Dec 14, 2012

Seeing a More Sustainable World: Hot NY Hosts Green Maps for Triple Bottom Lunch Series

Annie Nguyen's picture
Annie Nguyen
User Experience Designer

Maps provide lenses through which we can view and understand the world. Electoral maps tell us if we’re in red states or blue states. A Yelp map can show us a neighborhood through its coffee shops and sushi joints. And the Green Map System, a nonprofit founded in 1995, is helping people see the world in terms of sustainability.

Recently, Wendy Brawer, Green Map’s founder and CEO, visited Hot Studio NY to talk about how her organization is using locally created maps to track progress towards sustainability. Thus far, the Green Map network has published over 500 uniquely designed printed maps and over 300 interactive editions that highlight natural, cultural, and social impact sites.

Speaking of her organization’s origins, Wendy said she was inspired to create the first Green Map during her work at the United Nations in New York City. In mapping and data visualization, she saw an opportunity to help people explore the city in a meaningful way.

Wendy explained that “maps are self-portraits" and showed us how people all around the world are using the interactive Open Green Map platform to create their own unique maps. Green Maps provides iconography sets, interactive engagement tools, and mapping infrastructure for registered users in 65 countries. The resulting maps are tailored by users, which are specific to their location, language, and focus.

Users ranging from individuals to large organizations have utilized Green Map to contribute meaningful information to their locality. The information mapped varies tremendously due to the different cultural perspectives of the Green Mapmakers. In one map, kids and grandparents mapped their experiences and memories of the same space over time: these maps became an opportunity for people to share and compare world views, and contribute to a healthier, greener, more just future.

In the case of natural disasters, maps are essential tools for communicating information about evacuation zones, shelter and services, and for clearly identifying impact zones. Green Maps can even be generated in direct response to emergent and changing conditions, helping communities respond and rebuild.

More good things are coming for Green Maps—a new, responsive mobile site and an Icon lab, both developed with student engineers during Google’s 24 Hours of Good hackathon, will launch in early 2013. You can also check out an impressive collection of physical Green Maps in the Map Room at the main branch of the New York Public Library.

Thanks to Wendy for coming by and speaking about Green Maps' incredible work. For more information about her organization or to get involved, please visit:

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Triple Bottom Lunch is a monthly event for Hot Studio’s employees, designed to expand Hot’s knowledge of current, inspirational trends and discuss different ways to apply them to our work.

More from the Triple Bottom Lunch series:

Triple Bottom Lunch: Biomimicry
Triple Bottom Lunch: Adam Dole, Mayo Clinic
Triple Bottom Lunch: George Koster and Central Market's Revitalization Efforts
Triple Bottom Lunch: SF Made—The Story of Rickshaw Bags