Earth Day Phoenix 2013Here’s an easy and non-challenging way to get back into a new week: Think about celebrating Earth Day.

I’ve written about this event before, more than once, and luckily there are a few items that you can still add to your busy, Earth-loving schedule. (Sorry, Tucson; your city’s events largely occurred on Sunday the 21st.)

First, if you have the time, stop by the City of Phoenix’s festivities, beginning at 11 a.m. today. Organizers promise: “You’ll learn about recycling and sustainability, take home useful giveaways and share your enthusiasm with thousands of environmentally minded attendees.”

More information is here.

ASU School of Sustainability logoIf you’d prefer a more scholarly approach to the day, head over to ASU’s School of Sustainability, where a speaker asks (and answers, I suppose) the question, “Who is responsible for climate change?”

The 4 p.m. lecture will be delivered by Naomi Oreskes, a UC-San Diego professor.

Bidder 70 movie posterFinally, if the visual is more your cup of tea, then a movie on Monday evening may be just the ticket.

“Bidder 70” is a documentary about a young man (and former ASU student) who, “in an act of civil disobedience, derailed the outgoing Bush administration’s Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction. As bidder number 70, [Tim] DeChristopher bid $1.8 million and won 22,000 pristine acres surrounding Utah’s national parks. He had no intention to pay or drill.”

DeChristopher incurred the wrath of the federal government, which charged him with two felonies that could lead to a 10-year prison sentence.

The movie screening is free, but RSVP here.

All of the School of Sustainability’s activities and events are listed here.

Happy Earth Day.

A plastic bag ban has been proposed in Califormia. How would the idea float in Arizona?

A plastic bag ban has been proposed in California. How would the idea float in Arizona?

The other day, I dropped into Safeway for four items, none of them all that heavy. And when I looked up from my transaction with the cashier, my four items were in four separate plastic bags.

Really? I mean, really?

I was able to rectify that, first by handing over my reusable shopping bag to be filled. Better late than never, I guess. And second, I gently suggested to the bagger that all of it could have fit in one bag.

I’d like to say that it is solely my heightened environmental awareness that led me to my plastic bag shock. It was, but only a little. The bigger impetus was having worked for years at a grocery store, much of it bagging groceries. Decades ago, the job required skill and a certain spatial adeptness, to know how much to fit (well) in a bag.

With a downswing in paper-bag use and an upswing in plastic petroleum-based bags, those skills have disappeared. (Do I sound curmudgeonly yet?)

But today’s post is not about the altered training regimen in the service industry—it’s about those plastic bags.

I was thinking of all that as I read an L.A. Times story yesterday about the movement in California to create a full-on plastic-bag ban. It opens:

“A drive to ban most stores from handing out single-use plastic bags got an important boost Monday when the California Grocers Assn. announced its support for a bill. The measure by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would prohibit the bags in grocery stores and pharmacies beginning on Jan. 1, 2015. Shoppers would be urged to bring their own reusable cloth or plastic bags or would have the option of paying the actual cost of a paper bag, estimated at 10 cents or less.”

One item per petroleum-based bag = a lot of plastic bags

One item per petroleum-based bag = a lot of plastic bags

Read the whole story here.

What do you think? Would you prefer to carry a reusable bag? Do you already?

And what are the prospects of similar legislation in Arizona? On the off-day that you forget your own carryall, would you be pleased, or bugged, to pay for a plastic bag?

Today is more Change of Venue than ever before. On this casual Friday, I am pleased to share a guest post from someone who knows what it means to get off the beaten path.

Kate Mackay, today’s author, is the deputy director of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. Below, she explains how everyone—even lawyers—can get involved in the great Arizona outdoors. She even tells us about the experiences of one attorney from Phoenix. Here’s Kate (all photos courtesy of the AWC):

AZ Wilderness Coalition logo.jpgThe Arizona Wilderness Coalition’s volunteer Wilderness Stewardship ProgramWild Stew, as they like to call it—offers a customized volunteer experience that allows individuals to make a positive impact in managing our wilderness areas simply by doing what many people already enjoy—being outdoors. With more than 4.5 million acres of designated wilderness in Arizona and diminishing federal budgets, our land management agencies need help. This unique service-oriented program leads individuals out into wilderness areas, often for a weekend overnight trip, and engages volunteers in tasks that help AWC collect critical data on the vegetation, wildlife, visitation impacts and condition of the wilderness areas, which is then reported the U.S. Forest Service to improve how they manage the lands. Past trips have monitored for non-native plant species, cleaned up backcountry trails, removed fencing to assist wildlife in reaching water sources, and collected trash from fragile riparian areas. Since its inception, AWC’s Wild Stew program has logged nearly 1,000 volunteer hours on trips to 25 different wilderness areas on the Prescott, Coconino, Tonto and Coronado national forests.

AZ Wilderness Coalition Wild Stew logo

AZ Wilderness Coalition Scott Hulbert Engelman Berger

Scott Hulbert of Engelman Berger

No experience is necessary. Volunteers can either join AWC for a guided volunteer event, or become a trained, individual steward who monitors a wilderness area on their own time. Individual Stewards receive a one-day training on wilderness history, federal wilderness management policy, field protocols and techniques, first aid, backcountry travel preparedness, and more. AWC simply requests your commitment to monitor wilderness conditions twice per year, either in different locations or at an adopted area.

Phoenix-based Engelman Berger litigator Scott Hulbert joins Wild Stew trips about four times a year. In 2009, Scott helped AWC haul more than 100 pounds of trash out of Fossil Springs Wilderness. “AWC does a great job of making the trips fun and worthwhile,” says Hulbert. “Sunday rolls around and you feel like you’ve escaped civilization for awhile, but you’ve also given back to these amazing wild places that make Arizona so unique.”

Read more about why Scott helps out in the Wilderness Stewardship program here.

Cutting in a trail in Arizona's Sycamore Canyon.

Cutting in a trail in Arizona’s Sycamore Canyon.

AWC is leading another trip to Fossil Springs in honor of Earth Day this year, April 20-21. Visit the awzwild website for trip details and a complete list of adventures through December 2013 (listed below too). Find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Hardworking volunteers with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition

Hardworking volunteers with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition

April 20–21

  • Earth Day
  • Fossil Springs Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Payson
  • Two-day, Backpacking

May 4–5

  • Wet Beaver Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Camp Verde
  • Two-day, Backpacking

May 18

  • Munds Mountain Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Sedona
  • Single-day, Hiking

June 22–23

  • National Trails Day
  • West Clear Creek Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Camp Verde
  • Two-day, Backpacking

September 14–15

  • Kachina Peaks Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Flagstaff
  • Two-day, Backpacking

September 28–29

  • National Public Lands Day
  • Apache Creek Wilderness
  • Prescott National Forest, near Prescott/Paulden
  • Two-day, Backpacking

October 12–13           

  • Castle Creek Wilderness
  • Prescott National Forest, near Crown King
  • Two-day, Backpacking

October 26 – 27

  • Mazatzal Wilderness
  • Tonto National Forest, near Payson
  • Two-day, Backpacking

November 9–10

  • Mount Wrightson Wilderness
  • Coronado National Forest, near Tucson/Patagonia
  • Two-day, Backpacking

November 23–24

  • Sycamore Canyon Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Flagstaff/Williams
  • Two-day, Backpacking

December 7–8

  • Superstition Wilderness                     
  • Tonto National Forest, near Phoenix/Superior
  • Two-day, Backpacking

Earth Day may be this weekend, but green issues have been on my mind a lot this spring.

That may be due a recent Solar Summit I attended, or my test-drive of a Nissan Leaf. Or it may be because of the great April issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine. In it, lawyer Jennifer Mott provided a wealth of information for lawyers seeking a little sustainability in their practice.

You can read the whole April issue here.

On this Change of Venue Friday I provide a few quick links to Arizona options available to people looking to celebrate Gaia, nature, Earth, parks, forests, public spaces, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

Let’s start with Tucson, where a festival has been dedicated to the cause.

And here is a list of events in Flagstaff.

In Phoenix, Local First Arizona has compiled a list of activities.

Meanwhile, over at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, they celebrated Earth Month (show-offs). They’ve held a wide variety of events since April 1. But on Saturday, April 21 there is a (wait for it) … Solar Oven Cook-Off. Here’s the information. No detail on whether you bring your own hot dog (or tempeh).

An example of a solar cooker

Have a great weekend.

This month in Arizona Attorney Magazine, we have a few stories related to our cover story on lawyers and a greener law practice.

The great content, by lawyer Jennifer Mott, explores not environmental law, but how to make your own law office more sustainable.

Today being Change of Venue Friday, I considered what related content I could share, and then I thought—my day with Leaf.

Well, it was more like a morning, and the Leaf, of course, is the Nissan Leaf.

Last fall, Nissan conducted a national road-show to tout its high-profile Leaf.

The Leaf, in case you haven’t heard, is an all-electric vehicle. I was reminded of that fact last year on Twitter, when I mentioned “Nissan’s newest hybrid.” Within minutes, I had received a hand-slap tweet from a Nissan PR flack (I call them “Leaf blowers”), who reminded me that it was not a hybrid but purely electric. Live and learn.

(To follow their announcements, follow them here.)

In October, my 15-minute Leaf test drive at Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe was preceded by about an hour of show-and-tell. A spokesman explained the drivetrain, the battery cell, the refueling station, even the solar panel on the roof of the car.

"My" loaner Leaf and me

The drive itself? Just OK. It was too brief to develop much of an impression. But I can offer one bit of praise: It performed like most any car I’ve driven, even conventionally powered ones.

One feature of the car that weighs heavily on potential drivers of the Leaf is the worry we all feel about running out of juice before reaching a recharging station. And this spring, the Nissan website provides graphics (like those below) to quell those fears. Does it convince you?

Over time, have you opted for different vehicles to conserve energy? Let me know what you think of your choice.

Some more photos are below.

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Has a focus on environmental sustainability become a central part of what businesses do? Or does it remain an outlier, a nice added benefit if you’ve got the time and inclination?

Those questions come to mind as two events approach on my calendar.

The first is a networking event tonight that aims to gather Phoenix business and other folk in the shared endeavor of sustainability (and yes, there will be food and beverages too).

Hosted by Rogue Green and the Green Chamber of Commerce, the event is just one of a growing roster that tries to pull the green focus to the center rather than the periphery. (If you’re there, stop by and clink a green glass.)

Here at Arizona Attorney Magazine, we are just beginning to put together our April issue. In the same month as Earth Day occurs, we will include content that aims to do the same with lawyers and law practice. (Our main story is currently titled “Making the Case for a Greener Law Office.”)

Is this a growing concern in your law practice or other business? Do clients and customers expect at least a modicum of sustainability from you? Or do all of the myriad challenges of your work push green to the back burner?

The Arizona Journal of Environmental Law & Policy at the University of Arizona Law School is hosting a Saturday discussion of the complex intersection of two matters of public policy: the way we generate energy and the way we harm the environment as little as possible.

Titled “Energy, Natural Resources, and the Environment: Three Perspectives,” the panel discussion features comments from Dinah Bear, an attorney whose work focuses on matters dealing with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). According to conference organizers, she represents clients opposing the Rosemont mine. Ms. Bear served for almost 25 years as the General Counsel of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.

Other panelists include UA Law Professor Robert Glennon and Dr. Sheldon Trubatch. (I wrote about Professor Glennon and his great book “Unquenchable” here.)

Here is information on the morning’s topics:

“This forward-looking panel discussion examines the convergences between concerns over energy, natural resources, and the environment. Ms. Bear will begin the discussion with an overview of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and a critique of the slew of environmental legislation pending before Congress, as well as an update on Rosemont mine. Professor Glennon will pick up with an analysis of the natural resource constraints on renewable energies, focusing especially on the vast land and water requirements of solar plants. With these limitations in mind, Mr. Turbatch will turn to the viability of nuclear energy, considering its licensing requirements, natural resource demands and environmental impacts. Whether you are interested in the legal, scientific, or political aspects of these topics, this panel discussion will surely have something for you.”

Saturday, November 5th

10:00 a.m. to Noon

James E. Rogers College of Law

Room 160 (no longer in Room 164)

Register by clicking here.

Last year on this day, I wrote about Earth Day with at least some degree of optimism.

As I sit down this morning, though, the environmental picture looks less than robust.

Because a Flagstaff newspaper reflects my own outlook this week, I share an editorial from them.

“Earth Day 2011 … takes place amid a cloud of disappointment over a year that, by most benchmarks, seemed to take more steps backward than forward. The three biggest threats to global survival—non-renewable fuel use in transportation, power production and agriculture—seem more ominous than ever.

“If Earth Day is to be more than a once-a-year pep rally for a greener planet, it has to engage head-on the debate over jobs and a sustainable environment. Public education, at some point, must be tied to realistic political strategies that appeal to more than just the converted.”

Read the Daily Sun’s complete piece here.

We hear much talk about environmental awareness these days. But fold in a conversation on ethics? That’s a new twist.

“Sustainability and Ethics” was the title of a Friday program at Arizona State University. It was part of a daylong event sponsored by the Women Law Students’ Association at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

The panelists were:

Ed Fox, APS, and Kris Mayes, ASU Law School, at February 11 event

In the April issue of the magazine, we will have more about this great panel. In the meantime, there are more photos on the magazine’s Facebook page.

Judge Mary Schroeder in Arizona Attorney Magazine, May 2003

Later this week, I will attend a panel discussion on environmental sustainability. I’m looking forward to it—but many others run hot and cold on the topic.

The symposium is part of a larger event sponsored by the Women Law Students Association at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. It is called “Arizona: Exploring Our Legal Landscape,” and it is slated for this Friday, February 11.

The day’s offerings sound great. They include a keynote by Judge Mary Schroeder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (Read our 2003 story about Judge Schroeder here.) Other topics that will be covered are issues in family and social justice, diversity and immigration, and nonlawyer views.

But it is the panel on “Sustainability and Ethics” that is hooking me. It includes Professor Dan Bodansky (whom we featured in a recent story), Ed Fox with APS, and former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes.

In Arizona Attorney Magazine, we have been running features that fall under our banner “Earthwise Lawyering,” and this event sounds like more valuable information to share with readers. I am hoping the speakers explore how a concept like sustainability interacts with climate change.

Dan Bodansky in Arizona Attorney, October 2010

However, a news story I came across today reminds me of the pitfalls that lie ahead in any attempt to address—or even discuss—climate change. The story describes efforts in the U.S. Congress to reverse federal efforts to control carbon emissions—or to participate at all in climate change initiatives. Read the full article here.

I’ll report out after Friday’s conference.

Kris Mayes