Many U.S. law firms are beginning to be confronted with questions regarding their implementation of environmental policies. According to the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Environment, Energy and Resources, each U.S. attorney on average consumes the paper equivalent of one ton of wood per year, making the legal profession one of the largest users of paper.
Snell & Wilmer’s Green Committee
To help Snell & Wilmer confront these challenges, in 2009, a grassroots initiative led by associates and staff resulted in the formation of Snell & Wilmer’s Green Committee. The Green Committee seeks to help the firm adopt practices to save energy, reduce paper usage and increase recycling programs. Chaired by one associate lawyer, the Green Committee has a diverse membership, consisting of both staff and lawyers from all levels and areas of practice.
The Green Committee has a presence in each of the firm’s offices and the environmental success of our efforts to date is tangible.
To highlight a few of these efforts to date:
- All of the firm’s copy paper now contains 30% post-consumer recycled content and all of the firm’s letterhead, business cards and bond paper now contain 100% post-consumer recycled content. The purchase of recycled-content paper products contributes to increased consumer demand that results in wider availability and lower prices and recycled-content paper offers the same printing and performance characteristics as their virgin equivalent.
- Many of our offices' kitchens have substantially reduced or eliminated the use of disposable plates and flatware and now use reusable plates and flatware. For example, we estimate that our Phoenix office now uses 90% less disposable plates and flatware, which has saved the firm several thousands of dollars and has eliminated approximately 190,000 disposable plates and flatware from reaching local landfills each year
- Most of our offices now have some form of recycling program in place, whether through increased use of shredding bins, waste sorting and recycling programs, or building-wide recycling programs. For example, the Orange County office participates in a building-wide recycling program, which was recently expanded to include paper, cardboard, plastic, metal and glass. Previously, the office’s building only recycled 20% of the trash, but now the building is recycling almost 70% of the trash and the total amount of trash being sent to local landfills has dropped by almost 50%.
- Through the firm's Trip Reduction Program ("TRIP"), the firm provides various economic incentives to employees who use alternative transportation to and from work, including monthly gift card drawings and reimbursements for parking and mass transit. Currently, over one-quarter of the firm's employees use alternative transportation, with mass transit being most popular. It is estimated that because of this program there are approximately 266 fewer vehicles commuting to Snell & Wilmer offices each day! Over 50% of our Denver office utilizes alternative transportation.
Snell & Wilmer looks forward to further considering ways to green its office spaces with the guidance of the Green Committee and the investment of all members of the firm.