A thick blanket of snow wasn’t enough to stop James & Wells Intellectual Property’s Christchurch staff taking part in the firm’s second Car Free Day to mark UN World Environment Day this month, while their colleagues around the country battled rain and wind.
Car Free Day gets everyone in the firm thinking about ways they can take individual and collective action to be more sustainable. About 90 per cent of James & Wells Intellectual Property’s staff usually drive to work, so being asked to reconsider that journey without a car was a challenge.
While the winter storm tested the Christchurch team’s motivation, the Auckland staff shrugged off mere rain to win the three individual achievement awards: Sebastien Aymeric won Best Public Transport Use for a 40 km round trip; Justin Sweetman’s 40 km round trip won him Best Bike Ride, and Managing Partner Ian Finch captured the Best walking / Running title for his 15 km round trip.
Overall, the staff at James & Wells Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Christchurch offices
saved more than 230km of vehicle travel (about 50kg of greenhouse gas emissions and a lot of petrol cost) on the day.
Auckland-based Senior Associate Jonathan Lucas heads the firm’s Sustainable Business Committee. He says holding Car Free Day immediately following a public holiday, and wintry weather around the country, tested the willpower of staff and led to an emissions reduction which was down on the first Car Free Day last year.
“It is interesting to see how much our transport choices are often dictated by the weather. Particularly because scientists tell us increasing greenhouse gas emissions will cause more extreme weather events in New Zealand in the future.”
Jonathan Lucas’ own experience on Car Free Day in Auckland is typical of many Kiwis. He needed to drop his two young children off at day care on the way to work.
“With inclement weather and some hills to tackle, the journey was hard work. Our baby was warm and snug in her pram, while our toddler rode on his tricycle, although he still needs Dad to push him all the way.”
“We were out of breath by the time we had dropped the kids off and finally got to work. The journey home was a similar ordeal, but with added rain. Still, we enjoyed the experience and the kids did too. We will definitely do it again,” says Jonathan.
After setting out for the Market Road train station, she saw her middle son waiting for a bus to school. She joined him on it, though was not allowed to sit with her peer-conscious 17-year-old, and soon arrived at the station.
“The train trip only involved two stops into Ellerslie, then a pleasant short walk to the office, where I finished with six flights of stairs instead of taking the lift.”
Her return journey was not so pleasant, walking the whole way home in the dark and pounding rain: “To my son’s relief I did not catch his bus back, avoiding any teenager embarrassment with his mum looking like a drowned rat carrying her office satchel and wearing her very wet JAWS sustainability t-shirt. But I felt good about making the effort and will do it again.”
Sebastien Aymeric lives 20km from James & Wells’ Auckland office and usually rides a motorcycle. The Junior Solicitor decided to take a train: “It felt very warm and comfortable, considering the miserable weather I could see through the windows.”
A recent arrival from France, Sebastien saw parts of the city he hadn’t been through before.
“The commute was twice as long as usual, which allowed me to add a full hour of reading and people watching to my day. It was quite relaxing not to have to get on the road and reminded me of my days in Paris, except that other commuters were actually not rude,” he jokes.
James & Wells Intellectual Property was the first IP law firm in the world to gain CEMARS® organisation certification, which requires it to measure the carbon emissions from its operations – including the four offices – and put in place plans to reduce them.
The firm’s newly formed Sustainable Business Committee intends to come up with other ways to encourage staff to focus on reducing the firm’s environmental impact.