American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)'s Climate Action Contribution
About American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)'s Climate Efforts
The Climate Action Plan was developed by a high-profile Task Force of five landscape architects chaired by Pamela Conrad, ASLA, founder of Climate Positive Design, and a 17-member Advisory Group. It outlines a bold vision for 2040 and a set of 71 actions to be taken by 2025.
By 2040, all landscape architecture projects will simultaneously:
- Achieve zero embodied and operational emissions and increase carbon sequestration
- Provide significant economic benefits in the form of measurable ecosystem services, health co-benefits, sequestration, and green jobs
- Address climate injustices, empower communities, and increase equitable distribution of climate investments
- Restore ecosystems and increase and protect biodiversity
“Landscape architects are already helping communities achieve this vision. As we increasingly experience the impacts of the climate and biodiversity crises, we know we need to act faster. We are the only design professionals who bring all the pieces together to plan and design what communities need to prepare themselves for a changing world,” said ASLA President Eugenia Martin, FASLA.
“ASLA has developed its first Climate Action Plan in the spirit of great optimism. We envision communities becoming healthier and economically stronger because they have committed to drawing down carbon, restoring ecosystems and increasing biodiversity, and reducing reliance on vehicles – all while ensuring everyone in their community has equitable access to these benefits,” said ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen.
The ASLA Climate Action Plan is based in science. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found humanity can only put a maximum of 340 more gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere if we want a good chance of only increasing temperatures by 1.5° C (2.7° Fahrenheit), instead of 2° C (3.6° Fahrenheit). To advance the goal of keeping warming to 1.5° C, ASLA signed on to the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) Climate Action Commitment in 2021. The commitment was presented at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland and is supported by 70,000 landscape architects in 77 countries.
The ASLA Climate Action Plan is rooted in the three goals (practice, equity, and advocacy) and six initiatives of IFLA Climate Action Commitment.
The ASLA plan will direct all ASLA programs and investments through 2025. Goals will be advanced through 21 objectives and 71 actions. Goals and actions will be revisited and updated in 2025 and every five years until 2040 and beyond.
To accomplish the plan, ASLA, as a mission-driven association, has also committed to achieving zero emissions in its operations by 2040. ASLA is calculating baseline Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions for its 2022 Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Francisco and headquarters operations in Washington, D.C. and has committed to reducing its overall emissions by 20% by 2024. ASLA will use its own journey to zero as a learning opportunity for its members, EXPO exhibitors, and partner organizations.
A companion to the plan – the Climate Action Field Guide for ASLA Members – provides best practice guidance, toolkits, and resources for ASLA members and their firms and organizations, along with corporate partners, to achieve the 2040 vision.
The Field Guide features six toolkits covering 18 strategies, with guidance on how to:
- Design Climate Positive Landscapes
- Design Pedestrian, Cyclist, and Public Transit-Centric Communities
- Reduce Energy Use and Support Renewables
- Help Communities Adapt to Climate Impacts
- Explore Pathways to Financial Sustainability with Communities
- Protect and Increase Biodiversity
- Learn from Indigenous Communities Through Collaboration
- Build Climate Coalitions
“Landscape architects are uniquely qualified to understand and manage complex, multi-disciplinary challenges and design sustainable, world-changing solutions. We are committed to following the science, and through this Climate Action Plan we will rapidly scale up Climate- and Biodiversity-positive solutions in the U.S. and, through our partnership with IFLA, the world,” said Pamela Conrad, ASLA, Chair of the Climate Action Plan Task Force.
Other ways in which ASLA is educating the public about climate change:
Our website ASLA.org includes comprehensive resource guides on a topics such as resilient design, sustainable urban development, sustainable transportation, sustainable residential landscape design, and green infrastructure.
Our website Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes, which includes case studies and animations, showcases the best in sustainable landscape design practices.
ASLA's blog The Dirt, and ASLA's magazine, Landscape Architecture Magazine, regularly cover all aspects of climate change and its implications for landscapes and ecosystems.
ASLA is also educating its membership about how to help communities reduce emissions and adapt. Through our Annual Conference and online learning, we deliver content on climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilient design to our 15,000 member landscape architects and designers.
ASLA is active in lobbying for regulations and legislation that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect communities from the worst effects of climate change. On Capitol Hill and in state houses around the country, ASLA advocates for measures that help communities prepare for climate change and build social resilience, including legislation on coastal resilience, green infrastructure, parks and green space, and sustainable transportation.
Lastly, ASLA's new green headquarters in Washington, D.C. is certified LEED Platinum as well as WELL Gold. ASLA uses 100 percent wind power for its headquarters operations. And ASLA is committed to reducing the carbon emissions of our annual meeting and other events.
Climate Action Commitments
Current Climate Actions American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Is Taking:
Commit to Becoming an Environmentally Responsible Cultural Institution
In adopting a leadership role as an environmentally responsible cultural institution, and institution would commit to pursuing some or all of the following:
- Measure and make public its environmental impacts; set goals for continuous improvement; and evaluate progress and effectiveness.
- Develop a plan and timeframe for becoming climate neutral, and eventually climate positive.
- Demonstrate leadership by exceeding existing environmental codes, regulations, and professional standards as appropriate, e.g. setting energy efficiency goals that would be higher than what existing regulations require.
- Review investments and set a timeframe for investing in a socially responsible portfolio that excludes fossil fuel companies.
- Identify risks resulting from climate change, and take steps to anticipate and mitigate risks and damage for itself and, in collaboration, on behalf of the community.
Commit to Energy Conservation and Resiliency in Collections
The long-held practice of creating object exhibition and storage climate conditions of 70० +/-2० and 50% +/- 5% principle is no longer considered best practice. Instead, curators and conservators are determining appropriate conditions based on the conservation needs and history of the object and its materials, and by applying scientifically-proven concepts of materials’ conservation needs and thresholds, and the safe energy savings of night-time and seasonal drift to care for the objects while saving significantly on energy use.
Commit to Reducing Materials Consumption and Waste
Institutions can significantly reduce the impact of materials use through life-cycle planning, choosing low-impact materials, and developing convenient, clear, waste-management approaches. Begin by conducting materials or waste audits for regular activities such as exhibit construction, special events, office operations, food service areas, and gift shops. Then, by piloting new practices in specific departments or single events or time periods, you can develop tools and procedures that significantly reduce waste through simple practices. Associated with this commitment, institutions could:
- Commit to Zero Waste (90% diversion from landfil)
- Recommended Targets:
- Divert 60/75/85% institutional waste from landfil by 2020/2025/2030
- Reach zero waste to landfill by 2030
- Set construction waste diversion targets by project
- Recommended Targets:
- Commit to Eliminating Single-Use Consumer Plastics
- Recommended Targets:
- Eliminate single use water bottles on site by 2020
- Institute a plastic bag ban on site by 2020
- Eliminate single use beverage bottles on site by 2022
- Recommended Targets:
Commit to Community Education and Communication
Commit to offering education opportunities that are designed for staff, adults, and children, and feature information on clean energy, stewardship, individual/household climate actions, climate advocacy, and any other applicable subjects. The importance of building environmental literacy in changing habits and perceptions is profound, and organizations and institutions trusted to convene the community are among the most impactful educators.
Commit to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutant Emissions
Short-lived climate pollutants—such as black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons—are powerful climate warmers many times more potent than CO2 over their lifetimes. Because they are short-lived in the atmosphere, actions to reduce these super pollutants can have substantial, near-term climate, agricultural and health benefits and are an essential complement to CO2 reduction strategies. Policy-makers can announce regulatory or voluntary approaches to drastically reduce SLCPs, such as developing methane strategies or adopting rules on use of warming HFCs. Organizations can commit to engage with suppliers to provide training, conduct pollutant inventories, and establish systems for tracking, measuring, and monitoring these types of emissions. Analysis shows that SLCP emissions can be cost-effectively reduced by an estimated 40-50 percent by 2030.
Policymakers, companies and organizations are encouraged to accept the #SLCPChallenge of the U.S. Climate Alliance, which calls for ambitious action on SLCPs. Feel free to elaborate on your work towards reduction, along with your other efforts, in the "Other Commitments" field below.
Commit to Reduce Climate Impacts of Packaging and Reducing Waste
There are many ways to reduce the climate impact of packaging including reducing materials (i.e., “source reduction”); replacing virgin materials with post-consumer recycled content; replacing traditional plastics made from fossil fuels with biopolymers; re-designing packaging to be more compact and therefore efficient for transport and storage; using biodegradable packing materials; and recycling at end of the packaging’s life to name just a few practices.
Commit to Responsible Engagement in Climate Policy
While individual organization action is necessary, local and federal government action is also needed to reach global climate goals. Your organization can have a critical voice in advancing public policy. A commitment to responsible engagement in climate policy means that your organization commits to supporting public policy to: promote energy efficiency and renewable energy; increase investment in a clean energy economy; support climate change adaptation, or put a price on carbon.
Commit to Building Climate Resilience in your Community
By committing to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, companies and institutions can secure their operations and supply chains and conserve natural resources that are stressed due to climate change. While there is much a business can do within their community, primary among these options is reducing water usage. Organizations can commit to increase their own water security through a range of actions, including installing water-saving devices, capturing rainwater for onsite uses, and recycling grey water. Or just commit to get engaged with your community in resilience planning.
Commit to Reducing the Climate Impact of Your Transportation
Organizations making a commitment to reduce the climate impact of transportation should consider practices such as measuring transportation greenhouse gas emissions and setting reduction targets, switching fuels, optimizing the efficiency of shipping operations, and reducing transit- and travel-related greenhouse gas emissions. Businesses can develop a green transportation action plan to map the movement of goods to market and identify opportunities to increase efficiency. Organizations can buy hybrid and electric vehicles within their own fleet, and can reduce the footprint of their workforce through incentivizing public transportation, installing EV charging stations, promoting telework, and locating near transit centers.
Commit to Increase Your Use of Renewable Power
Increasing your percentage of renewable energy sources is a key component of reducing overall GHG emissions. Installing onsite renewable generation, like solar panels, is a good long-term strategy if possible. But renewable energy can also be procured through Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), renewable power purchasing agreements (PPAs), and in some locations from retail electricity providers or local utilities that offers a high percentage of renewable power. Also consider becoming an EPA Green Power Partner.
Commit to Understand and Reduce Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Understanding your GHG emissions is the first step to making measurable reductions in those emissions. The EPA provides an overview report and CoolClimate Network provides a simple tool for “low emitters” to better understand sources of emissions, as well as how to use that information to set reduction targets. For this commitment, it is as simple as committing to complete a greenhouse gas inventory for your business or oganization, but in the future your inventory can be used to make a commitment to set a specific goal, such as “reduce GHG emissions by 50% by 2025.
Commit to Completing a Resilience Assessment in Partnership with your Community
The Resilience Assessment is a key process to understand current strengths and vulnerabilities of the campus and community. This should be completed through research, in person forums, or other processes to engage your stakeholders in this assessment.
Commit to Designing and Hosting a Cross-Sectoral Forum at your Institution
Commit to holding a public campus and community forum or workshop on shared climate action plan goal setting and/or resilience assessments. These forums will compare baseline targets and align the strengths of the respective sectors to drive solutions. This is awarded as a Mark of Distinction for Second Nature Commitment Signatories.
Integrate Climate Change into Portfolio Analyses and Decision-Making
Commit to integrate climate change-related risks and opportunities in portfolio analysis and decision-making processes through one or more of the following:
- Analyzing and assessing climate change-related risks and opportunities (e.g. through carbon footprinting, scenario analysis).
- Making commitments and setting targets (e.g. to carbon footprint reduction, to enhanced portfolio resilience, to decarbonization, including via the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition).
- Investing in low carbon investment funds and other products (e.g. low carbon indices, climate-aligned bonds).
Commit to the Natural and Working Lands Challenge
The natural systems upon which we depend are essential to life and critical for reducing the impacts of climate change on our communities. These systems are also under threat from human activity and climate change. Maintaining the resilience of natural and working lands is an important part of any GHG emission reduction strategy. It is also important to securing the well-being of communities, economies and ecosystems. Actions that secure and enhance the “carbon base,” such as land conservation, restoration, and improved management, also support watersheds and food systems, improve air quality, protect against urban heat islands and sea level rise, and preserve the beauty and function of natural areas and parks. Those that accept the NWL Challenge should commit to securing natural and working lands as a resilient net sink of carbon. This will take different forms for different actors. For example, local, sub-national and national jurisdictions might take a broad approach like that of the U.S. Climate Alliance. Landowners and managers may wish to focus on restoration and implementing climate-smart practices on their own lands. Businesses may look at their supply chains and customers as potential partners, and incorporate natural and working goals into their own climate change commitments and strategies.
The U.S. Climate Alliance States commit to taking actions that will reduce GHG emissions and increase carbon sequestration in forests, farms, rangelands, wetlands and urban greenspace, and integrating these pathways into state GHG mitigation plans by 2020. The Natural and Working Lands Challenge calls on other states, cities, nations, tribes, businesses and others to make the same commitment within their organizations. Feel free to elaborate on your work towards this challenge, along with your other efforts, in the "Other Commitments" field below.
Areas For Collaboration
We are interested in collaborating on the following:
- Encouraging more aggressive state energy efficiency policies
- Improving efficiency in existing buildings through real estate transactions
- Supporting building thermal decarbonization and electrification
- Collaborate on climate and clean energy action, and to advocate for stronger climate policy at the local level
- Developing in measurement and monitoring systems to target efforts and track progress
- Encouraging states to adopt incentive programs for forest management, tree cover expansion, and soil health
- Promoting science-based targets for GHG emissions and removals in agricultural supply chains
- Aggregating demand for renewable energy with other actors
- Encouraging more aggressive state renewable energy policies
- Supporting states, cities, and utilities in decarbonizing their energy supply
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