Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Donald Simon '95 - Saving the Planet by Greening Business

Donald SimonAfter graduating from Moritz in 1995, Donald joined the firm of Crabbe, Brown, Jones, Potts & Schmidt in Columbus, Ohio. While there he did pro bono work on the side, focusing on environmental issues. One of his most fascinating and challenging cases was against the U.S. Forest Service for illegal logging in Ohio forests. The case was won, although the victory soon turned sour after laws were amended to allow the logging to continue legally.

Discouraged and anxious to make a real difference, Donald decided to set his sites on the west coast, where environmental thinking and change was much more progressive than in Ohio. In 1997 Donald relocated to San Francisco, California.

For three years Donald continued to work full-time as a lawyer and focus his considerable pro bono efforts toward old-growth forest protection, including California 's ancient redwood trees. Although direct environmental action was fulfilling, he realized in 2000 that it wasn't enough to stop the onslaught against the environment.

After much deliberation, Donald realized that consumption was the root of all environmental degradation so the solution required making consumption more sustainable through market-based initiatives. Given his experience in construction law, Donald decided to tackle the construction industry because it accounts for roughly one-third of all natural resources consumed annually.

For the past six years, Donald has focused his efforts on building the green building movement, which seeks to reduce the environmental impact of buildings through energy efficiency, resource conservation and reduced toxics. Driven largely by the by U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building rating system, commonly known as LEED, which now accounts for approximately 5% of all new construction. Private companies and government agencies throughout the nation have constructed their buildings using the LEED rating system because of the dramatic operating cost reductions that green buildings provide, including The Ohio State University.

Donald SimonDonald is now a partner at Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean, a law firm in Oakland, California that leads by example. In 2003, Donald decided to bring his focus on market-based environmental solutions into his law practice.

He co-founded the firm's Green Business Practice Group, which caters to clients bound together by a common ethic of doing well while doing good. Clients include companies engaged in renewable energy, organic and natural products and green building.

But Wendel Rosen first wanted to show it "walked its talk," so Donald led the firm through a four month process to inventory and reduce the firm's environmental footprint. They changed dozens of business practices to reduce energy use and waste, while increasing recycling and employee use of mass transit. Donald cites one simple example that all companies can follow.

The firm switched to 100% post-consumer content recycled paper. The switch cost only pennies more per ream of paper but produces annual environmental savings of 260 mature tree, 24,000 gallons of water, 48,000 pounds of greenhouse gases and enough energy to power 3.4 houses for a entire year.

In addition to law practice, Donald is heavily involved with environmental non-profits. He is President of Build it Green, co-founder and general counsel of the U.S. Green Building Council's Northern California Chapter and he was a director of the United Nations' World Environment Day conference held last year in San Francisco. This week-long conference focused global attention on urban environmental issues and included mayors from the world's 50 largest cities, who signed the first international agreement among cities, called the Urban Environmental Accords.

When this busy Moritz graduate isn't working hard and volunteering his time, he enjoys back packing in the Sierra Nevada, skiing, surfing and spending time in the outdoors. If you would like to catch up with Donald, please send him an email at