Greening HLS and OCI



Environmentalism, long a fairly dead topic, has been getting a lot of press lately, and it’s nice to see that HLS is beginning to pay attention. Recent improvements in the Hark, for instance, are heartening, and we applaud the non-disposable salad bowls and the napkin dispensers designed to prevent people from grabbing entire stacks and throwing them away, unused, thirty minutes later.

We also applaud the return of actual, physical silverware, and we can only hope that the 1Ls in Gropius will not, as in days past, feel the need to continue stealing the Hark’s forks and knives. We know the SPIF stipend you’ll earn this summer feels like subsistence wages, but trust us: when you’re $120 thousand in debt, the extra $10 you need to buy a flatware set at Target should not be a major concern.

That said, there’s still a lot to cringe at. Student organization meetings frequently end in members tossing away cans and bottles as they exit the room, for instance. The Berkman Center, which has no recycling bins at all in conference rooms, is a prime offender. Most locations on campus, though, actually have recycling bins, so the question becomes why people are so quick to bypass them.

Perhaps it’s because 75% of the Record Editorial Board went to college in California, but we can only conclude that the problem is a lack of social stigma. Feel free to glare at your classmates when they throw away that Diet Coke purloined from some careless student group that set up their refreshments too early. Remember, there’s nothing that drives law students crazy like insufficient social approbation – take advantage of it.

There’s another way, however, in which Harvard law students rank among the worst polluters in the nation. Particularly this time of year – when we fly to interviews all over the country – we waste prodigious amounts of jet fuel.

Given the number of off-setting options available, it is long past time for HLS to establish a green OCI program in which firms pay to offset the CO2 costs of their interviewing program.

For the firms, the cost would be trivial. They’re already paying for suites at the Charles, last-minute airline fare, and trinkets ranging from bonsai trees to iPods. University of Michigan’s environmental law society, which is attempting to implement a similar program, estimates the costs at $100-$200 per year, pocket change for pretty much anyone sending people to interview at HLS.Firms are always looking for a way to paint themselves as socially conscious to law students worried about selling out. This would present an opportunity to do so, which is at least as good as extolling the firm’s pro bono opportunities. If the firms were given public recognition for joining such a program – and if OCS or even HL Central took a hand in legitimating it, or even making it part of the mandatory interview costs – it should prove an easy sell.

We know that buying offsets is roughly akin to buying indulgences. But the law firm interviewing process doesn’t seem like it’s going to turn into a sane, minimal travel process anytime soon. And while the current system continues, offsetting interview travel is the responsible thing to do.