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This category covers a broad range of aspects including transportation alternatives, parking, telecommuting, travel, green lodging, conference planning, indoor air quality, hybrids, office plants.
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Pollution Prevention, Buildings, Conservation and Recycling, Administrative Stuff

Pollution Prevention

Courting the Environment

December 17, 2014
This week’s blog isn’t for law offices only!  In the course of our lives, professionally and personally, at some point we are likely to be dealing with our court systems at the local, state, or federal levels.  Among the many innovations that courts have undertaken in recent years is to adopt technologies that improve the courts’ efficiency and accessibility to the public.  One important trend is e-filing, which refers to the transition from a paper-based system to electronic filing and processing of actions, from traffic citations to litigation. 
The leading institution in the U.S. that serves as a clearinghouse of information and knowledge that is shared among the courts and as a leading think tank for innovation is the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), based in Williamsburg, Virginia.  The NCSC produces an annual report, Trends in State Courts, which is a compendium of articles with special focus on major issues and highlights significant projects and achievements in courts across the nation. 
Among the key trends reported this year are the adoption of e-filing and the conversion from paper-based processing and records management to digital images.  This trend is good news for the environment.  Law offices have been among the highest consumers and producers of paper.   When the courts mandate electronic transmission of documents, a beneficial side effect is the conservation of paper, toner, and even equipment.  We may not see reductions in overall consumption, but we can expect a reduction in the increase of both paper and equipment needed to meet future needs. 
Here are a few samples of the accomplishments from this year’s report:
Kentucky—e-filing will be implemented for all 120 counties by the end of 2015
South Carolina—the appellate courts have adopted a web-based case management system.  A 32 pound case box is now handled by a 23 ounce iPad.
Virginia—relies on e-filing for civil actions in 16 circuit courts and continues to roll it out statewide
Utah—E-everything!  Among the earliest adopters, Utah is expanding its e-filing to all civil and criminal cases and is shifting to electronic processing of payments, warrants, service, notice, etc.
Read the state-by-state summaries here; they start on page 41 of the annual report.
The NCSC practices what it preaches.  The 2014 e-Courts conference held this month was a paperless conference—no printed programs or handouts.  And the NCSC arranged for live streaming to the desktop and mobile devices of the keynote speaker presentation and all educational sessions.    
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Pollution Prevention, Conservation and Recycling, Administrative Stuff

Pollution Prevention

Eating--What's Nature Got To Do With It?

December 10, 2014
This week’s blog is the first in a series about Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.   Green teams might consider several projects as a spin-off.  Start a book club and make this a selection for discussion at a “brown bagger.”  Invite a public health professional or nutritionist to give a presentation on how to eat healthier, write an article for your office newsletter on the topic of introducing more organic and locally-grown foods into the diet, meet with the food service operator and vending machine provider about increasing the selection of healthier food alternatives, and offer a workshop or publicize information on how employees can start composting at home to limit their food waste going to a landfill and to produce fertilizer for their outdoor plants and gardens.
First, a short introduction and summary.  Pollan opens his book with a question, “What should we have for dinner?”  From this seemingly benign query, he launches a systematic review of what Americans eat and the origins of the food we consume.  Walk into any supermarket and there is an amazing and, by all appearances, tantalizing array of choices.  Notice, too, that in the past several decades the amount of floor space given over to prepared foods, ready to heat and serve or eat out of the box, glass, and can, has become the norm.
Pollan disparages the shift in agriculture to industrial farming, our national penchant for fad diets, and the environmental impact of a food system that depends more and more on fossil fuels than solar energy to produce and process what we consume.  Along the way, he examines the domination of corn and its byproducts, which is an ingredient in one-fourth of 45,000 items in the supermarket.  We learn that the GMO corn grown in Iowa and other parts of the country today bears little resemblance to the corn seed of decades past.  He explores the forced changes in what beef, pigs, and other animals consume from grasses to corn and takes us on a journey of the short life of a head of cattle that spans about 14 months from birth to the slaughter house compared to several years to be ready for market in the past. 

Why are Americans consuming more calories and sugar and weighing in about 12 pounds heavier than we did in the 1960’s?  Pollan would argue it’s a complex web of governmental subsidies, mega-sized corporate control of farming and animal production, and an absence of a traditional food culture that has most of us eating something containing ingredients our grandparents wouldn’t recognize. He structures the chapters into three main areas of focus—industrialized corn, the ubiquitous ingredient  in so much of what we consume, organic farming and the way we used to grow food and animals for consumption, and his personal, Waldenesque journey to prepare a meal for his consumption from what he hunted and gathered.  This book isn’t easy to digest, pardon the pun, and he offers no “spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down” to borrow from Mary Poppins.  GWG will take up more specifics as we chronicle the highlights of this important investigation into what we eat.    

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Pollution Prevention, Buildings, Conservation and Recycling, Administrative Stuff

Pollution Prevention

Greening the Holidays Starts...Now!

November 26, 2014
Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.  One of the coolest ideas to come along for the holiday season (and a good excuse to stay home from crazy shopping this Friday) is Small Business Saturday on November 29.  American Express gets a lot of credit for initiating it in 2010 to encourage people to patronize their locally owned and operated small businesses.  It has grown into a movement and each year, has grown, well, bigger!
Check out the site for links to businesses in your area and look for signs and ads promoting the opportunity to spend some “green” in your neighborhood.  This past week, an article in USA Today by Rhonda Abrams offers ten reasons to support shopping local.  One reason is that of $100 spent in a local business, $68 stays in the local community supporting schools, police, roads, jobs, and other improvements.  Contrast that with a big box branch store at $43 and virtually no dollars added to the tax base from shopping online, which incurs shipping miles and added energy expended.  And according to Sustainable Connections, “Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.”
It’s that time of year again, when GreenWorksGov gives you an early Christmas present—your guide to green holiday shopping.  This year, we’re linking you to some of our favorite sources for gift ideas and eco-friendly shopping tips and a couple new ones. 
As in past years, we really like Greenopia.  This link takes you to Greenopia Los Angeles, but just scroll down to the bottom and click on a city or the “all cities” link and you’re bound to find USA and Canada shopping options in a town near you.  You’ll discover links and info about green electronics, clothing and jewelry, food and beverages, toys, bath and beauty, home and garden, vehicles, and more. 
Green America’s Responsible Shopper’s Guide is another super resource with listings for dozens of products and categories.  Green America also has a list this year of Ten Ways to Green Your Holidays.
Updated this year is a Green Electronics Shopping guide completed by the Alliance to Save Energy for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Noah Horowitz’s NRDC blog, Switchboard, publishes the guide. The article points out three things we all can do to enjoy our new electronic gifts and conserve energy, too.  First, buy energy efficient (EPEAT or Energy Star ™ rated) electronics, set them to turn off or use the minimum amount of power when not in use, and recycle old and broken electronics responsibly.  The NRDC has a variety of shopper’s guides to products, such as food storage containers, poultry, bathroom tissue, laptops and TVs.
A continuing recommendation from 2013 is Greenopia’s Research Director Doug Mazeffa’s book, “Learning to Shop Sustainably: The Consumer Guide to Environmental Impact Assessment and the Green Marketplace.”
Please share these ideas with your employees in your office newsletters and Intranets.  GreenWorksGov wishes all its readers around the world a peaceful, and joyous Christmas and holiday season. 
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Pollution Prevention, Buildings, Conservation and Recycling, Administrative Stuff

Pollution Prevention

Partners in Sustainability--Just a Click Away

October 29, 2014
Last week, GWG explored some recent news and developments in the environmental world that can be applied by a green team to help raise awareness of a need, add documented justification to support a proposal, or incorporated into an existing project to boost its environmental impact and/or benefit to the bottom line.  This week, we explore what some leading groups and institutions are doing and the resources available from their websites that are accessible to all of us.  Lucky, indeed, are those entities and the public agencies and private sector operations located in proximity to each other that they can actively collaborate on projects of mutual interest and benefit. 
Our first stop on our swing through the continental U.S. takes us to Michigan where the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum has dedicated twenty years “to promote business practices that demonstrate environmental stewardship, economic vitality, and social responsibility.” It’s a diverse group of large industries to small businesses who learn, exchange information, and progress together on the path to sustainability.  Earlier this month, the Forum held a conference on Climate Resiliency to facilitate an understanding of the vulnerabilities in that region in the event of severe weather and other climate events and presented an initiative to build a framework for how businesses and organizations in West Michigan can start to improve their resilience.  The program was a joint venture with Michigan State University and the Rand Corporation, among others.  The principles and goals set forth in the initiative are generally applicable and progress on this initiative bears watching. 
Next, we stop at the League of Cities in Kentucky which is playing a lead role in theKentucky Sustainability Institute, a partnership between the NewCities Institute, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet- Division of Compliance Assistance, to promote the “greening” of the Bluegrass State through education and resources.  The Institute has published a tool kit that is loaded with information, suggested steps, and examples from across the U.S. to help offices establish sustainability policies and programs.  This is a great resource and aid to any green team seeking ideas about what to include and consider for their organization.
Our last stop this week takes us to North Carolina State University, which has a robust campus sustainability program to ignite any program.  Also, NC State is but one of hundreds of universities and colleges across the US and around the world that are excellent resources to their communities and are often engaged in research and programs involving regional and national sustainability efforts.  NC State’s “Change Your State” web page offers numerous suggestions to encourage students to adopt practices and habits that are pro-environment.  Green teams can apply these in their own organizations, too.  GWG has often written about the value of educational institutions and potential opportunities for office green teams to participate in events and activities that benefit both the work environment and the larger community. 

The message this week—we share the earth and its resources together.  And only by helping each other and working together will we solve the challenges we face. 

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Pollution Prevention, Buildings, Conservation and Recycling, Administrative Stuff

Pollution Prevention

Knowing Your Environment

October 22, 2014
There are at least two reasons why green teams and sustainability officers should follow the news, local, state, national and global—about climate change and environmental issues.  The first is because information is power and knowledge can be applied to demonstrating the impact of practical actions on lowering both the bottom line and the office’s carbon footprint.
The second reason is that issues, events, and political or governmental action will affect us all, directly or indirectly, and it is increasingly important to be prepared to adapt, to be resilient, and ideally to be in a position to be a productive partner on solutions to the challenges we face together at work, at home, in our communities and beyond our borders.
Ideally, every member of a green team will stay abreast of news and developments on the green front.  But as a practical matter, there is so much information to be had that it’s impossible for any one person to know it all.  Consider divvying up the info gathering among your team members by topic or area.
There’s a wealth of online news sources and you can find a good start under GWG’s Resources tab.  Here are a couple examples from my info download this past week—EcoWatch posted a news report on a movement in Florida to split the state in two because proponents in the south of the state, namely the mayor and city council of South Miami, believe there has been insufficient action from the power base in the north to address rising sea levels and flooding. This is a tip off to businesses and agencies in low-lying coastal areas to ask themselves how prepared they are for unanticipated power outages, flooding, and weather events that could interrupt the conduct of operations.  GWG has written in the past on the topic of resiliency and the value that informed green teams can provide to emergency planners and facilities managers.
Along those lines, the EPA this week released an abstract on the connection between sustainability and resilience.  The summary, by co-author Alan Hecht, highlights the new thinking and actions underway by leaders in government, educational institutions, business and industry that are redefining the “resilience” of a community or an enterprise from simply bouncing back to “the capacity for a system to survive, adapt, and flourish in the face of turbulent change and uncertainty.”  Click here to read the full report published in “Solutions”, an online journal.

Next week’s column will highlight examples of sustainability leaders, projects, and opportunities that will inspire your office green team and are valuable resources for ideas and information.  In many instances, there are local environmental groups, institutions, and community organizations that welcome collaborative partnerships and participation in volunteer projects.  So even if your office green program is but a fledgling enterprise, newsletters and bulletin boards can inform interested and supportive employees about the numerous ways they can become involved in advancing sustainability goals. 

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