Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Plea for Environmental Programs to Stop Sending Paper Brochures

I have been slowly but surely cleaning out my office the last couple of months as part of a broader effort at more functional patterns.  Sadly, most of my cleaning has consisted of recycling piles of law spam that made it into my office and never got sorted.  The spam at times made me miss meaningful communication and was just a depressing waste.  I have instituted a new rule that no pile makes it from the mail room to my office without my going through it to recycle spam.

In that context, I have been particulary saddened to get a number of paper brochures just this past week from leading environmental programs.  I promptly recycled them and it lowered rather than raised my opinion of those programs.  As we've moved to electronic announcements towards the list, some leading programs have moved towards only sending email updates.  I've been trying to send emails acknowledging those updates so that those programs know that they can actually reach people this way.  At Minnesota, we are aiming to go electronic in our communications with you and I'll be in touch soon with our latest.  But it should be all of us, as we try to convince our colleagues outside of this field to limit the brochures as well.  So please, environmental law programs, stop wasting paper and adding to the spam of this time of year.   

Hari Osofsky

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Environmental law programs are not the only guilty organizations that send reams of paper waste through the mail. Sierra Club is by far the worst. I even returned their mailed envelope stuffed with unnecessary pamphlets, advertisements, letters, etc with a note stating the obvious, and circled their plea to 'save the trees' with a one word question: "Hypocrite?"

Posted by: Elzi | Oct 18, 2012 7:08:59 AM

Hari, thanks for your steadfast support of more sustainable practices in environmental law academia. I've felt uneasy for years about the piles of paper we all generate (recycled or not, the cradle-to-cradle GHG impacts alone concern me). As you know, this year Pace's program opted for all-paperless PR. I'd be curious to trade notes with other programs that do the same. A brochure on a pile on someone's desk can still command more attention than an email among many in cyberspace - at least, for readers of a certain generation.

I am also curious to know how many readers of this blog are also subscribers to Oregon's environmental law professors listserv. For any of you who aren't, please have a look Pace's program news: We are innovating daily!

And finally, I'd be interested in exchanging ideas with anyone who wants to make environmental conferences more sustainable. Does the whole conference idea need to be rethought, given the technological tools we now have? What do we lose in terms of human interactions if we move to a more virtual environment and can we make up for it in other ways? I certainly would like to see UNFCCC and others find ways for delegates to communicate and reach agreement without generating thousands of tons of carbon per person for air travel. Although Pace tries to offset whatever we generate in transportation, I'd rather not incur the debt in the first place. As Gandhi said, we must be the change we want to see in the world. Getting a clear vision may be our biggest challenge.


Lin Harmon
Professor, Assistant Dean and Director of Environmental Law
Pace Law School
78 N. Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603-3796
Office phone: (914) 422-4207

Posted by: Lin Harmon | Oct 18, 2012 5:46:37 AM

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