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  • rick9162

Can i really have a carbon negative landscape? and a pool? and concrete patios, and everything else.

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Probably Not

at least not in any reasonable timeline.

The truth of the matter is that many of our lifestyle choices and many of the elements we, as designers, love to include are at odds with the environment. If they weren't, we wouldn't be having these conversations and fighting this nagging feeling inside of us.

The pure joy at the end of a project while also feeling the knowing of the amount of emissions and mining that went into making our project a reality is an omnipresent tension for all of us at Elder Creek.

Reasonable people can disagree on the severity of the climate situation and definitely on strategies. Not so much on whether we have a problem or not. That's a waste of our time.

The intersection between personal freedom and personal responsibility is an interesting edge as a professional. It is not only a passion but a responsibility to show our clients what is truly possible. To give them the permission and encouragement to dream a little bigger.

Merging these hard ecological truths into the design process is very tricky. We need to manage our impact on client stress and overwhelm. Helping them to stay inspired at some points and grounded in reality at others. Staying true to ourselves and our mission always.

Is it our job to tell clients no regarding a pool or another carbon-intensive element?

We dont think so.

But as designers, we know we are very much responsible for the impact our designs have. Whether we track it or not, we have a carbon scorecard for our careers and chances are it does not look good.

So how do we balance those realities with what the clients want and with the aforementioned responsibility of inspiring and grounding our clients?


The first step is, asking, who are you letting through the door? Does this particular client share the values of ecoliteracy and if so to what extent?

We must employ empathy to engage our client where they are at. Educating and nudging along the best we can is the minimum approach.

Some of us refuse projects and clients without a minimum ecological commitment but most of us don't.

Like our projects, each of our firms is balancing its place in culture and society and has its own unique leverage points to move us toward solutions.

If a swimming pool in the landscape is what you are known for and your whole business model depends on it, then refusing to do pools is probably going to do nothing but remove you from the game entirely, rendering your ability to create solutions from the inside impossible.

Elder Creek has been able to bear witness to our own practices and those of the construction industry and has been able to make hundreds of alterations to design and construction practices that reduce negative impact and dozens more that increase positive impact.

Stay in the game!

But how?


Can Transitional ethics help us here?

In order to stay in our integrity and thrive, or even function in business, we must walk the razor's edge of transitional ethics.

Full stop while we sort things out is not an option in our culture.

Transitional ethics allows us to keep moving amongst the pressures of time, economy, health, and the like, while making incremental changes. We solve what we can while also continuing to use practices that likely do not align with our values. This is a necessary reality as we sort things out.

It provides us with freedom from the false flag of perfection. Freedom from judgment. Judgment from others but primarily from judging ourselves. It allows us to move forward!

Be warned. Transitional ethics, used without conscious and concerted efforts, is also the best green smokescreen out there and the most applied use of this tool.

Used carelessly by the undisciplined and unscrupulous, it is nothing more than an enabler of the status quo and the lead propagandist for green halos.



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