Robert Knoer heads the The Knoer Group, a downtown law firm focused on urban regeneration in Western New York in environmentally sound and friendly ways. The 8-year-old firm has digitized the office as much as possible and uses recycled paper. The three lawyers and other staff look to use conference calling and “Go to Meeting” software instead of travel. Rather than provide workers with parking money, the firm gives stipends for carpooling, public transit or bicycling to and from the Main Street office.
Because of that mindset, it’s no great surprise that the Daemen College Center for Sustainable Communities turned to Knoer a dozen years ago as it looked to find ways to bring environment-minded people together. He and a small team of volunteers worked with the center to create an annual Environmental Summit and Earth Fair, among other initiatives.
This year’s 11th installment runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the Wick Student Center at Daemen, 4380 Main St., Amherst. The free event includes more than 20 exhibitors, an electronics recycling drop-off, and a 9 a.m. talk on how tree and other plantings benefit the region’s waterways, followed by a presentation by chemistry professor Sherri Mason of SUNY Fredonia State about the dangers of microbeads. An 11 a.m. panel will focus on the future of the Outer Harbor.
“The summit involves a wide variety of groups coming at things in different ways, but all of them are looking for ways to create better synergy between human interaction and the environment,” said Knoer, 57, of Amherst.
Q. How do environmental practices and awareness make us healthier individually and as a society?
Everything we do has an impact on the air and water around us. Everything, whether it’s direct or indirect. When you get people together and discuss best practices for how they live their daily lives, it has an impact not only on them – because they become more sensitive in how they interact with their environment – but better practices make a better world for everybody. This year, we’re highlighting things that people can do. We have Home Depot coming in to show environmentally friendly choices people can make in their homes. We have electronic recycling for free. That helps keep these items out of the landfill, heavy metals out of the water. It’s good for everybody. We also have had people come in over the last few years to talk about the use of pesticides and endocrine disruptors and things that are harmful to everybody. Microbeads certainly is an issue that’s out there now and does have an impact on our water.
Q. And prosperity can come from this approach?
County Executive Mark Poloncarz has put together a group of companies to look at Western New York sustainability. They include Rich Products, Delaware North; some are large companies. That group is looking to get people to develop sustainability plans for their businesses. We’ve incorporated in my law firm the American Bar Association sustainability plan. As a law firm, I don’t have a large footprint but I do deal with people who have a large footprint, so when we’re doing development work, we try to make people aware of the eco-friendly options that are out there. When we’re dealing with clients, we try to make sure they understand the benefits of upgrading pollution equipment and other things that might help them economically. I’m a firm believer that it’s not a choice between the economy and the environment. These things can go together very well with some thought.
– Scott Scanlon