informed decision making

Informed Decision Making, not Guilt

Discussing the carbon impacts of a project can be difficult. Our current unspoken assumption is that we need to “do” less. Leading to a conflict between what we want and what we “should ” do. Feelings of guilt can quickly enter. This should not be leveraged. It should be redirected through an educational moment with our clients.

Guilt is a weak position to make decisions from and a shaky foundation to build a long-term relationship with our clients. We need to move from a place of informed decision making, not guilt.

In the commercial and municipal world, we find it is easier for the responsible party to sacrifice high-carbon luxuries. or place carbon over style( if necessary).

The real challenge with these client categories lies within the need to meet long-term, high-traffic durability, safety, accessibility, and other codes with low-carbon solutions.

Luckily, these landscapes are meant to last much longer than residential landscapes. While the timeline to balance these may be longer, it has a much longer useful timeline to justify some of the carbon expenditures. Meaning, if we look at it over 30 years, we have a good chance of reaching an equilibrium and still have many years of useful life left in the landscape.

On the residential side, however, we are almost exclusively dealing with luxury items and the conversations can require more sophistication to navigate.

In our firm, we decide to take this dynamic head-on and acknowledge in our early meetings that we are all adjusting to our carbon realities and we suggest making decisions from an informed position rather than guilt. We make it an educational process from start to finish. Just as we have trained clients for decades on the importance of responsible water use, we also train on carbon awareness and other ecosystem services.

The goal is to inform.

This point cannot be understated. it is not our job to tell somebody how to live and it certainly won’t work to do so.It is our job to come to the table with information and as many possible solutions as we can.

Here is where we hit the dynamic most of us struggle with. We don’t have the solutions yet! At least not as many as we would like.

We are so afraid that we will lose the client’s attention if we bring up hard truths in the early phases when we are focused on keeping them excited and inspired.We are afraid that if we bring it up later we may look foolish for getting them excited about something that has a negative environmental impact. 

Start early by acknowledging that you understand carbon in the landscape and will guide them through the available options all the way through.

Each of you will have to navigate client dynamics individually.You have your own style and your own way of doing business. At Elder Creek, we are hired because we bring an inspiring vision, a deep understanding of the interface of landscape and ecology, and pragmatic skills to make the design come alive. We “get shit done”, AND we are willing to tell the harder truths from the very beginning in a way that the clients can hear it.

We’d luv to hear where you struggle with the carbon conversation or some of the success you have had with your clients.

Drop us a line.


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