Walk the Talk: A Sustainable Workshop for Bhutan’s Judiciary

Published on Saturday, 27 October 2018
Group photo from the Workshop on Environmental Adjudication for the Judiciary of Bhutan held from 19-20 July 2018.

On 19-20 July 2018, the Workshop on Environmental Adjudication for the Judiciary of Bhutan was held in the capital Thimphu. ADB’s Office of the General Counsel organized the event, in partnership with UN Environment and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Over 50 judges and court officers from the High Court and all districts courts completed the interactive workshop. Experts from Bhutan, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, and the United States of America presented on topics that included climate change adjudication, developing special rules, and handling special evidence. Bhutan’s Chief Justice, Lyonpo Tshering Wangchuk, and ADB’s Bhutan Resident Mission Country Director Kanokpan Lao-Araya opened the event during ceremonies held on the 18th of July.

ADB, AJNE, and its partner organizations have organized numerous events across Asia on environment and climate change law and policy since 2011. The constant challenge: walking the talk by promoting sustainable environmental practices in the execution of the event. During this event in Bhutan – the land of gross national happiness and a country with more than 70% of its land area covered in trees and forests – we highlight some of the steps the team took to practice what we preach.

Getting everyone on board

First step was to make sure our organizing partners (UN Environment and US EPA) and the Bhutan judiciary were all for making this a sustainable event. Thankfully (and as expected) everyone agreed – not because ADB was mainly funding the workshop – but we all shared the same passion and love for the environment. Planning involved findings ways to have a true green workshop.

Less paper = happy trees

What better ode for Bhutan’s policy of keeping its forest cover intact than making sure we use less paper. First, we limited print-outs by distributing pen drives will all the materials and presentations (and making them available on the AJNE website). The Bhutan Supreme Court also made sure to send materials to the participants in advance via email so they can access soft copies before and during the event. We were pleasantly surprised when the judges used tablets and phones to read materials, or chose to share copies of any printouts we couldn’t avoid. The hotel (Le Meridien Thimphu) also pitched in by placing fewer pieces of the notepad on the table to discourage its use.

Scrap the tarp!

Although tarpaulin posters and banners can be reused and recycled (i.e., remade into bags, or used as make-shift tents), it’s much better to find more environmentally friendly options (as we all know, refuse and reduce comes before re-use and recycle). Since printing on this kind of material needed to be done overseas and ended up costing more, the team opted for a digital banner as backdrop. Hotel signages were also digital, using the wall-mounted TVs around the premises.    

No bottled water please

We ditched plastic bottled waters and asked that pitchers and jugs of water along with glasses be placed on each table. We initially thought that participants might object due to some being sensitive to water; but after we assured them water was filtered and purified, everyone happily drank away (in fact, some Bhutanese judges insisted that you can actually drink the water straight from the tap as it is clean and pristine, straight from the Himalayas). Our rough estimate – close to 300 bottled waters were not used for the 2 and ½ day event. Not much, but it may mean a lot to a land-locked country like Bhutan which already has some waste management problems due to urbanization and a growing population.

Go for local cuisine

Food is where the heart (and the culture) is! We opted for a menu with majority local dishes, not just to have a taste of Bhutan, but also to utilize more locally sourced ingredients, resulting in less travel and import costs. We also ordered just enough food, and the hotel helped us estimate how much food to prepare, making adjustments for each meal and snack to be served. This resulted in less food waste too.  

There are definitely many more ways to make an event sustainable, and these may pale in comparison to other methods. But as they say, we all have to start somewhere and be true examples of the sustainable and green world we dream of. So for the next event you’re organizing (or even attending), please encourage sustainable practices. Demand for a “green” event by reducing waste and choosing more sustainable options. And don’t forget to share your ideas – we may just end up borrowing one from your book of green living.