Oregon State Bar Sustainability Practices

By Rod Wegener

It didn’t take long for the Oregon State Bar’s Board of Governors or staff to take seriously the sustainability bylaw the Board approved last fall along with the creation of the Sustainable Future Section.  In its review of numerous services and activities provided by the Bar, the Board approved substantive changes for how some information is conveyed to the members.  In each case, the Board recognized that legal and public information can be better shared in a searchable, electronic format rather than paper.  More importantly, many of the changes lead to environmental-friendly practices.  You may have heard about some of them already, but here they are again with their environmental impact.

First, the multi-title library of the Bar’s legal publications will be made available through the Bar’s web page to all active members beginning next year.  Currently that electronic library, called BarBooks, has been available on a subscription basis.  This electronic format will not entirely replace the printed versions, but the Board knows that the current hundreds of thousands of pages of paper will no longer be printed.

Second, the Bar will upgrade the online member directory and eliminate listing member names in the Membership Directory.  The annual Membership Directory, which includes about 300 “white pages” with the names and addresses of all members of the Bar, is a popular member benefit.  However, as soon as the directory is printed some of that information is out of date.  Partly because that information is out of date, the online directory on the Bar’s web page is the most frequented page on the Bar’s web site.  That web page will be upgraded and the Bar will discontinue printing the white pages section of the directory, saving over 2.7 million sheets of paper.  The Membership Directory will be replaced by a Resource Directory which will include the remaining material of the current directory.  Members will be able to print any or all portions of the white pages of the membership directory from the web page.

Third, the annual membership fee statement will be sent to all members via email this December, eliminating approximately 18,000 printed statements.  Each year more members go to the Bar’s web site and pay the membership fees online.  Emailing the statement to the member will not require that all pay with a credit card, as the member still will be able to print the statement and mail it with a check to the Bar.

This is a “ballpark” guess, but the Bar estimates that those three changes will save 4.6 million sheets of paper.  Or, putting it another way, that is 910 cases of the 10-ream case your paper company delivers to your office.  Quite an environmentally friendly feat.  Granted it does push off some printing to members that want to print versions of those documents, but that will be a small amount compared to the volume of paper the Bar will no longer print.

The sustainability practices have filtered down to Bar staff at the Bar center also.  Earlier this year Bar staff from numerous departments volunteered to be a part of a Sustainability Team evaluating the sustainable practices of staff and operations at the Bar center.  Those policies and practices still are being formalized, and a more complete report will be detailed in an upcoming article.  Some of the practices already in place have caused savings in energy, reduced paper consumption, and increased recycling.

Rod Wegener is the Oregon State Bar’s Chief Financial Officer and staff liaison to the Sustainable Future Section. He is also chair of the Bar staff’s Sustainability Team and is an avid recycler. Rod and the Bar’s Sustainability Team will provide updates in coming issues on the Bar’s plans and accomplishments for its sustainability efforts.
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