It isn't unusual for lawyers to have meetings, but the Utah State Bar added a new element to its fall forum: an entire day of seminars on "green law practice" to help members create environmentally friendly offices, reduce the use of paper and find ways to spread the word to those outside the world of law.
"We're part of the community, and this is very important for lawyers," said Nate Alder, president of the Utah State Bar. "Lawyers have a leadership role in the community, they do volunteer work and they're on boards and commissions. They are not immune from environmental concerns. Like the medical profession, accountants, teachers, all professions — we're all in this together."
The two-day forum at the Salt Palace offered a variety of workshops and seminars, but on Friday there was something related to environmental concerns offered each hour.
Participants also could come away with "green" conference items including a re-usable tote bag, a refillable water bottle and even ballpoint pens made primarily from recycled cardboard and balsa wood.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker took part in one session titled "Overhauling Rules, Regulations and Policies to Encourage Affordable Green Buildings." Also taking part were Jon Lear, a partner in the firm of Lear & Lear, and Jason Taylor, director of the Utah Society for Environmental Education.
Corroon listed a number of changes the county is undertaking, some are wide-ranging such as working with the 16 cities inside its boundaries on zoning matters, and others are smaller such as getting the state Legislature to permit larger solar panels on buildings.
The county now has solar panels on the south side of the Salt Palace, which light the garage. "We're going to look at all major buildings," Corroon said.
There also are smaller efforts that ultimately will make a difference, such as switching to CFL light bulbs. "There are a lot of little things we can do to make our community more environmentally friendly."
Becker, who echoed Corroon's appreciation of the good relationship between the city and county, also provided a lengthy list of improvements the city has adopted, including such things as the purchase of 10 electric cars for the city fleet and his executive order that private construction plans that are LEED certified go to the head of the line when it comes to seeking permits.
LEED certification is a rating system by a third party that shows how "green" a building is.
Becker also spoke of plans to link the Jordan River Parkway with other trails to create a long and extensive trailway network, extending more mass transit to the Sugar House area and encouraging community gardens on vacant city and private property.
Lear told the assembled attorneys that a third utility is needed to offer small-scale alternative energy in the community. This would provide energy security, diversity, local control, new industry for the economy, reduce pollution and make energy savings available to low-income people, he said.
Taylor urged the lawyers to begin "talking beyond the choir" and start educating others about the various energy-favorable initiatives that are available.