The Oregon State Bar has taken significant and important steps toward more sustainable practices, demonstrating a recent and heightened awareness of sustainability issues. In October 2009, the Board of Governors approved an amendment to the Bar’s bylaws that provides, among other things, that “the Bar will be cognizant of sustainability in its internal operating practices,” and “the Executive Director will designate a sustainability coordinator for Bar operations, will encourage continuous sustainability improvements in Bar operations, and will report to the Board of Governors at least annually on progress and impediments.”
In 2008, at the request of the Environmental and Natural Resources Section, the Bar agreed to analyze its “carbon footprint.” The term “carbon footprint” is typically used to describe the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) that are emitted into the atmosphere each year by an “entity” (person, household, building, organization, company), usually measured in units of carbon dioxide equivalents (“pounds of CO2e”).
Bar staff, with the support of the Environmental and Natural Resources Section, collected baseline data for the new, approximately 60,000-square-foot Bar building from Opus, Inc., the building manager. The baseline data is a “starting point” to measure reductions in emissions and use of resources. When provided to the Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Portfolio Manager program, the Bar’s new building earned a high enough score to qualify for EPA Energy Star status. In addition, because the Bar is serviced by both Portland General Electric and Northwest Natural Gas, it was eligible for an Energy Trust of Oregon energy use survey, which was performed in August 2009. The survey identified capital and non-capital improvements that might be made to increase energy conservation in the building.
The Bar also used the baseline data and the U.S. EPA Personal Emissions Calculator to calculate its carbon footprint. The results showed that the Bar spent $76,094 on electricity in 2008-2009, for a total of 893,000 kWh. Under the methodology used, this equates to a carbon footprint of approximately 822,550 pounds of CO2e per year. Though imperfect, this footprint nevertheless provides a baseline for comparison. For example, the Bar observed that it used essentially the same amount of electricity in the first quarter of 2009 as it had used in the first quarter of 2008, even though the Bar took actions in 2008 to reduce its energy use. This information can be used by Bar staff to understand what conservation tools and available Oregon incentives may be useful in reducing its electricity use, which is the Bar’s highest utility expense.
As a reflection of the Bar’s growing commitment to sustainability, the Bar recently created a Sustainability Team, which plans to meet at least quarterly to evaluate current Bar practices, determine priorities in carrying out the Bar’s sustainability policy, and develop educational and motivational activities for internal use. The OSB Sustainability Coordinator and the new Sustainable Future Section regularly share information and ideas about sustainability and its implications in the legal profession and business practices. In addition, the Executive Director’s annual report to the Board of Governors on the Bar’s sustainability initiatives required by the new bylaw will include the standards and measures used, an annual evaluation and fiscal impact statement, and a summary of the costs incurred or saved by implementing the policy.
Diane Henkels is a private practice attorney with over ten years of experience advising clients on legal issues and incentives related to sustainability, increasing energy conservation and renewable energy production, and representing clients in tribal courts.
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