Sustainable Development Success Stories

Green Map System (GMS)

Location Based on the internet at www.greenmap.com, with a Secretariat in New York, NY.
Responsible Organisation World Design.
Description The Green Map System (GMS) is a globally connected, locally adaptable framework for community sustainability. Since early 1995, GMS has invited voluntary teams to create a fresh perspective of their hometown, through a map that charts the city s environmentally significant places, projects, organisations and other resources utilising our shared "language", a set of 100+ icons that symbolise the different kinds of urban green sites. The resulting Green Maps illuminate the interconnections between nature and the built environment, help residents discover great ways to get involved with the urban ecology, and guide eco-tourists (even virtual ones) to successful greening initiatives they can replicate back home.

There are now eight cities where Green Maps have been published: Kyoto, Japan; Malmo, Sweden; New York, USA; Montreal, Canada; Gouda and Utrecht, The Netherlands; Athens, Georgia USA; and Copenhagen, Denmark. Additional Green Maps are in the works. Currently, 72 Green Mapmaking teams are involved, working in 20 countries on six continents. Each has a unique focus and production method as well as a local network contributing to the process. The richness they reveal about each city's progress toward sustainability is most inspiring and appealing to all ages.

Green Mapmakers are self-selected on a first-come basis, by volunteering to GMS to lead the local process. Leaders include environmental organisations, designers, city agencies, tourism councils, students, planners and others. Many undertake a community-based, indicators-style process. Each team owns the Map they create and make all decisions about it including setting the context, precisely defining the Icons, determining the format and design perimeters, funding, producing and disseminating their Green Maps to best fulfil local needs. Many will soon be documenting their methodology for others to view at our Website, as part of the Guide to Green Mapmaking. While the majority is mapping cities, a handful of regions (and the state of Rhode Island) are being charted in a coordinated manner. Students are making neighbourhood-scale Maps, helping them sharpen their observation abilities and inform adults about their environmental perceptions. Most see their first Map as the beginning of a series of continuing editions produced as they identify, promote and link every green site around. Participating in the GMS is free. To date, virtually all costs have been absorbed by the NYC-based design company, Modern World Design, which originated the global GMS, and is a producer of services and products for ecological stewardship. Despite the handicap of lacking a support structure for GMS, it has grown rapidly  we expect a dozen more cities to be published by Spring  98, and we hope to involve scores of additional collaborating teams by the Millennium.

Issues Addressed Education, Science, Capacity building, Technology transfer, Freshwater, and to a lesser degree, Industry.
Results Achieved When a small Brazilian city, Araxa, joined GMS in May 1997, suddenly, all inhabited continents were involved, and the collaboration became truly global. One city per week joined in 1997, so the good word spread very far without advertising. The published Green Maps are resource-efficient and beautiful reference guides. Cities are being seen in a new light, connected with the environment that supports them. Green sites are the biggest beneficiaries, becoming more popular as a result of being "on the Map".
Lessons Learned Making a Green Map can be a difficult process, partially because there are so many ways it can be done. The Mapmakers must overcome difficulties that can include: lack of funding and access to a base map; shortage of necessary skills and research resources; lack of consensus over who the audience is and what belongs on the Map. The lessons learned by pioneer Mapmakers aren't as accessible as they will be when the GMS's toolbox is complete, but in the meantime, our network of Mapmakers is assisting one another in avoiding the pitfalls and leap-frogging the obstacles.

It often takes longer than predicted to complete a Green Map, but having a target date is helpful. An all-volunteer, community-based process can add months to the timeline, but the resulting network-building process has many positive benefits including the understanding of a new urban ecology.

When it is finally done, the next job is educating people about the Map and the meaning of the Icons: each city has a unique pathway toward sustainability  even with 100 Icons, locally designed place-based symbols are used in several Maps. By including cultural, infrastructure and toxic hot spot Icons, Green Maps point out all kinds of special environmental features and challenges that need citizen input. GMS increases local capacity to put the info-web to work in support of the web-of life.

Contact Modern World Design
Director: Wendy E. Brawer,
157 Ludlow St. Floor 4, New York, NY 10002
Tel. (212) 674 1631, Fax (212) 674 6206,
E-mail: info@greenmap.com
Website: www.greenmap.com