Three Pillars for Creating Sustainable Communities

As time has gone by interning with my organization, Green Map System, it has become apparent to me that community is at the core of the nonprofit’s social justice mission. Since 1995, Green Map System has worked continuously to expand the demand for healthier and more livable communities. What’s so interesting about this goal is that Green Map System is able to connect with so many distant communities on a local level- in Asia, South America, Africa and beyond – despite being based in the United States.

In order to achieve this goal, Green Map System has supported a network of mapmakers through its regional hubs. Green Map System supports these hubs with tutorials, workshops, and direct training, which help them to run their own branches and create maps to be shared with the entire Green Map community.

Design Space at Pratt Design Incubator Lab for Sustainable Innovation

In addition to its mapmaking network, Green Map System is in constant communication and collaboration with other organizations and institutions in the New York region and beyond. With this approach in mind, Green Map System’s founder has been arranging diverse and unique opportunities for me to interact with other organizations throughout my internship. From my past work with LES Ready, to this past week meeting the directors of the Pratt Design Incubator Lab for Sustainable Innovation, I have had really great opportunities to learn from and communicate with other groups to learn how community plays into different aspects of sustainability. At the Pratt Design Incubator Lab, I saw how today’s designers are incorporating sustainability into clothes and fabrics through reused and recycled materials. In addition, Green Map’s founder and the incubator’s directors discussed opportunities to co-produce events and attend unique programs related to community design and GIS. Green Map System’s founder’s philosophy is that great innovators can best achieve their goals by discussing and learning from others, and this meet-up reflected that idea generation and discussion.

Introductory Photo to the Green Map Story Map of New Jersey’s Northern Valley

Finally, Green Map System has had over 120 interns over the years, and has encouraged each to employ mapping to the communities and sustainability issues they care about the most. This approach has been important to my own internship experience, as Green Map System has allowed me to dedicate one of my main projects for the organization this summer to mapping out Green Spaces in my own community, the Northern Valley suburbs of New Jersey. When completed, the map will feature the nature reserves, park spaces, and farms in my community and will offer residents and visitors insight into areas where they can purchase fresh foods, play sports, and enjoy nature. With these spaces mapped out, community members will be more aware of sustainable businesses and recreational hubs in the region and will be more likely to utilize them.

Overall, the different aspects of Green Map’s approach to sustainability on the local and individual levels show me that collaboration, innovation, and personalization are the key to Green Map’s global impact. I am excited to continue and complete my Northern Valley of New Jersey Green Map Story and to continue learning from the broad network with which Green Map System collaborates.