Austin, Texas Moves Towards ‘Zero-Waste’

The City Council of Austin, Texas has announced a committment to reduce per capita solid waste sent to landfills and incinerators by 20 percent by 2012, and then 90 percent by 2040.

According to the City Council resolution, the infrastructure transition plan for moving to zero-waste includes a few key components:

  • Lead by example. Evaluate departmental waste streams for baseline
    data and future monitoring within one year of adoption of the Plan.
    Within three years of adoption of the Plan, frame, develop and
    implement, where appropriate and feasible, waste diversion programs with input from City Departments.
  • Consider and implement pro-active education and enforcement methods for the Commercial and Multi-family Recycling regulations. Develop and present to City Council City Code amendments as necessary to require recycling at all commercial enterprises and multi-family residences and include them in the stakeholder process. The proposed City Code amendments should become effective in phases over a three year period.
  • Reach out to institutions, industrial facilities, and manufacturers, to
    encourage them to adopt and implement zero waste goals.
  • Promote composting to remove organic material and compostables
    from landfills, which is necessary to reduce methane and carbon
    emissions. First, identify the best strategies to promote on-site
    composting at work and home. Second, evaluate infrastructure for
    residential curbside, commercial, and institutional composting; develop strategies to increase composting capacity; and implement a pilot curbside composting program when composting capacity is available.

According to GreenBiz, Seattle and San Francisco are also pursuing zero-waste strategies and plans.

Read the City Council resolution
Go to the Austin, Texas waste services site

Roberto Burle Marx Exhibit in Rio

The New York Times
, which has recently increased its coverage of landscape architecture, wrote about the work of Roberto Burle Marx, Brazil’s star landscape architect. An exhibit of Burle Marx’s work will be shown through March at the Paco Imperial Museum in Rio De Janiero.

According to Lauro Cavalcanti, the curator of the exhibit: “By organizing native plants in accordance with the aesthetic principles of the artistic vanguard, especially Cubism and abstractionism, he created a new and modern grammar for international landscape design.”

Karen Van Legeran, Dean of the Landscape Architecture department at the University of Virginia, also commented in the article: “Burle Marx was prescient in his reverence for plants and his stewardship of the whole nursery, for his ability to see the garden both as an aesthetic experiment and also as part of the ecology.”

Read the full article
View the slideshow of Burle Marx’s work

The Effect of Urban Decay on Schools

The Guardian (UK) reported that research conducted by the Perpetuity Group, a research consultancy, found that neighbourhood blight can have a negative impact on student behavior, truancy rates, and the attitude of teachers.

The report authors argue that while other social and economic factors can play into student performance, a school’s environment can still have a major impact on students.  According to the study, “pupils are more likely to truant or misbehave if there is a symbol of urban decay, such as a derelict amusement arcade or row of boarded-up homes, as far as 10 minutes away from their school.”

Urban planning and education policymaking also need to be further linked, and schools should become more central in plans for re-generating burnt-out urban areas. “It is clear that the success of schools is dependent on the wider agenda for neighbourhood regeneration; indeed, in some localities more and more pressure is being placed on schools to take an active part in wider community matters. Yet many schools are often left out of redevelopment plans at local and national levels.”

Read the full article
Read the research study: One More Broken Window: The Impact of the Physical Environment on Schools

2009 Torsanlorenzo International Prize Call for Entries

The 2009 Torsanlorenzo International Prize is receiving entries until Friday, March 6, 2009.

According to Torsanlorenzo, the 2009 International Prize is “offered with the aim of highlighting completed projects and promoting the quality of forest and urban green spaces.”

There are three sections:

  • Section A – Landscape Design in Transformation of Territory  – Actions for environment restoration, renewal and recovery;
  • Section B – Urban Green Spaces – The quality of projects in cities: squares, neighbourhood green spaces, urban and private parks;
  • Section C – Private Gardens in Cities and Suburbs

One of the 2008 winners was Rainer Schmidt, designer of the Gymnasium Paulinum project in Schwaz, Austria (see photo above).  Past winners include U.S. citizens.  

The 2009 International Prize is open to landscape architects,
agronomists and foresters, or other professionals involved in landscape and environment projects worldwide. Projects that have
already won other prizes are not eligible.  There is no entry fee.

For more information, go to the English language version of the Torsanlorenzo site, or contact the secretariat of the Organising Committee of the “TORSANLORENZO INTERNATIONAL PRIZE”. Tel. +39 06–91 01 90 05 – Fax +39 06–91 01 16 02 – Email

Read the full entry form
Go to ASLA’s opportunities section to view other Call for Entries.

2009 ASLA Annual Meeting Call for Presentations

ASLA has released the Call for Presentations for educational sessions at the 2009 Annual meeting, which will be held in Chicago on September 18-21, 2009. The deadline for submitting presentations for the 2009 education program is February 20, 2009.

The theme of the 2009 Annual meeting is Beyond Sustainability: Regenerating Places and People.

According to ASLA surveys, the top reason attendees register for the ASLA annual meeting is the outstanding education program. Featuring up to 100 presentations of value to landscape architecture professionals, the education program allows attendees to earn up to 21 professional development hours (PDH) during the course of the meeting.

The ASLA Annual Meeting Education Advisory Committee (AMEAC) will review, evaluate and comment on your submissions.

Speakers selected to present at the meeting will receive a complimentary full registration ($450 value) and one-night hotel stay ($250 value; ASLA retains the right to assign the hotel).

Submit your educational session proposals


Reflective Crops

Researchers at the University of Bristol are exploring bio-geoengineering. The idea is to use existing areas dedicated to agriculture to combat climate change, as opposed to building a new, unique infrastructure. (See The Dirt post on plankton growth to combat climate change, a form of geoengineering).  

According to The New York Times, the researchers see a 2 degree Fahrenheit reduction in summer temperatures from crop varieties that reflect more sunlight. This means temperature reductions in North America, Europe, and parts of Asia.  

The amount of light plants reflect depends on how waxy the leaves are, and how they are arranged. Existing crops could be genetically engineered to grow more reflective leaves.

Read the full article
Read the study in Current Biology

Re-development of New Orleans Riverfront


The Times-Picayune in New Orleans reported that the New Orleans riverfront re-development project is on track. The City Council has approved USD 30 million in ‘Community Development Block Grant’ funds for the public park, which is just one part of a comprehensive 152-acre riverfront re-development project that is expected to total USD 300 million.

According to The Times-Picayune, the first phase will involve transforming an industrial zone made up of cargo docks into a park with bike paths, pavilions, two piers and electricity-generating windmills. The park between Esplanade Avenue and Mazant Street is expected to open in 2011.

George Hargreaves, the landscape architect involved in the project, said: “We’re trying to do this fusion that shows the history of New Orleans, but we’re going to make a contemporary public park out of it, too.” Hargreaves argues that basic infrastructure and public recreational space are both necessary to any recovery for New Orleans.

Read the full article

Also, see Hargreave Associates’ 2008 ASLA Analysis and Planning Honor Award for the entire New Orleans riverfront project.

Corporate Social Responsibility Reports on Sustainable Consumption, Ecosystem Services

The World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) published a report on Sustainable Consumption, which examines the relationship between business activities, sustainable consumption, and environmental and social challenges.

The report says current global consumption patterns are unsustainable. “It is becoming apparent that efficiency gains and technological advances alone will not be sufficient to bring global consumption to a sustainable level; changes will also be required to consumer lifestyles, including the ways in which consumers choose and use products and services.”

Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) has also released a report: Measuring the Corporate Impact on Ecosystems: A Comprehensive Review of New Tools. The BSR report argues that: “Companies may face accountability, not only for pollution prevention, but also for impacts (positive or negative) to ecological structure and function in the areas where they operate or source. Such an evolving mandate could either be advanced via regulation or, more opaquely, become expected practice by investors, insurers, activists, employees or neighboring communities. Such an expanded focus would translate into a company needing to understand its dependencies and impacts (both positive and negative) on the flow of ecosystem services.”

While the report omits the Sustainable Sites Initiative, it outlines the value of ‘multi-ecosystem service assessment tools,’ such as InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs), MIMES (Multi-scale Integrated Models of Ecosystem Services), and the NVI (Natural Value Initiative).

BSR has 250 member companies, and WBCSD is a CEO-led global association of 200 firms.

Read Sustainable Consumption: Facts and Trends from a Business Perspective and Measuring Corporate Impact on Ecosystems: A Comprehensive Review of New Tools

EDF’s Innovation Exchange

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has launched the Innovation Exchange, which is designed to facilitate best practices sharing among corporations in the area of energy, water, and climate change mitigation.  

The innovation exchange includes recommendations, case studies, research, and tools. These are arranged by ‘environmental opportunity’  (clean water, or productive oceans, for example) or by industry.  Fortune 500 companies, such as Wal-Mart, FedEx and McDonald’s, have partnered with EDF, and included their own resources.

In terms of clean water, one of the key areas of the Innovation Exchange, EDF recommends that corporations in multiple sectors measure their ‘water footprint’, improve water efficiency and the quality of available water resources, and work with regional governments to improve water management systems. EDF offers tools for firms that seek to create a corporate water strategy.

Go to the Innovation Exchange’s section on Clean Water