Trickle Down Sustainability at the Oregon State Bar Center

By Rod Wegener.

With the start-up of the Sustainability Future Section and sustainability-related actions by the Board of Governors in 2010, the efforts to be a more sustainable organization trickled down to actions and efforts of staff at the bar center. A Sustainability Team of interested staff from various departments met and continue to meet to identify sustainability matters at the bar center and offer educational opportunities in sustainability for all staff. The Team members gained valuable education from presentations by local leaders in sustainable office practices. Max Miller and Elizabeth Goodman from Tonkon Torp LLP explained what that firm does to raise awareness of sustainability. Jeanne Roy of the Center for Earth Leadership wowed the Team with her personal sustainable and recycling practices. Pride Disposal Company and Far West Fibers, Inc.—two companies that collect or recycle the items placed in the recycle bins—explained their roles in product lifecycles.

The Team also held a number of sessions to identify practices that should be in place at the Bar center to add to or increase recycling and sustainability. Here are some of the ideas that surfaced and the results of those efforts:

  • Plastic silverware and paper cups and plates were removed from the staff kitchen and replaced with durable products.
  • Recycle bins are located in common areas for dead batteries, plastic bags, and lids and tops. The kitchens have had containers for the most commonly recyclable products since the building opened.
  • Containers for recyclable products are in place for all CLE and similar events at the conference center.
  • All PCs are set to a standby mode after 20 minutes, and staff are instructed to turn off their PCs at the end of the workday.
  • Double-sided printing is the default at all workstations.
  • All copy machines move into a “sleep” mode if not in use for 20 minutes.
  • Off-site document storage has been reduced by almost half with the continuing conversion of paper documents into electronic format.
  • A tip on green ideas is regularly listed on the Bar’s intranet.

The Bar has been focusing on reducing its use of copy machines for some time, and this practice has shown dramatic results in the last two years. The number of pages copied on the copiers decreased 40 percent in the two years from January 1, 2009, through December 31, 2010. That is a significant savings in paper, energy, and dollars. And as is the case for most homes and businesses, there is a recycle bin right next to the copier for those goofs or copies that never should have been made in the first place.

As with copier usage, the Bar’s postage costs have also decreased dramatically, largely because more communication is being made electronically. As with many other businesses, correspondence that once was sent through the post office is now sent by e-mail or is available on the bar’s Web site. Furthering that trend, the Bar’s Board of Governors made three decisions that significantly reduced paper usage. First, the entire legal publications library is available online for all members. Second, the Bar eliminated members’ names and addresses in the Membership Directory. Third, the Bar e-mails the membership fee statements. All those changes have led to paper, energy, time, and dollar savings.

Currently, the Team is evaluating commuting alternatives. Getting to and from Tigard on public transportation is not the easiest way to commute, but the Team is exploring options with Tri-Met, carpools, vanpools, and even benefits for bike riders.

Rod Wegener is Chief Financial Officer of the Oregon State Bar.
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