Technology

Go Green, Save Green

8 ideas to help the planet, your pocketbook

Posted Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM CDT
By Dennis Kennedy

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Illustration by Stuart Bradford

There are several shades of green, and the green money you save as part of ecologically green initiatives might be the shade that most grabs your attention.

Going green with clean technology is good business—and it leads to good practices and a variety of unexpectedly good results, no matter what the mo­tivation.

It’s striking how easy it has become in the last year or so to make technology choices that both fall into the green category and save money. Here are eight tips to help you move into the new era of sustainable legal technology and save money in the process:

  1. Measure—then remeasure. Whether you are working on an existing green effort or trying to sell your firm on the idea, numbers matter. Fortunately, the numbers should be easy to obtain. Whether you do an energy audit, use an inexpensive power-usage device or simply look at your elec­tric meter with equipment running and then off, you want to establish a baseline. It’s easy to find online calculators and helpful charts that can assist you in estimating savings. If you measure at the beginning and then remeasure from time to time—especially cost savings—your management is likely to find your green efforts more sustainable than if your evidence of benefits is simply anecdotal.

  2. Learn new rules of thumb. A laptop uses a fraction of the energy consumed by a desktop computer. LCD panels operate on a fraction of the power required by a cathode-ray tube monitor. Turning off a com­puter or putting it into sleep mode dramatically reduces the amount of power it needs. New equipment, especially computers that feature multicore processors and new en­ergy-efficient power supplies, can also contribute to reduced electricity requirements.

  3. Look for the Energy Star. Recent changes in the En­ergy Star standard have made it more difficult to qualify. Buying Energy Star-compliant equipment will help to reduce power consumption and electricity costs. Dell’s new Studio Hybrid desktop line is a good example of energy-efficient, low-cost computers.

  4. Optimize what’s on hand. Many people do not realize they can also optimize the power consumption settings for their current computers. In Windows, for example, all it takes is a visit to the “power options” selection in the control panel.

  5. Cut paper and supply costs. Printing on both sides of a page cuts paper use in half, and people actually like reading on both sides. New printers and software tools can help reduce the amount of ton­er and ink that you need. Many printers also have a draft mode that uses less toner. If you make dual-sided printing the default, you’ll see significant reductions in cost while still allowing lawyers to create single-sided final documents.

  6. Telecommuting. Enabling secure remote access to office networks can provide many tangible and intangible benefits. Employees might appreciate reduced commuting costs as well as the reduced gas consumption. Web conferences, teleconferences and online collaboration tools can reduce travel costs and your firm’s carbon footprint.

  7. Turn stuff off. Let’s end the debate over whether to turn off your computer in the evening: Turn it off. As in most green initiatives, you get energy and cost savings, plus some surprise benefits. Turning off computers connected to the Internet reduces security concerns.

  8. Participate in the ABA’s Law Office Climate Challenge. The challenge is designed to encourage conservation of energy and resources in the legal profession. It provides recognition for firms that adopt best practices, participate in EPA programs and make other targeted efforts to become more environ­mentally aware. It also provides helpful resources.

STEP TO IT

Whether you want to save the world or just save some cash, greening your technology has become an attractive, easy path for lawyers and law firms. Small steps will produce measurable results.

Take some of the steps mentioned above and see the green results you generate for the environment and your wallet.

Dennis Kennedy, a St. Louis-based computer lawyer and legal technology consultant, is a regular contributor to the ABA Journal. DennisKennedy.com, his website, is the home of his blog. Contact him at dnk@denniskennedy.com.

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