Friday, September 9, 2011

Reprints and Brochures: A Plea for Conservation

There was recently a dialogue on the environmental law professors listserve about the practice of sending around reprints of one’s articles, and I appreciated the thoughtful post by Lesley McAllister earlier this week reflecting on whether to keep sending them. I wanted to weigh in on this issue as part of a broader concern about environmental mass mailings. As we come into the U.S. News & World Report ranking season, I wanted to make a plea to all law professors and programs, but especially environmental ones, to reduce the amount of paper you print and send and to encourage your colleagues to do the same. 

I am troubled by how many paper brochures and mailings I get from environmental programs.  As much as I have trouble getting through my in-box, I would much prefer that these programs promote sustainability by minimizing the paper that they send and share the exciting things that they and their faculty and students do electronically.  Similarly, I am honored when people think to send me their work in a personal way, but I would much prefer to receive it via email.  These seem like simple individual steps we can take that can have an aggregate impact.  While using our computers also has a footprint, that footprint is likely less than these mass mailings that programs continue to send out as a business as usual practice.

I personally have been shifting to ordering a minimal set of reprints and primarily sharing my work electronically.  I also have asked my faculty to default to double-sided printing (and ask their assistants to do the same) when they need to print.  I am incredibly excited about all of the new developments in our environmental and energy program at the University of Minnesota Law School, including our launching a new concentration in the area this year, and am encouraging us to share this news electronically without sending paper around.  These are all small things, but as we think about all of the exciting possibilities in renewable energy and energy efficiency, it’s critical that we keep conservation in mind.

- Hari Osofsky

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