Green Guidelines released for Eco-Challenge

Issue May 2009 By Jennifer Rosinski

Choose indigenous plants as an alternative to a traditional lawn. Use a push mower instead of one powered by gas. Water only when your grass shows signs of drought. Use bugs instead of pesticides. These are some key suggestions in the latest Green Guidelines, which were released on Earth Day last month as part of the Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyers Eco-Challenge.

“The new Green Guidelines, Landscape Management, are a terrific tool for helping Eco-Challenge partners take their energy, water and other resource conservation measures from their offices to the outdoors,” said Susan Reid, co-chair of the Energy and Environment Task Force and staff attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, the MBA’s Eco-Challenge partner.

“This is a new opportunity for participants to visibly lead by example in their communities as they embrace practical and environmentally sound landscape management principles and tools,” Reid said.

The guidelines are broken down into two major categories, “go natural” and “thoughtful lawn care.” The first half promotes natural landscaping and provides resources to put the suggestions into action. The second part outlines ways to become more environmentally friendly in the areas of mowing, watering, pollution, fertilizers, planting, lighting and soil. Among the tips are limiting lawn watering, preventing runoff, using homemade fertilizers and soil testing.

All sizes of law firms and legal businesses are asked to implement these new guidelines to the best of their ability, whether it be changing one common practice or overhauling the entire landscaping plan. Those who hire a landscaping service can share the guidelines with that company, and legal practitioners can implement the guidelines at their homes.

Current Eco-Challenge Pledge Partners are urged to read over and execute the new guidelines as part of their pledge to employ environmentally sustainable practices. Those who have yet to make the pledge are urged to sign up at before putting the guidelines into effect.

The negative effects of traditional landscaping practices are overwhelmingly supported by government reports and statistics. For example, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one hour of mowing is the equivalent of driving 350 miles in terms of releasing volatile organic compounds. And more fuel is spilled each year filling up mowers than was lost in the entire Exxon Valdez oil spill.

If adhered to, these new guidelines will reduce the need for garden equipment and pesticides. Letting grass grow longer is one of the many suggestions under the mowing section of “thoughtful lawn care.” Cutting grass after it reaches three inches, especially in the spring, keeps crabgrass under control to the same degree as using herbicides, according to University of Maryland research.

The new guidelines, which follow the release of an office-specific version last year, are just one part of Eco-Challenge’s second year of initiatives. A cell phone recycling program in conjunction with Verizon Wireless’ HopeLine program ( was launched Feb. 2. Working and broken cell phones, batteries and accessories from all service providers are accepted at one of three collection boxes: MBA headquarters, 20 West St., Boston; MBA Western Mass. office, 73 State St., Springfield; and CLF’s Massachusetts headquarters, 62 Summer St., Boston.

The proceeds from New England cell phone collections are directed toward organizations that work to prevent domestic violence and assist survivors through purchasing and donating refurbished phones with airtime or paying for special projects.

The MBA launched the Eco-Challenge with CLF in September 2007. Nearly 100 firms, attorneys or organizations have signed the MBA Lawyers Environmental Pledge to join the Eco-Challenge.