Mapping Green Turns Out To Be More Viral Than Social Networks

April 1, 2009 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment

image by Jurvetson

image by Jurvetson

Green living is more of an adventurous thing than a social thing. That’s why I was surprised that it has taken so long for green organizations to cluster together on a map. But hey ho, turns out that I was wrong; environmentalist mapmakers have been at it since 1992, putting green initiatives on maps.

But to give me my dues,, a New York headquartered global organization has only grown phenomenally since Google Earth released its API to the public.

Green Maps enables communities, groups, schools, companies and even individuals to map the green world around them. At the moment some 300 completed maps are listed covering all the major spots on the globe and many more are in the making.

You can look up a map by theme or location. Themes include bike lanes, green shops, gardens, energy resources, green public initiatives.

Each individual map itself is listed by means of an icon on the mainframe’s larger map. All maps use a shared visual language in the form of self explanatory icons which reveal what you are exploring. There are also icons which indicate wheelchair accessibility, child friendliness and public transport options. Mapmakers can even include video material on their map. All the data is stored on a carbon neutral server. is a great example of how thinking globally by acting locally works in practice.  I tried looking up something for the area I live in and found all that I need in one single map. More than 100 green activities and facilities in my neighborhood are listed  (i.e.  recycling spots, second hand shops, charities, green bike shops, cycling paths, walking trails, historic spots, forests, restaurants, carpets and even wood), I have instant access to comprehensive information that makes life a lot easier.

Even though I have only just arrived in this town, I am guessing that a lot of the information is new to locals too. That’s because a lot of the initiatives have only started out recently. But mapping information also makes you look at the world in a totally different way.  The local organization that made the map benefits too because it raises its profile and is accessed by people from all over the globe.

But perhaps the greatest value of the map is that similar information about locations around the globe is listed quite lavishly. So when you’re traveling to another city, you’ll still be able to sustain a green lifestyle without too much trouble. A few years ago that was simply not possible. The instant accessibility of the maps will be hard to beat by a social network.

After completing the mapping process, a participating community or organization can have their map printed. is one of the few green viral marketing ploys I’ve come across that is really contageous. You can buy T-shirts with slogans like “I’m a mapmaker”. They will be incredibly viral no doubt.

The only downside to the project is that there’s no map that actually outlines the effects of global warming. All the 584 maps that are currently being built by communities in 54 countries have the aim to reduce global warming. But because most projects are generated by people living and acting locally, few overview maps exist. One reason no doubt is that it is anticipated that the effects of global warmign will re-draw the world map significantly. If the IPCC’s worst case scenario comes true, vast parts of Europe and Scandinavia and coastal areas of all continents will submerge and up to 85% of the amazon could shrink.

Nevertheless, this is a future based scenario and already various effects of global warming are visible locally. So if anyone’s up for it, perhaps we can start out an initiative.  There are a few maps out there that do map potential global warming effects, the most notable of which is Google’s joint effort with the MET office, which is a pretty astounding thing. NationalGeographic’s Shell sponsored map is also rather good.

Incidentally, Nasa’s first attempt  to map carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere by using space technology ended in disaster a few weeks ago when the rocket carrying the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

Entry filed under: Green News.

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