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Landscape architects advance sustainable conference strategies to achieve climate action goals

ASLA forms partnership with Green Minneapolis to offset greenhouse gas emissions from its 2023 Conference in Minneapolis and support tree planting in underserved communities.

ASLA has released its first Sustainable Event Impact Assessment, a comprehensive gap analysis of its 2022 Conference on Landscape Architecture, which brought more than 6,000 attendees to the LEED Platinum Moscone Center in San Francisco, November 11-14, 2022.

The assessment provides a baseline accounting of energy used and greenhouse gas emissions and waste generated, which ASLA will use to measure and improve its environmental and social impacts on an annual basis. The assessment also outlines the many positive actions ASLA has taken to make access to the conference more equitable, donate EXPO products, reuse waste materials, and support the communities that host the conference.

Based on these findings, ASLA has committed to event sustainability strategies that will improve the outcomes of its 2023 Conference, which will be held October 27-30 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“With our Strategic Plan, released in 2021, we committed to reducing the emissions from our conference and headquarters operations by 20 percent by 2024. And through our ambitious ASLA Climate Action Plan, released in November 2022, we made the additional commitment to achieve zero emissions in our conference and operations by 2040. We are now moving forward to achieve our goals,” said ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Coneen.

“Landscape architects are climate leaders, and we are committed to identifying and reducing our negative impacts on the climate and increasing the benefits for our host communities. We think it’s important to be transparent about both the positive and negative impacts of our annual convening and where we are in our learning journey. We are sharing lessons learned from our journey with our members and partners, so we can move faster together,” said ASLA President Emily O’Mahoney, FASLA.

2022 Conference Baseline

The assessment, which was developed in partnership with Honeycomb Strategies, a sustainability consulting company, includes key findings.

Over four days and per attendee, the conference:

Due to procurement decisions made by ASLA and sustainability measures adopted by the organization:

  • The ASLA 2022 Conference was hosted at the Moscone Center conference facility, which is 100% powered by renewable hydropower and rooftop solar.
  • 49,500 tons of EXPO materials were donated to Habitat for Humanity.
  • More than 900 students attended the conference for free in return for volunteering.
  • $7,000 in carbon offset contributions were collected from ASLA members

Explore Key Findings

To reduce adverse climate and environmental impacts and leave a positive legacy in Minneapolis, ASLA is committing to implementing these strategies at its 2023 Conference:

  • Creating climate change and biodiversity educational tracks at its Conference
  • Implementing a range of measures related to food, energy, water, and waste to reduce impacts
  • Offsetting 1,500 tons of its carbon dioxide emissions
  • Launching a new sustainability commitment for EXPO exhibitors
  • Providing free registrations for invited Minneapolis-based climate equity and justice leaders to attend the conference
  • Providing free registrations for invited climate youth leaders (high school students) in Minneapolis to attend the conference
  • Developing a strategy to reduce transportation emissions for attendees and exhibitors traveling to and from the conference and while traveling in the host city.

Greenhouse Gas Emission Offsets

While it pursues its near-term goal of reducing emissions 20 percent by 2024, ASLA has committed to purchasing 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide emission offsets in 2023. For the past two years, ASLA has collected offset contributions from its members. In 2022, ASLA contributed those funds to Trees for Oakland and Clear.Eco.

For the ASLA 2023 Conference on Landscape Architecture, ASLA announced a new partnership with Green Minneapolis, an innovator in urban tree carbon offsets, to scale up those efforts. The lead sponsor of ASLA 2023 Conference carbon offsets is Bartlett Tree Experts.

Green Minneapolis collaborated with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to complete the first urban tree carbon offset project in Minnesota. The project is part of the Twin Cities Climate Resiliency Initiative, a public private partnership that will significantly expand the urban tree canopy across Minneapolis and the seven county Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Through City Forest Credits, a national nonprofit carbon registry, the urban tree carbon offset project has achieved third-party verification for its carbon credits. The project includes 23,755 city trees planted by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board from 2019 to 2021. Over its 25-year duration, the project is estimated to store 48,865 metric tons of carbon and will provide quantified co-benefits related to rainfall interception, air quality, and energy savings.

According to Green Minneapolis offset funds collected by ASLA and its members will “support a 20-year vision to increase the metro area’s tree canopy through planting and maintaining five million trees on public and private lands, with a focus on addressing environmental inequities in the most disadvantaged communities.”

Landscape architects, other conference attendees, and EXPO exhibitors: Please offset your attendance at the ASLA 2023 Conference during the registration process or via this contribution form.

Next Steps

In the fall of 2023, ASLA will release a sustainability impact assessment of its ASLA Center on Landscape Architecture, the association’s LEED Platinum and WELL Gold-certified headquarters in Washington, D.C; student-led LABash Conference; and Landscape Architecture Magazine.

ASLA will use its own headquarters assessment to educate its members and partners on how to reduce their own office operational impacts and meet the goals of the ASLA Climate Action Plan.

ASLA is also working with partners to develop a more complete picture of the transportation emissions from shipping freight for EXPO booth materials from points of origin. This upcoming initiative will provide new opportunities for ASLA and its corporate members to achieve a lower-impact EXPO together.

By the end of 2023, ASLA plans to have a fuller understanding of its climate, environmental, and social impacts across the conference, EXPO, and headquarters operations. As it pursues impact reductions, ASLA aims to offset 100 percent of its emissions in coming years.

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