Since the first known maps were carved into stone some 40,000 years ago, they’ve been used for everything from colonial plunder to family camping. In the early 1990s, designer and Green Map founder Wendy Brawer turned the process of mapmaking into a tool for environmental and community activists.
It was a simple formula: She gathered a group of engaged citizens and volunteer cartographers, and then began gathering information about a community’s sustainability, including compost drop sites, green space, and community gardens. The first Green Map, published in 1992, charted New York City and is still in print. Since then Brawer’s formula has been adopted by squatters in Argentina, students in Cuba, survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and the indigenous peoples of British Columbia.
The Open Green Map project, designed as an electronic community platform and launched this year, removed the burden of recruiting cartographers and paying printers, and instead relies on users to do the plotting. Amateur mapmakers were quick to adopt the technology, and there are already more than a hundred Open Green Maps created for cities from Baltimore to Copenhagen. “I made our common future my client and went from there,” Brawer quips.
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