Sustainability Happens All Over Campus – Here's a Map to Prove It
Do you know which building on campus has a rooftop garden? How about where all the water-harvesting basins are? Or which UA residence hall has real-time energy-monitoring software?
The locations of these and many more campus sustainability projects can be found on the UA Sustainability Map, an interactive online map that visually plots campus sustainability efforts. It recently was updated with the goal of becoming the go-to resource for data on sustainability work on campus.
The map was launched in spring 2017 and is led by the UA Enterprise Geographic Information System, a service in Planning, Design and Construction that maps UA properties.
Grant McCormick, EGIS manager, began pursuing the idea of mapping the UA's sustainability efforts in 2012. Originally a campus planner when he began at the UA in 1995, McCormick later became involved in helping address stormwater drainage issues on campus, which led him to begin instructing a water-harvesting class in 2006. Through this work, McCormick's interest in wider sustainability efforts grew.
When the sustainability map was launched, EGIS used funding from the UA Information Technology Student Advisory Board, which helps fund sustainability projects that directly benefit students. EGIS also collaborated with the Office of Sustainability and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Communications and Cyber Technologies unit.
James Wadsworth, now an IT support analyst for PDC, worked as the project coordinator for the first phase of the map during his time as a graduate student. The original map focused primarily on three layers: projects, which include sustainability activities with finite timelines and specific end products; programs, which are activities that involve UA organizations or entities; and features, which are physical elements of campus.
Rebekah Krieg, an undergraduate studying business administration, communication, and information science and e-society, has been leading the map's second phase of updates since fall 2017. Though Krieg had no experience in geographic information systems and mapping, the chance to get involved with campus sustainability piqued her interest when she saw a job listing for a coordinator to work on the map.
"This whole website drew my attention, and all the different things you can do with it make you realize how much sustainable activity goes on here on campus," she said.
Since taking the position, Krieg has built on Wadsworth's earlier efforts, collecting data from units around campus that could then be represented on the map. Much of the data that informed the map's first phase came from campus units such as the Green Fund, Students for Sustainability and the Institute of the Environment.
"It's been kind of a collaborative effort. Different parties have fed a lot into it," McCormick said. "It was just a matter of packaging it the way we wanted to present it on this map."
The second and newest phase of the map, which was finalized and went live on the site in the fall, adds three new layers: people, including UA faculty and students behind the projects; events associated with sustainability efforts; and news, which are links to online articles about sustainability activities. This latest phase of updates was funded through a Green Fund annual grant.
The process of collecting sustainability-related information helped McCormick and Krieg realize that such data has not been standardized and stored in one place – presenting an opportunity for their website to be more than just a map. While the map provides a visual front-end for the data they've collected, they want to make the data itself accessible to others interested in UA sustainability.
"Our hope is that this is an institutional data resource that can be maintained and have some level of authority over time as the go-to place for sustainability data on campus," McCormick said.
Those who are well-versed in the UA's sustainability initiatives will recognize popular projects featured on the map, such as the rooftop garden at the Student Union Memorial Center and the sustainably built Environment and Natural Resources 2 building, as well as programs such as the Athletics zero waste initiative.
With the addition of the people layer, they also might recognize names of the hundreds of faculty and staff from disciplines and units across campus who have been involved with sustainability-related research and other efforts.
"Really the idea is to make connections happen that allow people to get involved and accomplish their projects," McCormick said.
The latest phase also included updates to the look and usability of the site, and making it more user-friendly for desktop web browsers, Krieg said, adding that the first phase of the map had been optimized for mobile browsers.
The team also is asking for feedback on the map via a form on the site – including suggestions for items that should be added.