Sustainable ASLA

ASLA Sustainability Header

Sustainable ASLA documents the American Society of Landscape Architects' full commitment to promote sustainable design practices through program initiatives and day-to-day operations, including as a member of the Smarter DC Challenge. Here are some of the ways we practice what we preach:

The Sustainable Sites Initiative

The Sustainable Sites Initiative is an interdisciplinary partnership led by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden to transform land development and management practices with the nation’s first voluntary rating system for sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings.

Advocating for Sustainable Design across the U.S. Government

Working with federal and state policy makers and agencies, ASLA Government Affairs increases awareness of the profession and advocates for policies that use landscape architecture to design more sustainable communities.

Landscape architects are also leading the way in planning and designing multimodal transportation corridors, which include bike lanes and paths, sidewalks, and access to public transportation. As a Steering Committee member of the National Complete Streets Coalition, ASLA advocates for a federal Complete Streets policy.

As a member of the High Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition, ASLA highlights how the building industry is working with federal agencies to increase building energy efficiency.

ASLA has signed on to the 2030 Coalition, a campaign led by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), to reach at least a 50 percent reduction in C02 emission from buildings by 2010, and fully carbon neutral buildings by 2030.

Encouraging Sustainable Design Practices

The ASLA Professional and Student Awards programs highlight sustainable design and planning best practices. Judging criteria requires that jurors consider sustainability when making awards decisions. A number of well-designed projects deemed unsustainable by jurors have failed to receive recognition. Go to the 2016 Call for Entries.

An interview series focused on sustainability creates a broader dialogue on sustainable development through an exchange of ideas with both leading and up-and-coming designers, academics, and policy makers.

A set of sustainability resource guides outline hundreds of research studies, government resources, model projects, and online guides that help design professionals and local policy makers plug the latest sustainable development ideas into their communities.

"Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes" is an online exhibition featuring sustainability case studies. The case studies serve as a key learning tool for the general public and explain what landscape architects do and the importance of sustainable design. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is supporting the educational aspects of the site.

A new blog for landscape architects, The Field, outlines sustainable design solutions for practitioners.

Teaching Sustainable Design

At the ASLA Annual Meeting, attendees learn about cutting-edge sustainable landscape planning and design practices and earn professional development hours (PDH), which are required to maintain licensure. More than 70 percent of courses are focused on sustainable planning, design, construction, and maintenance practices.

Through the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB), an autonomous ASLA committee, ASLA promotes sustainability as a key part of landscape architecture education at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Licensure LA CES Logo

The Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES)also offers a range of live and distant education courses in the U.S., Canada, and Caribbean. More than 40 percent of LA CES approved courses are focused on sustainable planning, design, construction, and maintenance education.

ASLA won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to produce "The Roof is Growing!", a green roof education guide.

National Landscape Architecture Month (NLAM)highlights the inherent environmental values in landscape architecture each April.

The Dirt Blog and Social Media

The Dirt blog connects design professionals, academia, and policy makers to up-to-date news on the built and natural environments. The Dirt regularly covers green infrastructure, sustainable design, sustainable transportation, and sustainable urban development trends in the U.S. and worldwide.

Twitter Sustainable Logo

Twitter / Landarchitects helps extend the reach of ASLA and allied organizations’ content related to sustainability.

Annual Meetings

ASLA’s commitment to the environment extends to our own practices as we strive to reduce the carbon footprint of our annual meeting. The convention centers, hotels, and event venues in the cities selected, and all of our supplier partners, must demonstrate progress toward improving their operational efficiency and reducing their environmental impact. Here are just a few examples how ASLA and our annual meeting supplier partners are making a difference:

In 2012 ASLA launched our first annual meeting mobile app which has enabled us to significantly reduce our print materials. For those items that we do print, inks are agri-based, made from non-toxic soy and vegetable oils. In addition, all of our meeting handouts are disseminated electronically.

Our transportation provider has an innovative carbon offset shuttle program that provides a negative carbon footprint. They employ the latest technologies to help maximize fuel usage, reduce idle time, and eliminate air drag.

The management system for our annual meeting registration and housing company includes initiatives to measure and control their direct environmental impact in the areas of energy conservation, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste and recycling management.

ASLA’s general contractor is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Their sustainability program helps their customers preserve the environment by recycling carpet; re-purposing aluminum products into new components; using biodegradable signage materials; and promoting the use of online ordering.

ASLA is also a member of the Convene Green Alliance, a grass-roots, industry initiative spearheaded by several high-profile associations that seek to encourage positive environmental practices through national, regional and local outreach and education.

ASLA’s green Headquarters

Green Roof

The Washington, D.C. headquarters of ASLA is topped with a green roof. The green roof, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, a leading landscape architecture firm, includes a unique sedum floor covered with a mesh grate that enables visitors to walk over much of the green roof surface. A range of native plants were used, as well as sedum species, which are known to be particularly effective at sequestering carbon dioxide (C02). Some key benefits:

  • Reduced building heating and cooling costs: ASLA’s green roof reduces energy usage by 10 percent in winter months.
  • Reduced stormwater run-off: From July 2006 to May 2007, the green roof retained nearly 75 percent of the total rainfall (29 inches) in the D.C. area. The roof kept 27,512.4 gallons out of the city sewer system.
  • No contribution to D.C.'s Urban Heat Island Effect: The green roof has been as much as 32 degrees F cooler than conventional black roofs on neighboring buildings.

Read press coverage or sign up for a private tour

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification

ASLA has initiated the process of certifying the headquarters building. ASLA will first aim for LEED certified or silver levels, with the goal of eventually reaching gold or platinum levels.

Building Operations

Staff transportation: ASLA is a Best Workplace for Commuters. CEO Nancy Somerville drives a Prius, a hybrid vehicle.

Office Products: ASLA not only uses 100 percent recyclable paper products, but also recycles all paper products. Even coffee dispenser cups get recycled. ASLA also certifies that waste products are properly sorted and recycled.

Office cleaning: ASLA only uses natural, biodegradable, non-hazardous cleaning products.

Energy efficiency:The headquarters building was Energy Star-certified in 2012. Among buildings the same size, ASLA’s energy performance is in the top 15 percent. Building-related C02 emissions are zero because ASLA buys 100 percent renewable energy from Pepco.

An automated building management system controls access, lighting, and heating / cooling systems, and puts the building to sleep each night. At 9:00 PM, all lights go out. In the mornings, the building goes through a set of steps to efficiently power-up.

Computers are pre-set to go into sleep mode when not in use, and screensavers automatically come on after a pre-set time.

Staff can control individual cubicle-level lights, and engage in daylight harvesting. When the sun is out, desk lights go out.

Water efficiency: Water fixtures were redesigned in 2008 for low water usage.

Waste management: ASLA will also start composting organic waste.

Indoor air quality: ASLA completed an air quality inspection in October 2008. The assessors concluded the building had excellent indoor air quality. The air quality is due to proper operation and maintenance and more than 100 indoor plants throughout the building.


Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM) meets all magazine industry standards for sustainable publishing. LAM has moved to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper. One hundred percent recyclable polywrap is used to protect the magazine from damage during distribution.

LAM began co-mailing with other publications in 2008 to reduce shipping-related C02 emissions.

LAM has been offered digitally through Zinio since April, 2009. ASLA encourages its members to migrate from print to digital versions to cut down shipping-related C02 emissions.

Marketing & Member Outreach

Most of ASLA’s marketing campaigns are conducted via e-mail and e-fax. Any mailings are printed on 100 percent recycled paper. The Member and Chapter Services department attempts to use email as much as possible to distribute membership renewal and benefit information.

ASLA Partners

Allied Organizations

American City Planning Directors Council

American Planning Association 

American Society of Civil Engineers

Congress for New Urbanism

Architecture Foundation

National Building Museum 

National Trust for Historic Preservation

Scenic America

The American Institute of Architects

The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Urban Land Institute

U.S. Green Building Council 


Architect of the Capitol 

Centers for Disease Control / Healthy Communities 

Environmental Protection Agency 

Department of Agriculture / Forestry Service

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

High Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition

Department of Interior 

Department of Interior / Bureau of Land Management

Department of Interior / National Park Service

National Capital Planning Commission

National Endowment for the Arts

Department of Transportation

Department of Transportation / Federal Highways AdministrationIssue Advocacy 

American Rivers

Architecture 2030

Clean Water Network

Conservation Fund / Green Infrastructure Community of Practice

National Complete Streets Coalition

National Conservation System Alliance

National Recreation and Parks Association

Natural Resources Defense Council

New Partners for Smart Growth

Safe Routes to Schools
National Partnership

No Child Left Inside Coalition

Smart Growth America

Smart Growth Network

Surface Transportation Policy Project

Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition

Transportation for America

U.S. High Speed Rail Association

Water Environment Federation


Arbor Day Foundation Tree Campus USA

Home Depot Foundation


ACE Mentor Program

Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture

CollegeWeek Live


Garden Design Magazine

Metropolis Magazine


Solutions Journal 

Streetsblog NetworkSustainable Cities Collective


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