University of Vermont

Green Dorm

Developing a Campus Sustainability Map

by Steve Posner, M.S., Sustainability Fellow and Eco-Reps Program Coordinator

The UVM Office of Sustainability is taking lead on an exciting new project to develop and launch an interactive map of sustainability on campus. This builds on inspirational examples of campus sustainability maps elsewhere at places such as University of Michigan and Ball State University.

One of the initial steps in Fall 2011 was to build institutional capacity to create, manage, and regularly update a map of key sustainability features around campus. A diverse working group was assembled with representatives from Campus Planning, Information Technology, faculty, the Spatial Analysis Lab, Physical Plant Department, and more. Getting the right people in the room together was critical to opening communication channels and organizing around common goals.

Over the course of two meetings, people in the working group worked quickly to develop and submit a proposal for funding. The group also refined the following vision for a UVM Campus Sustainability Map, and began work on an action plan.

Map needs to tell a story

  • Communicate key information and core messages
  • How do we understand/see UVM sustainability? Tell this story with the map.
  • Avoid including unnecessary information

Inspiration

  • Create common core for discussing and understanding what a sustainable UVM is all about
  • Avoid blame or shame, but highlight unsustainable behaviors along with alternative behaviors that have clear benefits

Map needs to be dynamic

  • Make the map interactive so a user can engage with and explore it
  • Map needs to be change-able over time as new information/understanding becomes available

Full utilization of resources at UVM

  • Involve departments and faculty with different, maybe technical perspectives on campus sustainability
  • Create a cohesive, interdisciplinary team
  • Consider funding opportunities and constraints
  • Consider course credit and connections with classes (i.e. ENVS 187)

Currently, the ENVS 187 Campus Sustainability class is focusing on initial map layers to communicate eight categories of operational sustainability at UVM (in alignment with AASHE STARS): Climate, Energy, Buildings, Transportation, Grounds, Water, Dining Services, Waste.

The service learning class has made impressive progress so far, and by the end of Spring semester we will have well-researched and thoughtful map layers to incorporate into UVM's interactive campus map resources. While we look forward to those final deliverables from the class, we are also keeping in mind the importance of context and the institutional process.

It is exciting to be involved as UVM prepares to communicate about it's environmental sustainability using map layers. My larger aim is for the campus sustainability map to provide an entry point for people to understand the university's unique role in the unfolding story of place here in the Burlington, Vermont region.

Stay tuned for more updates this Spring-Summer...