While the world is still not far from the brink of irreversible damage from climate change, more and more companies–both big and small–are taking the necessary steps to become more sustainable. The same is true for law firms. As sustainability movements encourage people and businesses to go green, law firms are also stepping up to the plate.
Whether it’s a small firm with a handful of experienced family attorneys or a large firm with over fifty lawyers, here are some of the best ways law firms can achieve sustainability in their offices:
1. Embrace digitalization
We’re way past the point of having to print out every single document that will most likely be used a few times before they are shredded. Many legal documents don’t even have to be printed on paper, which goes against the norm of traditional law firms that are teeming with file cabinets.
That said, it makes perfect sense to digitalize contracts, wills, and other legal documents that legally do not have to be on paper. Law firms can use digital databases to store all digital documents where they are secure and can be easily accessed at any time. Aside from reducing offices’ paper waste, lawyers can minimize the amount of paper they send to clients and the amount of carbon they produce in mailing them. Moreover, going digital means desks won’t be piled high with paper anymore, and offices can get rid of space-consuming file cabinets.
2. Reduce unnecessary paper use
Apart from going the digital route, another excellent way that law firms can reduce paper waste is by not using paper for unnecessary things, like sending notes, posting reminders, and printing meeting agendas. The habit may be difficult to break, but law firms can start by discouraging the use of sticky notes and memo pads in the office and instead encouraging the use of digital devices.
3. Choose sustainable office supplies
When sourcing necessities for the office (furniture, office supplies, electronics, cleaning products), office managers at law firms should try to find eco-friendly sources and recycled or secondhand options. Doing this can both reduce the office’s carbon footprint and save a bit of money at the same time, but if eco-friendly supplies don’t fit the budget, things that can be recycled after use are the next best options.
4. Minimize single-use cups and bottles
Single-use coffee cups and drink bottles are commonplace in almost any office, but these items are some of the biggest causes of pollution and deforestation in the world. That said, minimizing or downright banning single-use cups and bottles in the office pantry is an excellent step towards sustainability. Law firms should encourage employees to bring their own reusable bottles and mugs to replace disposables. Offering free drinks in the office pantry is a great incentive for this purpose.
5. Offer incentives for greener commutes
An average passenger vehicle produces 4.6 metric tons of carbon emissions a year, which means driving to work every day is one of the worst things that a person can do for the environment. Many lawyers run on a tight schedule and have to take their car almost everywhere, but this is not always true for all lawyers–or at least not on a daily basis.
To help reduce their members’ carbon emissions, law firms can offer incentive programs that reward greener modes of transportation, such as carpooling, public transportation, cycling, or if possible, walking. Another great idea is to offer reimbursements for public transportation fares and fuel for vehicles used in carpooling.
6. Minimize travel
If there is one thing that COVID-19 taught offices, it’s that meetings and conferences can be as successful online as they are in person. Virtual meetings, conferences, and seminars should still be common practice even after the pandemic is over to minimize carbon emissions from traveling. On top of making events easier and less costly, not having to drive to the venue or take flights can significantly reduce an employee’s carbon emissions.
7. Invest in energy efficiency
Another great way law firms can minimize their carbon footprint is to invest in energy-efficient lighting, devices, and office equipment. In addition to that, offices should get rid of their obsolete devices that are not only unproductive but are also consuming more energy than necessary.
On top of the environmental benefits, prioritizing energy efficiency in the office is also a great money-saver.
Law firms are almost always bustling with activity, and so may be producing more emissions than other offices. To help reduce overhead costs and help the environment at the same time, all law offices should adopt some, if not all, of these sustainability strategies.