GENEVA For those of us living in the Lake Geneva region, one cannot help but be concerned by the need to protect this wonderful mountainous environment. But also to involve schools, local communities and businesses as much as possible.
So obviously I was intrigued when I heard about the Green Map. I only became aware of it when I had to find a way of getting a Nikon camera to the winner of a photography competition for young people held by the Geneva Earth Focus Magazine. The winner was a student living in Uganda, so it was not just a matter of popping the camera into the post.
After much communication, and getting nowhere, he finally suggested, “Why not ask Wendy Brawer of Green Maps? We’ve made a paper map here, so she may know a way.” He had become involved with Green Maps when his village started a tree-planting project. This was how I met the New York-based creator of the Green Map System, which seeks to raise awareness of sustainable development by working locally.
Following the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, Wendy had returned to New York City, which she decided offered numerous ways of highlighting sustainability, such as street markets, gardens and parks. The result was the Green Apple Map. Having spent several years in Japan, she wanted a method that could be understood by all, regardless of nationality or culture. A graphic designer, she considered icons the simplest and most effective form of communication.
In the end, Wendy could not help get the camera to Uganda. I eventually found a reliable diplomat who delivered it. But I did become introduced to this highly imaginative mapping system: www.greenmap.org. As my colleagues and I were already working with young people in the Lake Geneva area, we wondered how to start a Green Map for Geneva. What a superb tool for getting them to participate and to learn respect for one’s surroundings!
Through a previous project, I had come to know the mayor of Grand-Saconnex, a half Canadian like myself. So she fully understood Anglo-Saxon eccentricities. I asked her to see whether her commune could serve as a model. She rang back almost immediately to say yes. I was driving at the time and failed to notice a patrolling policeman. He ticketed me for phoning, but it was the best 100 francs ever spent.
Together with different schools and members of the community, such as Scouts for Bike Paths, Geneva Airport, Palexpo and the town hall itself, we made Green Map Grand-Saconnex. Full of icons and explanations, it was delivered to every mailbox in the commune, plus supported by an interactive website.
Since then, more maps have emerged: Vernier, Coudrier, Meyrin, the United Nations area…all also available on internet and smartphone. Next projects include the Green Map of Geneva, plus more local communes, even mountain villages including Verbier. The key, however, is to put young people at the centre. After all, it’s their future. You can help, too.
Nicola Spafford Furey works with the Earth Focus Foundation and the Green Map Swiss Team in Geneva.