How to Enforce Sustainable Behavior?

Plastic casings collected in front of our beach cabana

[Update to this post: The non-profit organization, As You Sow ( has issued a report calling for U.S. companies who use product packaging to be responsible for the post-consumer recycling of that packaging. Click here for a link to their report.]

The family and I spent last week at New Smyrna Beach, our favorite Atlantic Coast shoreline. Beautiful sand, sunny weather (after Tropical Storm Debby made her way through), occasional shells and, probably because of the storm, uncrowded conditions. We go there every year, and other families come from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and farther points to enjoy themselves in the sun and sand. Of course, it was the week before the Fourth of July holiday, so almost every night someone was shooting off fireworks on the beach, which brings me to write this post.

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A Model Green Lease – What Next?

Last year, a joint group which included the Real Estate Board of New York, US Green Building Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and HR&A Advisors endorsed a Model Energy Aligned Lease Provision, which purports to remove the “split incentive” problem which can exist with respect to commercial “gross” leases. In a nutshell, the split incentive problem occurs in the gross lease context, where all utility costs are typically passed through to tenants on a square footage ratio, so the landlord is not motivated to retrofit their buildings with energy and other resource-saving improvements for which they will never recover the cost. For background on the split incentive issue, see my prior post, “The Net Lease and the Split Incentive”.

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Will Tech End The “Split Incentive”?

The “Split Incentive”, or as I have also heard it called, the “Split Incentive Disincentive”, is going to go away, and commercial real estate professionals had better be prepared for it. Here’s the “Split Incentive” problem in a nutshell: Building owners construct or buy a commercial building which they net lease to tenants, who pay the operating expenses, maintenance, insurance, etc., or in the context of a multiple tenant building, pay a proportionate share of such costs, typically based on rentable square footage. By paying only a proportionate share of, say, energy costs not based on actual use, the tenant has no incentive to save on energy costs by installing more energy efficient lighting and equipment. And, if the owner decides to incur the expense of upgrading its building by adding “green” improvements, it can’t recover that expense from its tenants, even if the “green” improvements result in energy savings to all the tenants (for more on the “Split Incentive”, check out my past article.

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Creative Office Sustainability?

Like many of you out there, I’m trying my best to have a sustainability consciousness around the office.  I put all my junk mail, opened envelopes, printed cover sheets and read magazines in the paper recycling bin.  I try not to print out documents just to review them, although I must confess that I lose that battle frequently.  I brought my biking water bottle from home so I can reduce the number of times I throw away a plastic cup each day.  Food trash goes in the food trash can.  Since my office has floor to ceiling windows, I can turn off the lights in my office for a good part of the day (of course my fellow co-workers think I must be sick!).  But last week, I received a package in the U.S. mail that showed me I am not being very creative in finding new ways to be sustainable.

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The End of Holiday Cards: Long Live Sustainable Holiday Greetings

The 2011 holiday season is almost over, and I have to say that I received many less paper cards this year than ever before.  My informal survey of displayed paper cards in offices at my law firm, and in offices that I visited in December, confirmed to me that more and more businesses have stopped sending paper holiday cards.  Maybe (probably) it is a cost-cutting measure.  Indeed, trimming expenses has been a major focus of many businesses in 2011.  But it is also a sustainability measure.

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