You might ask what negative environmental impact a legal organisation can have when it is run from an office and does a lot of its business online and over the phone? But that is the trouble with the current climate change issue. It is the biggest issue facing the Earth today; it changes everything. And perhaps the biggest problem within the sector of climate change, is that people don’t appreciate their individual responsibility. We all have a duty to slow and reduce the effects of climate change, and that is why Truth Legal is taking direct action to make sure we are playing our part.

So what are we doing? Along with a number of similar people and organisations in Harrogate, we are taking a lead and playing an active role in promoting good practice and changing the ways we operate. Part of this was becoming a corporate member of Zero Carbon Harrogate, which is a body through which people and organisations can collaborate to better implement ideas and initiatives relating to climate change in our area. This is all with the aim of Harrogate becoming a ‘carbon neutral’ district by 2030.

Climate neutral Harrogate

Our founder Andrew Gray recorded a podcast with Zero Carbon Harrogate explaining the work going on around the town, and one of these exciting programmes is the Co-Wheels Car Club. This is a collaborative scheme whereby vehicles are parked in locations around Harrogate town centre and can be hired for temporary use. Once your booking slot has expired, you simply return the vehicle to a parking location.

There are nine vehicles available, and volunteers located in the town centre monitor and manage their safe return and security. Harrogate residents can sign up to use this scheme, which allows people to use walking, cycling and public transport as their primary mode of getting around, but also gives them convenient access to a motor vehicle as and when they need it. Being members of Zero Carbon Harrogate allows us special rates for using the Co-Wheels Car Club scheme, so the benefits are for the environment, but also for yourself.

Elsewhere, our founder Andrew Gray has personally become involved at ‘Make It Wild’, a family-run scheme which created the wonderful Sylvan Nature Reserve near Kirk Hammerton in North Yorkshire; 26 acres of wildlife, fields and bio-diversity. The scheme grows crops, sustainably farms, attracts wildlife, plants trees and creates and sells sustainable products. And whilst it has been an inspiring success, it relies on volunteers, and Andrew has found that the scheme has enriched his family life, and has become a central part of their regular routines. Because of this, at the end of 2020 we announced that Truth Legal had decided to sponsor an area of woodland where we are planting 1,500 trees to represent the number of clients we have helped with our legal services since 2012. You can explore the woodland here.

In addition, this has further led to Truth Legal directly monitoring its carbon footprint in terms of the impact of its daily operations. Schemes such as the Co-Wheels Car Club will mean there is less motor vehicle usage, for example, but there are other things a busy office can do to reduce its carbon footprint.

Measuring our carbon footprint

We are monitoring our gas and electricity usage as well as our motor vehicle usage and we are setting targets to reduce these, as well as increasing our recycling activities. However, reducing harmful impacts is one thing, but it is very difficult to reduce them to zero. In order to become truly carbon neutral you also need to have some positive impacts so to offset our unavoidable carbon emissions we are planting trees, with the aim of reaching a ‘carbon neutral’ status in the next five years. We are currently sourcing suitable woodland in which to plant new trees to reduce our carbon footprint, and this is a way we can monitor both our positive and negative impacts.

Setting goals is an important way to measure improvement, but goals also enable you to make improvements in the first place, and at Truth Legal we are well on our way to making measurable improvements for the environment with all these initiatives discussed here

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Catherine Reynolds
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