Archive for December, 2013

ASLA: Forerunner in Sustainability

December 10, 2013

Wrapping up this season is the gift of the future.  Sustainability is a future driven practice, and American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has the history to provide their insight in best practices.  In an interview with Joyce DePass, Director of Meeting and Special programs, I learned about their green practices at the office and onsite at the ASLA convention.

The first thing Joyce made clear is the fact that her members are not your typical convention attendees when it comes to sustainability. Landscape Architects by their nature are a very “green” and environmentally friendly group. Sustainability is part of their career and lifestyle. Therefore the ASLA Annual Meeting & Expo has always focused on sustainability and has been an early adopter of many of the standard practices for sustainable meetings we see today.

2013 ASLA

In the office they have invested in a “green” roof…which for the uninitiated is a roof partially or fully covered in vegetation resulting in lower energy costs as well as being a great environment to visit.  Investing in your staff and office is another form of sustaining  in your business.  In addition to recycling, like separate recycling for k-cups, batteries and all the typical recycling, they also use mugs, glasses, plates and silverware in their office kitchen instead of disposable products that are typical.

ASLA was named one of the 50 Healthiest Employers in D.C., by the Washington Business Journal. Their Director just purchased a treadmill desk for the office.  Staff can sign up to work at the fully equipped treadmill desk. ASLA also has exercise classes every Wed with options like Yoga and Pilates.  These actions are intended to reduce stress, and keep the staff rejuvenated.

Sustainability is a factor when choosing hotels and vendors.  ASLA chooses to make recycling very visible in their meetings’ convention centers, and hotels even when many other meetings consider them unsightly.  They choose vendors who provide menus that are farm-to-table.  The first LEED certified museum in Boston, the Boston Children’s Museum, was selected as a 2013 venue for the most recent convention.

Because the path of sustainability is still relatively new, ASLA experienced challenges which we can all learn from.  In the beginning cost was a huge factor. It was hard to find and more expensive to get recyclable cups, biodegradable knives and forks.  Supply and demand has made these options available and more affordable now thanks to trend leaders like ASLA.

Also, transportation has been a challenge for this group because the attendees would prefer to walk instead of using transportation, and transportation has high costs associated with it.  There are some venues where buses are necessary and in those cases alternative energy fueled buses are sourced.  This year in Boston,  Joyce and her team decided to start shuttles at 6:30AM, ending them at 9:30AM because of the large number of early seminars.  They encouraged the attendees to take public transportation for all other needs.  This is much easier to do with ASLA attendees since many of them design public transportation systems and prefer to ride them.

Another strategy the organization embraces is working with partners to ensure sustainability in the supply chain.  ASLA uses multi-year contracts to take advantage of the efficiencies in a long term relationship with vendors and clients.

We can all learn from ASLA to consider the future with our practices and choose a path that will allow for the most sustainable future. Wishing you all a very happy and sustainable holiday season.