MU Law takes lead on paper-waste reduction

Law schools and their faculty distribute an increasingly large amount of paper to their peers and to prospective students. MU Law’s S.I. Strong hopes to change that.

Facing an ever-growing onslaught of papers and fliers, the faculty of MU’s School of Law decided to lead the way in a nationwide effort to reduce waste.

Professor S.I. Strong, of the MU School of Law, created the Pledge to Reduce Academic Marketing Waste. The pledge is a partnership between MU and Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law. In less than a week, Strong’s dream has become a reality with at least nine law schools and over 70 individual professors signing on.

Strong and her colleagues were especially troubled by the large amount of mail they were receiving from other institutions, despite not knowing how they were put on any mailing lists.

“The amount of marketing materials produced by law schools to advertise to fellow law schools and law professors each year is astounding and is neither necessary in this day and age nor appropriate,” Strong said.

She understood the motivations behind the distribution of paper literature from other institutions, but challenged the waste created in that process.

“Many of these materials are created in an effort to increase or maintain a law school's standing in national rankings,” Strong said. “However, the same effects can be had by using electronic means of notifying colleagues of events at a law school or by reducing the materials from large size to small size.”

While Strong recognized there is a clear problem with the status quo, she knew that the efforts of individual instructors or institutions would not be a solution. That is why the pledge was created, she said.

“Single law schools, working alone, will likely not reduce their materials because of concerns about falling behind competitively,” Strong said. “As a result, collective action seems the best route to success.”

Those who have signed the pledge commit to reducing their own paper-waste production by transitioning to electronic distribution of information about their schools and programs.

Strong decided to partner with Pace University because MU does not have an environmental law program and Pace does. Pace offered to host the pledge on their website.

“Signing the pledge is the latest move by our law school to reduce waste and promote sustainability practices,” Horace Anderson Jr., dean of Pace’s law school, said when announcing the initiative.

The ultimate goal is for all American Bar Association accredited institutions to sign the pledge, eliminating the issue entirely. The pledge has also gained international support, as Mexico’s Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey was one of the first 9 institutions to sign it.

There have long been calls from on-campus environmental groups for MU to become more sustainable. In March, students hosted a climate strike lead by the Mizzou Energy Action Coalition. The group has since rebranded as Climate Leaders at Mizzou.

At the strike, there were repeated requests for MU to explore ways to divest from fossil fuels and reduce needless waste.

“The university claims to be extremely sustainable, and indeed they are more sustainable than a lot of colleges, but they are not true leaders,” Haley Gronniger, then president of MEAC, said at the strike.

Many students see this move by the law school as a step in the right direction.

“I think any time we can get rid of needless waste it’s a good thing,” sophomore Connor Lyford said. “If we don’t need to be doing damage to the environment then why continue?”

Most people do not think about how harmful and unnecessary these products are, Strong said, and one of the main goals of the pledge is to increase awareness.

“[I hope to achieve] a realization that everyone in every field can help reduce negative effects on the environment,” Strong said.

Edited by Alex Fulton | afulton@themaneater.com

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