Setting the Bar Greener

A man, on the way to work, carrying bicycle beside a modern office building.


As chair of the Business Law Section’s Communications Committee at the Washington Bar Association, I recently edited the first Business Law newsletter edition focused entirely on issues of sustainability and climate change tailored to the interests of Washington business attorneys.

We solicited contributions from private attorneys, WSBA, businesses, municipalities, educators, nonprofits, consultants, and organizations that work exclusively in the areas of lobbying and educating business and public sector leaders on issues of sustainability. We asked writers to focus on environmental topics that business lawyers would (or should) be interested in – think green businesses, sustainable building, political change, shrinking a business’s their carbon footprint. We also sponsored a writing contest for law students on the subject of “Achieving Reduction of our Carbon Footprint: An Action Plan for Washington State Business Lawyers.” Lack of space precluded coverage of other pressing concerns, including Washington’s response to the Paris Climate Agreement and transportation.

The energy investment (you might say it was wind-powered) in seeking out quality contributions was substantial but so worthwhile. Every writer represents a sector of our community that is urgently trying to get us to expand our collective consciousness, dedicate more attention to the issues and actively move each of us to make greener choices in our law practice within the confines of good business practices.

Sense of urgency

In the course of this project, I have gained a profound sense of urgency about climate change. The proverb, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” applies to our actions and choices. Legal professionals have a unique role to model progressive change. Oregon’s leadership is an example worth reviewing – and adopting: see Six Tools for the Law Office on I am seeking members of our bar to take the lead and collaborate with me on implementing a comparable set of objectives in our state.

Besides role-modelling change, we need to affect and facilitate change. It is up to us to advise, counsel and provide resources, and even incentivize, such as by offering pro bono or modified rates for entrepreneurs who need our skills in forming and financing a green business and showcasing established business clients who take significant steps toward carbon reduction and implementing sustainable practices. Risks, in this context, deserve to be rewarded.

I welcome your comments, feedback and action.

3 thoughts on “Setting the Bar Greener

  1. edward

    Hmmmm … maybe this sustainability thing is not too bad after all.

    Another idea would be to move the WSBA offices to Moses Lake, so that employees can get to work with only a 5-minute walk. This would eliminate an enormous volume of CO2 emissions. Due to the sunnier climate, WSBA offices could also go “off the grid” with solar cells, supplemented by stoves burning recycled agricultural materials, such as wheat stubble and corn stalks.

  2. Inez Petersen

    An obvious “green” idea is to cease mailing the glitzy magazine version of the NW Lawyer and restrict mailing to only those who legitimately cannot receive the publication by email. We who have email would get a notice via email and access the copy on the WSBA server. The rest of the distribution list who could not legitimately receive the publication via email could receive the mag in hard copy.

    Could we have someone from the Flat Earth Society write an article next month?

  3. edward hiskes

    Here is an example policy which the Oregon lawyer’s sustainability efforts proposes:

    “Use locally grown food when available.
    o Preferring local food saves transportation fuel, supports local farmers, and avoids
    chemicals that prolong shelf life.”

    I think this kind of analysis is pretty much mindless. The last thing we need in the Puget Sound basin is more farming that results in agricultural runoff to Puget Sound. Any why the bias in favor of “local farmers”? And what is “local”? Is Yakima local? Fruit from Yakima can be delivered by rail to Chicago for about the same price per pound as shipping it in small batches in trucks across the Cascades. So should people in Chicago not eat fruit from Yakima? And why are we against chemicals that prolong shelf life? After food is purchased, it will be put on a shelf at home. Do you want it to spoil faster?

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