Newest member of the Eco-Challenge Energy and Environment Task Force is committed to a green practice

Issue November 2008 By Jennifer Rosinski

In little more than one year, Jennifer L. Caputi has transformed her real estate law practice into one of Rhode Island’s most eco-minded law offices. Now Caputi, who practices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, will share those lessons as the newest member of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Energy and Environment Task Force.

Caputi’s firm, Martinelli Caputi Ltd. in Warwick, goes by the tag line: Go Green Attorneys at Law. It operates using environmentally friendly practices, offers “green closings” to its customers and is the first law office in Rhode Island to become a member of the United States Green Building Council, a non-profit that publishes standards on green buildings.

“When I got around to educating myself to the benefit of being environmentally friendly, I realized it was worth the investment,” said Caputi, who started the practice nearly four years ago with her cousin, Santino A. Martinelli.

Caputi’s firm is one of more than 70 lawyers, firms and organizations from across New England that have signed the MBA Lawyers Environmental Pledge. Lawyers who sign up become Pledge Partners and agree to adhere to the MBA Green Guidelines, which offer suggestions for altering behaviors and updating products in eight areas of sustainability. The Eco-Challenge, co-sponsored by the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston, began in the fall of 2007 and is overseen by a task force of more than one dozen attorneys.

Once Caputi’s education into operating an environmentally friendly office was complete, she worked with the other lawyers at Martinelli Caputi to change its purchasing habits and office practices. Documents are now scanned in and saved on CDs instead of printed; any paper used is 100 percent recycled; office pens are made out of corn instead of plastic; and all business supplies are recycled, including toner. Caputi said associate Richard M. Bianculli Jr., who has a master of studies’ degree in environmental law from Vermont Law School, served as the “green guy” of the office.

“When I realized it wasn’t as hard to go internally green, I said, ‘How can we spread the word to homeowners?’ ” Caputi said. “The light bulb went off and I thought about giving them” a compact fluorescent light bulb, or “CFL.”

If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a CFL bulb, it would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars, according to Energy Star.

In addition to giving all homeowners a CFL bulb at closings, the firm provides closing documents on mini CDs instead of paper, offers information on how to get free home energy audits and presents information on how to make homes more environmentally friendly. “We’ve learned a lot of people are interested in making changes,” Caputi said.

For homeowners who are already environmentally minded, Caputi’s firm offers “green closings.” The special program offers steep discounts to homeowners buying energy-efficient homes or willing to pledge those savings to green home improvements.

“We encourage the homeowners to use the green savings toward more energy efficient items, including light bulbs and appliances,” Caputi said. The use of toxic-free and odorless paints are also promoted.

Homeowners who sign up for “green closings” must sign a pledge through Energy Star, Caputi said. Martinelli Caputi is a registered campaign driver of Energy Star’s Change the World initiative. According to Energy Star, the firm through its campaign has prevented 39,878 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions and saved 27,409 kilowatt hours of energy, as well as nearly $2,600.

Caputi received her law degree from Roger Williams Law School and her bachelor’s degree in International Business Management from Johnson & Wales University, both in Rhode Island.