Apple Not Green, But You Can Be

Don’t be fooled by the logo, Apple is reportedly the least environmentally friendly of Greenpeace’s chosen tech companies this year.

“’Of the big four IT companies—Apple, Dell, HP, IBM—Apple has disclosed the least information and is the only one that has not made a major commitment to carbon footprint reduction.’ That’s the conclusion of the director of As You Sow, an organization which uses shareholder activism as a tool to promote sustainability and corporate social responsibility.”[1]

With so many companies these days making efforts to practice more green behavior, this conclusion is quite surprising. Certainly, Apple will feel the backlash of this report, as we’ve seen public pressure adds an important element to all decision-making (See Why Firms Should Assume Judges Will Throw Out Confidential Commercial Rights). Whether your firm needs extra eco-advertising, wants to qualify for government rebates, or just loves the earth, it’s important to be green. And, as Kermit says, it’s also easy. Follow these five steps to get a quick head start on the coal-eyed competition.

1. Eliminate Styrofoam Cups.

Coffee—at most business around the world—is the most important office supply. But three or four plastic cups discarded per day by twenty employees will add up for both the environment and your bottom line. Instead of plastic, try stocking your shelves exclusively with ceramic mugs. Have a Ceramic Mug Day where each employee donates one or more mugs from their homes. Or, consider monogramming mugs with your firm’s logo or name and distribute them to employees on hiring anniversaries, which will boost the morale, marketing for your firm, and the management of your carbon footprint.

2. Replace Vending Machines.  

Coffee-making vending machines are not the only culprits in this environmental equation. If it’s not a caffeine addition, late nights spent to write a brief are also supplemented by sweet tooths. However, a typical refrigerated vending machine consumes 400 Watts—at the rate of 6.39 cents per kWh, your firm is spending an average of $225 per year,[2] not to mention the mass, unnecessary energy consumption.

Instead of a vending machine, consider the honor system. Ask your office manager or other volunteer to purchase assorted snacks during their typical grocery run. Then, have a basket in the break room that sells them—with the appropriate $1 donation. It’s likely you will save firm monies overall, in addition to helping save the earth.

If employees complain of the selection, keep the commercial vending but as your provider to de-lamp the machine. Also ask for an occupancy sensor on the machine to reduce its power requirements during periods of inactivity. Studies show that de-lamping vending machines save at least $100 annually.

3. Encourage Carpooling.

Few people will complain about carpooling while gas is still $4 a gallon. Even still, sometimes carpooling is too tedious for individuals to organize themselves. Start a carpooling sign-up service at the firm. After all, you already have access to associates’ timesheets, it should be easy to investigation who arrives at the same time and which (soon to be promoted!) lawyers stay late.

At the beginning, offer a small incentive, like a Starbucks gift card, to promote car sharing. In cities with mass transportation, there are often government incentives or tax breaks available for businesses and those employees who take the train, bus, or their own two feet to work. Driving just ten percent less, by walking, cycling, carpooling, or taking public transit, has been shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 0.2 to 0.8 tonnes per year (depending on the vehicle).[3]

Finally, if that doesn’t cut down on the cars in your garage, allow telecommuting one day a week or, more radically, FLEX time. Often these measures end in higher productivity and efficiency for the office, and certainly higher sustainability for the earth.

4. Operate Your Technology Responsibility.   

Office equipment makes up 16 percent of an office’s total energy use, according to The Department of Energy. Not only do fax machines, printers, and copiers waste mass amounts of paper, they also consume large amounts of energy. That’s why, at the end of the day, it’s important to shut down your computer, turn off its monitor, and generally pretend you’re at take-off on a commercial flight.

Have your IT gurus change the settings on your employees’ computers so that this is done automatically. Nominate your first-years to circulate the office at night and ensure all equipment is switched to the “off” position. The reasons are clear. If every U.S. computer and monitor were turned off at night, the country could shut down eight large power stations and avoid emitting seven million tons of CO2 each year. In terms of financial gain, IBM estimated $17.8 million in worldwide costs were saved in 1991 solely by encouraging employees to turn off equipment and lights when not needed.[4]

5. Nominate A “Green” Manager.  

There are myriad ways to make your firm more green. Hire or nominate a manager within your firm to look into similar energy-saving ideas, such as soybean ink, compact fluorescent lamps, and paper-reduction. It’s more than likely at least one employee feels strongly on the subject and will volunteer.

Either way, like a long-term legal strategy, changes to the office making it more environmental friendly will see similar long-term impacts. With a few, small changes, you can ensure the earth’s still around for you to add “& Son” to your moniker, and task the next generation to continue your hard-earned efforts.

-WB

[1] http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/anya-kamenetz/green-day/apple-least-green-big-four-it-companies

[2] http://www.energync.net/resources/docs/pubs/vending.pdf

[3] http://earth911.com/news/2007/06/25/turn-your-office-green/

[4] Ibid.

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  1. Pingback: Challenging Biglaw: How Small Firms Attract Talent On A Tight Budget |

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