But in a dark time, the eye begins to see.” Theodore Roosevelt
“‘…The United Nations (UN) has made clear that society must radically decarbonize to spare the future from the worst consequences of climate change. The next few years are probably the most important in our history,’ Debra Roberts, an environmental scientist and a lead author of the UN’s latest climate report, said in a statement.”
But the current United States administration has pulled out of the Paris climate accord, proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency funding, appointed former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as Administrator and criticized The New Green Deal as an affront on the industries. And unwittingly, many branches of government, including the judiciary, perpetuate environmental harm on a daily basis. “How,” you ask? In a variety of ways.
First, almost all legal proceedings for annulment, separation, divorce, and the dissolution of domestic partnerships in the United States require couples to complete, file, and exchange dozens of documents. This means millions of people are printing and copying reams of paper every day.
“The paper and pulp industry is the third largest industrial polluter of air, water, and land in the United States and studies show that it releases well over 100 million kg of toxic pollution each year.” “Discarded paper and paperboard make up roughly 26% of solid municipal solid waste in landfill sites.” Clearcutting is destroying the habitats of native people and animals everywhere. And most printer and copier inks contain toxic chemicals in plastic containers that are transported thousands of miles in coal-burning rigs and quickly end up in landfills, which creates a slew of other environmental dangers.
Second, even the friendliest divorces require court appearances (unless otherwise agreed,) which means millions of parties and court staff make their ways each day in planes, trains, and automobiles to windowless courthouses with HVAC systems that operate ceaselessly. Air conditioners and heating units emit HFCs (greenhouse gas emissions) that trap far more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. And as we all know, fossil fuel powered vehicles emit poisonous gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and (new to me) unburned hydrocarbons.
Lastly, a majority of people who end their marriages establish new single-family homes and live alone most of the time. “Current studies show, solo-living consumes more land, energy, goods, and materials per person than living in shared housing households.” And, thanks to budget crunches and the high cost of living across our nation, most newly single people fill their nests with mass-produced chemically laden furniture and housewares. (I’m not pointing any fingers. I still own mattresses that probably have fire retardants and containers with BPA, but a purge is underway.)
It’s enough to make earth loving humanitarians cry, which is cathartic, so feel free. But don’t despair. Instead, if permissible under the laws that govern your legal proceedings, take any one or all of the following steps to make your divorce eco-friendly and reduce your carbon footprint during and after divorce.
1. Accept and request service of process and document exchanges via fax, or if permitted, electronic means like email. (If you use a service like eFax, you can fax a pdf without every printing.)
2. E-file or e-fax your pleadings to the family court either directly or via an authorized service provider
3. If your court system permits fax or electronic service and filing, but requires handwritten signatures on critical documents like your Judgment or Marital Settlement Agreement, only print the pages you must initial or sign, and then scan, attach to your pdf, and transmit via fax or e-file.
4. Engage in negotiation and mediation to resolve issues, and agree to continue any court status or management conferences while you negotiate agreements, so you don’t need to trek to court to report that you’re trying to settle your case
5. Speak with your legal team (lawyer, mediator, accountant, etc.) remotely via phone, fax, and email
6. If you must participate in a court conference or hearing that isn’t critical to your case, ask if you can make a telephonic court appearance, and if not, carpool with your spouse or partner or use public transportation
7. If you have children and share joint custody or visitation, also share clothes, toys, and other things the kids may out grow quickly or use rarely
8. Furnish your new home with upcycled, recycled, and eco-friendly products created with ethically sourced sustainable materials and minimal chemicals
9. Choose a new home that is energy efficient and the perfect size and location for the lifestyle of a party of one or a few
10. Share your new home with another conscious human who like you, strives to make our planet a happier healthier place for generations to come
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~Margaret Mead