7 ways to green chambers

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Laurie Scher and Will East suggest some easy wins enabling every chambers to become more environmentally sustainable

Many of us feel a powerful sense of responsibility to do what we can to minimise climate change, and more and more of our clients will expect this. We have therefore compiled a few of the ‘easiest wins’, which (we hope) will enable every barrister to start making a positive difference. Small changes, but their impact will be leveraged if they are adopted by Chambers, Circuits, Inns, and SBAs. Please help make this happen.

1. Double-sided printing every time

Most printers can be set to print on both sides of the page by default, and can also print multiple pages on each side. Even if you cannot see yourself going paperless at this stage, you can still cut down on paper use, or try smaller (A5) paper, and carry less weight around.

Next step: Set this up, asking IT if you need help, and encourage colleagues to do the same.

2. Recycling, before and after

You may not even notice a switch to recycled paper, the quality is now so good. When your case is finished, make sure your confidential waste is shredded and recycled.

Next step: Convince chambers’ stationery purchaser to try a box of recycled paper, and if it is just as good, to make the change going forward. Ask what happens to the documents which go into confidential waste. Visit your local authority’s website to see how more business waste can be recycled in your area.

3. Are you ready to go paperless?

Or, ‘paper light’? More and more of us are using tablet computers, even at hearings. With the right software, it is easy to convert multiple documents into a single PDF ‘bundle’, with bookmarks, virtual sticky notes, and colourful annotations and highlighting. If you have a visual memory, you may find that bold annotations can give you those visual placeholders.

Next step: Read ‘How to e-work' and 'How to e-work Pt 2' by Paul Hart for Counsel. Ask around for recommendations (a good place to start is iPad Pro and app, PDF Expert).

4. Give old computers a second life

You can’t just throw away a computer – you need to get the data securely wiped, and comply with various regulations when disposing of it. So why not donate it instead? Keep the hard drive (and the confidential data on it), and donate the rest to a charity.

Next step: Ask IT for advice about this, and see whether they can help action it for the next person who upgrades their computer.

5. Avoid using disposables

Use refillable glass bottles for water in your conference rooms. You can buy or hire specialist kit to make sparkling and still water in re-usable bottles. They look great, don’t cost very much, and save a great deal of plastic or glass from being wasted.

Next step: Search the web for branded glass bottles, and plumbed carbonated water coolers. Ask your office manager how much is spent each year on disposable bottled water.

6. Driving less

How many of your members and staff drive as part of their commute? You could encourage cycling instead with a government funded ‘cycle to work’ scheme (giving your staff cheaper bikes and gear). If you have shower facilities, make sure that they are made available and pleasant to use. Ditto ironing facilities!

Next step: Send an email to members and staff to gauge interest in cheaper bikes and/or better facilities. If the demand is there, visit www.cyclescheme.co.uk/employers to see the options.

7. Think about your heating

If you have a radiator with an adjustable valve, consider keeping it a notch or two lower, and wearing a jumper. With electric heaters, adjust the timer to make sure you’re not heating an empty room.

Next step: Adjust your radiator – or, if there is no timer/adjustable valve, speak to the person in charge of maintenance to try to get one fitted. A small cost now may save significant amounts of energy (and money) in the future. If you have old sash windows, think about whether draft excluders could be installed to cut down on chilly drafts.

And the single biggest step?

Switching to a ‘pure renewables’ electricity tariff is likely to be the single biggest step your chambers can take to reduce its carbon footprint. In the near future, a special discount may become available for barristers’ chambers. If you are interested, please watch out for an article on the subject – or contact Sam Mercer at the Bar Council (smercer@BarCouncil.org.uk) for more information.

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Laurie Scher

Laurie Scher is a barrister at Maitland Chambers. He is working with the Bar Council, the Chancery Bar Association, and Maitland Chambers to develop their CSR (chambers social responsibility) strategies. Please do reach out if you would like to be a part of the Bar’s CSR network: lscher@maitlandchambers.com

Will East

Will East is a barrister at 5 Stone Buildings. He is a member of the Chancery Bar Association’s Wellbeing and CSR Sub-Committee.