Higher ed points of interest

College campuses share sustainability maps

Many institutions shine a spotlight on their sustainability efforts by creating online maps to showcase eco-friendly sites and green activities on campus—areas of interest to both the student body and the general public.

LEED-certified buildings, rainwater collection units, composting sites, community gardens, recycling bins, car-charging stations and bike lockers are some of the hot spots on these maps.

Most campus sustainability maps are interactive: Click on an icon that identifies the initiative and see additional detail, such as the operating hours of a garden or how much energy is generated by a solar array. Geographic information systems (GIS) technology underpins these maps, allowing the incorporation of multiple layers of information.

“There are initiatives on our campus that people probably aren’t aware of until they start to browse around on the map,” says Daimon Eklund, communications coordinator for sustainability at the University of Washington.

“The data becomes more appealing when users can interact with it in an engaging way rather than simply having a list or a chart of numbers.”

The University of Washington’s map was created using Google Maps, spreadsheets and custom code written in Drupal, a web development tool. It features seven main categories, including sustainable dining, waste diversion and environmental groups, and is updated every few months.

Eklund regularly contacts facilities, the physical plant office and other campus departments to learn about new initiatives.

A sustainability map should incorporate filtering so users can find the features most important to them, says Monika Urbanski, data and content manager for the nonprofit Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Urbanski also recommends using color-coded icons to display sustainability features, with specific colors designated for various categories, such as red for transportation, and simple icons for each item (bike shop, public transit, etc.).

AASHE’s online resource library (www.aashe.org) provides examples of sustainability maps. Institutions can upload links to share their own maps.

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