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Landscape Architects Rise to the Climate Crisis

To culminate a week of the largest collective climate activist events in history, the Climate Positive Design Challenge launches to enable the global landscape architecture profession to take climate action. The Challenge establishes targets for reducing emissions and sequestering carbon in the built environment, with a goal of going ‘beyond neutral’ – sequestering more carbon than emitted and providing a positive contribution towards reversing global warming. The Challenge is part of an initiative that includes tools that landscape architects can use today.

“Landscape architecture is the only design profession that can not only reduce emissions but also increase carbon sequestration,” says Pamela Conrad, Principal of CMG Landscape Architecture and founder of the initiative. “To date, we have not had the tools, guidance, or resources to make this contribution. With these now in place, it is time that we rise to the climate crisis. It is not only an opportunity, but a responsibility.”

Conrad is a 2018-2019 Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) Fellow for Innovation and Leadership. The Climate Positive Design initiative is the product of years of research and collaboration with Atelier Ten. Designers can meet the goals of the Challenge by logging projects into a web-based application called the Pathfinder. The app encourages design strategies that will enable projects to sequester more CO2 than they emit – becoming Climate Positive.

The Challenge goal is for global landscape architecture projects to collectively sequester more carbon than emitted between now and 2030. If the targets are continuously met, the profession has the opportunity to take one gigaton of CO2 out of the atmosphere beyond project emissions by the year 2050.

A web-based app called the Pathfinder is utilized to meet the goals of the Challenge. It is a landscape carbon calculator that guides designers on the path to becoming Climate Positive, calculating the embodied carbon, operational carbon, and carbon sequestration of any landscape project. The sooner the project offsets the footprint of the site, the greater its impact can be on drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere.

By providing tools, guidance, and resources, the initiative seeks to enable positive changes to everyday actions that do not require new regulations or policies – merely activism through education. Beyond the Pathfinder, the website provides additional educational resources including a Design Toolkit and Case Studies, which are references to making Climate Positive Design decisions.

CMG Landscape Architecture is incorporating the initiative into its practice and invites firms around the world to join them. To learn more about Climate Positive Design go to

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