"It's a process of both thinking differently, and acting differently. We're not asking people to somehow reduce their efficiency on the job, or cutting into their profit margin. It's simply saying here are responsible choices you can make that can help us address a problem we can no longer afford to ignore."

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1 comment:

batticdoor said...

How To Reduce Your Energy Bills / Energy Conservation Begins at Home

Imagine leaving a window open all winter long -- the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan or AC Return, a fireplace or a clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.

These often overlooked sources of heat loss and air leakage can cause heat to pour out and the cold outside air to rush in -- costing you higher heating bills.

Air leaks are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Air leaks occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc. Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits caulk and weatherstripping provide to minimize heat loss and cold drafts.

But what can you do about the four largest “holes” in your home -- the folding attic stair, the whole house fan or AC return, the fireplace, and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

Attic Stairs

When attic stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only a thin, unsealed, sheet of plywood.

Your attic space is ventilated directly to the outdoors. In the winter, the attic space can be very cold, and in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned house from your unconditioned attic? That thin sheet of plywood.

Often a gap can be observed around the perimeter of the door. Try this yourself: at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door -- do you see any light coming through? These are gaps add up to a large opening where your heated/cooled air leaks out 24 hours a day. This is like leaving a window open all year round.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an attic stair cover. An attic stair cover provides an air seal, reducing the air leaks. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling.

Whole House Fans and AC Returns

Much like attic stairs above, when whole house fans are installed, a large hole (up to 16 square feet or larger) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only leaky ceiling shutter between the house and the outdoors.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a whole house fan cover. Installed from the attic side, the whole house fan cover is invisible. Cover the fan to reduce heating and air-conditioning loss, remove it when use of the fan is desired.

If attic access is inconvenient, or for AC returns, a ceiling shutter cover is another option for reducing heat loss through the ceiling shutter and AC return. Made from R-8, textured, thin, white flexible insulation, and installed from the house side over the ceiling shutter with Velcro, a whole house fan shutter cover is easily installed and removed.


Sixty-five percent, or approximately 100 million homes, in North America are constructed with wood or gas burning fireplaces. Unfortunately there are negative side effects that the fireplace brings to a home especially during the winter home-heating season. Fireplaces are energy losers.

Researchers have studied this to determine the amount of heat loss through a fireplace, and the results are amazing. One research study showed that an open damper on an unused fireplace in a well-insulated house can raise overall heating-energy consumption by 30 percent.

A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter due to the air leakage and wasted energy caused by fireplaces.

Why does a home with a fireplace have higher heating bills? Hot air rises. Your heated air leaks out any exit it can find, and when warm heated air is drawn out of your home, cold outside air is drawn in to make up for it. The fireplace is like a giant straw sucking the heated air from your house.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a fireplace draftstopper. Available from Battic Door, a company known for their energy conservation products, a fireplace draftstopper is an inflatable pillow that seals the damper, eliminating any air leaks. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after.

Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts

In many homes, the room with the clothes dryer is the coldest room in the house. Your clothes dryer is connected to an exhaust duct that is open to the outdoors. In the winter, cold air leaks in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house.

Dryer vents use a sheet-metal flapper to try to reduce this air leakage. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to stop the air leakage. Compounding the problem is that over time, lint clogs the flapper valve causing it to stay open.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal. This will reduce unwanted air infiltration, and keep out pests, bees and rodents as well. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape.

If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan, an AC return, a fireplace, and/or a clothes dryer, you can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

Mark D. Tyrol is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin of construction defects. He developed several residential energy conservation products including an attic stair cover, an attic access door, and is the U.S. distributor of the fireplace draftstopper. To learn more visit