NGE Earth Day Newsletter - 2024

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2024 Edition | April 22, 2024


As we observe the 54th Earth Day, the health and safety of the planet could not be more significant, particularly when it comes to the proliferation of plastic. This year’s Earth Day global theme, Planet vs. Plastics, calls on all of us to commit to actions that support a 60% reduction of all plastic production by the year 2040 – and accomplishing that goal starts with each of us, now.

Whether you are a business or an individual, the reality is that everyone has a role to play in the “Planet vs. Plastics” battle. We can all do our part to protect this beautiful blue planet we live on for future generations. We are proud to share with you some of the sustainable actions our NGE community has made this past year, along with stories and suggestions that we hope will inspire you and your organizations to join our collective efforts.

“The recent solar eclipse, with totality visible over much of North America, brought millions of us together and was a profound moment for all of us who paused in complete awe. In that fleeting moment of deep connection with the natural world, one thing felt clear to me — we are all members of this vast, life-sustaining, precious planet, and it is our responsibility to protect it.”


Plastic use in our everyday lives has a direct impact on our environment, contributing significantly to climate change. Many plastics end up in the ocean, releasing greenhouse gases as they break down. Plastic incineration is a substantial source of air pollution. And, the fuel used to create and transport plastic and petrochemical products is on a dangerously high trajectory.

It is estimated that 75 to 199 million tons of plastic are currently in our oceans.

One million plastic bottles are purchased every minute worldwide, while up to five trillion plastic bags are used a year.

Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S.

Americans alone throw away around 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups every year.

By 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish (by weight).


We are proud to announce our achievement of earning the highest rating awarded to law firms, planting us firmly in a field with only three other law firms who’ve worked hard to achieve this honor.

NGE Achieves Top Rating in American Legal Industry Sustainability Standard

The ALISS assessment aims to encourage firms to take action to further reduce their impact on the environment. For us, this included:

• Continuing our purchase of 100% of our energy needs from wind renewable energy credits.

• Further reducing Scope 2 emissions stemming from our energy consumption by 74,500 kilowatthours per year.

• Collecting and diverting 525 pounds of plastic bags and soft plastics from landfills, and diverting 11,960 pounds of waste from landfills to compost.


Our biggest personal carbon footprint comes from what we eat, our transportation choices, and how we heat and power our home. One step at a time and we can move forward, together. Pick a few actions and commit to them.

To learn more about what you can do to take on climate change, visit Drawdown

Avoid single-use plastic completely. Drink tap water, not bottled water, whenever possible.

Walk, bike, or use public transportation when possible. When it’s time to buy a car, buy a high-mileage one, a hybrid, or an electric vehicle. Visit the website Drive Clean for pollution ratings on every car model.

Support renewable energy. Most local utilities allow you to pay a little extra to support renewable energy. Do it! It’ll cost you about the same as a few cups of coffee each month.

Turn off your computer, TV, and stereo when not in use. After batteries are charged, unplug the charger.

Change your light bulbs. LEDs are best, CFLs are second best. Use energy-efficient appliances.

Wash clothes in cold or warm water. Air-dry clothing when possible.




In partnership with Green Project Technologies, we have been able to quantify our Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions for the past 5 years. We have dramatically decreased our Scope 2 emissions by purchasing 100% of our energy needs from green power sources, and have worked hard on reducing our Scope 3 emissions, which includes all indirect emissions associated with our upstream and downstream operations. Over the past 5 years, we have reduced our carbon footprint by 1,405.5 Mtons CO2 eq.

Using the EPA’s GHG equivalency calculator, this reduction is equivalent to:

3,594,661 miles driven by an average gasoline-powered passenger vehicle

488 tons of waste recycled instead of landfilled

277 homes’ electricity use for one year

23,240 tree seedlings grown for 10 years


• Consolidated delivery vendors to local vendors saving 1.6 Mtons CO2 eq.

a total decrease of

1405.5 Mtons CO2eq

• Swapped out all disposable glasses used at events for actual glassware, saving 1,500 disposable glasses from the landfill per year.

• Use only compostable cutlery and decline non-compostable cutlery from catering vendors, saving 32,400 non-recyclable cutlery from the landfill per year.

• 90% of catering orders for meetings are delivered by vendors on foot or by bicycle, creating zero emissions.


We are proud to share some of the ways that our NGE colleagues have shared their personal skills in support of sustainability this last year:

Sharing our legal skills.

A number of our attorneys, including Steve Pflaum, Eric McLimore, John Biek and Sonya Rosenberg, have provided a variety of pro bono legal services for the Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves. This organization supports continued biodiversity in our state’s beautiful nature preserves.

Sharing our food scraps.

NGE is excited about our firm’s composting efforts, and equally excited that so many of our colleagues including Rachel White, Angela Elbert, Beth Radichel, and Marty Tish have implemented composting in their own homes.

Sharing our special talents.

Despite living in the city, Lisa Gonzalez is an avid gardener and shares her excess fruits, vegetables and herbs from her garden with the Chicago Love Fridge. The Love Fridge allows people to donate excess healthy food to neighbors in need.


Cradles to Crayons Chicago – Winter Clothing Drive. This winter, our NGE colleagues donated over 75 coats, plus blankets, gloves, hats and other winter gear, in support of new Chicagoans not prepared for the winter weather in partnership with Cradles to Crayons Chicago. We are proud of our NGE Community for helping those in need while cleaning out our closets in a sustainable way.

Clean Up Give Back. Through our longstanding partnership with local non profit Clean Up Give Back, NGE upcycles plastic bags to keep them out of landfills, waterways and natural habitats. Since we began this effort in 2022, we have collected and diverted 525 pounds of plastic bags and soft plastics, such as shipping materials and packaging, which were then upcycled into park benches.

As a law firm, we recognize that we are privileged in many ways. With this privilege comes responsibility – a responsibility to support, innovate and educate in the sustainability space. My job as a leader is to ensure that we prioritize sustainable choices as a part of everyday decisions.”

RACHEL WHITE Client Account Specialist ANGELA ELBERT Partner BETH RADICHEL Partner MARTY TISH Partner LISA GONZALEZ Benefits Manager ROBERT GERBER Managing Partner



Intellectual Property associate Lee Barrington Stark talks with David Schmidt, President, CEO of TPH Global Solutions®. TPH is a global supplier of packaging and displays for major brands selling to retailers like Costco, Sam’s Club, and Walmart and a longtime NGE client. In addition to designing and producing packaging and displays, TPH provides supply chain optimization services to help clients maximize the efficiency and profits of their products.

The Earth Day theme for 2024 is “Planet vs. Plastics.” What does this mean to you and TPH?

We are at war with plastic. Some won’t want me to say it that way. But plastic is made from oil; it’s a fossil fuel-based product. It doesn’t break down over time but rather turns into microplastic, which moves into our waterways. It’s very harmful to the human ecosystem.

In the consumer products space, this means that the challenge presented is how to honor the benefits of sustainability and support the well-being of humanity, while, at the same time, deliver products to market. We are absolutely seeing increased demand from our retailer clients for sustainable options.

We know you’ve been making strides in reducing your clients’ environmental footprint through the optimization of their supply chains and in particular the reduction of wasteful transportation. Can you update us on those initiatives?

When considering supply chains, we take a holistic approach. A sustainable lens captures a variety of factors that ultimately lead to efficiency– we’re looking to reduce waste in fuel, container space, shipping, distance, time, etc. For example, a manufacturer or subcontractor may look like the most efficient or sustainable option, but when you consider the distance that various components of an order travel for final assembly, the equation may look quite different. Focusing on optimizing every aspect of the supply chain—from product through distribution—yields increasingly sustainable outcomes.

While sustainability efforts were considered to be economically disadvantageous to the producer, the holistic optimization approach has proven to actually reduce costs. Efficiencies in transportation offset increased material and labor costs, in most cases. When you implement good systems to measure, monitor, and execute throughout the supply chain, assigning economic costs to all supply chain components, you can develop an efficient process that saves money and moves the needle on the sustainability conversation, while maximizing throughput and profits.

You’ve talked with us before about the ways that small changes in plastic reduction can have a huge impact when they’re made at scale by large companies. Can you tell us more about recent efforts TPH has made to reduce plastics and incorporate environmentally-friendly materials in its consumer packaging business?

Of course, sustainability covers a very broad spectrum of issues beyond products or packaging. We must address issues like governance, DEI, etc. But, in packaging, specifically, we focus on the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Efforts by major retailers, led by Walmart, took it up several notches about 18 months ago, challenging the consumer marketplace to reduce plastic packaging. For example, “clamshells” (think battery packaging) are being reduced from the former two-sided plastic package to a one-sided plastic package, with paper attached to the back that includes new adhesive technology. On the reusing and recycling side, retailers are looking to eliminate all non-recyclable, with the official goal of accomplishing this by 2025, but the near total elimination of non-recyclable plastic is within reach this year. Retailers are also requiring that the plastic we use is made with high percentages of recycled content –around 60%. We are also seeing that awareness of damaging PFAS chemicals and recent regulatory updates intended to eliminate these harmful chemicals in consumer products are driving down PFA usage in all forms of plastics, products, and packaging.

As we all realize that this is an area of continuous growth and improvement, what are some of TPH’s sustainability goals or initiatives for 2024 and beyond?

In 2024, TPH is aiming to:

• Reduce virgin plastic components in packaging and displays (including film lamination) by 75%

• Increase post-consumer content in recycled plastics to >60%

• Reduce transportation by 100,000 miles

• Reduce container and truck demand by 20%

Retailers look to these and other industry organizations for guidance and standards in developing their own sustainability requirements:

Sustainable Packaging

SME Climate Hub

Walmart Sustainability Hub

B Corporation

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