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Summer 2008
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Showcasing Sustainability
Map heightens awareness of community practices


Online, interactive mapping helps build consensus in addition to communicating information. This university project promoting sustainability practices is doing both.

An online map funded through a sustainability grant identifies "green features," such as bicycle parking areas, community gardens, and recreation areas, located on the University of Idaho campus and in the surrounding community of Moscow, Idaho.

photo of Liberty Grove
Not only does the Green Map supply current information, it provides historical background on "green sites" such as the Liberty Grove, planted to commemorate the university students who died in World War I.

Set in the foothills of the Bitterroot Mountains in a landscape of rolling fields of wheat, barley, and lentils, Moscow, Idaho, is a community well-known for its support of sustainable practices. The town has a local farmer's market, an extensive network of bike paths, and a popular food co-op.

The University of Idaho is a land-grant university with close ties to the town of Moscow. In keeping with the community's values, the university's faculty, staff, and students are always looking for innovative ways to promote sustainability on campus.

The term sustainability applies to many aspects of campus life: waste management, transportation, consumer behavior, climate change, and the management of resources such as water and energy.

Lack of information is one of the obstacles in promoting sustainability practices. Many university students and new residents don't know where to find a recycling bin or a bicycle rack. They don't know the history of a grove of trees on campus. Green features located in the city or on campus were not shown on any consolidated map or entered in any GIS database.

Increasing Visibility for Green Features

In fall 2007, the University of Idaho Sustainability Center made a request for proposals that would advance campus sustainability. The University of Idaho Sustainability Center was created in 2006 as part of a campus and statewide initiative to move toward greater sustainability practices and increase campus awareness of the importance of sustainability initiatives. Not only has the Sustainability Center funded student-led projects to increase sustainable behaviors and awareness, but the center also supports faculty and staff research endeavors that work toward these green goals.

The University of Idaho's INSIDE Idaho Green Map project received one of these highly sought-after sustainability grants. University of Idaho Library GIS specialist Bruce Godfrey and INSIDE Idaho project director Gail Eckwright pooled their local knowledge and GIS expertise to create an online Green Map of the University of Idaho Moscow campus and surrounding community. The Green Map, located online at, highlights 157 green features such as parks (both dog and human), arboreta, bus routes, recycling venues, bicycle parking, and environmentally friendly buildings such as the University of Idaho power plant.

The University of Idaho Library, through INSIDE Idaho (, has developed many Web mapping applications using Esri software. The Green Map project provided the perfect opportunity for the INSIDE Idaho team to become familiar with ArcGIS Server.

Gathering Green Features

After registering with, project staff members Ed Flathers, Joe Mierzwinski, Benny Husted, and Josh Tomlin, along with Godfrey, created the green points geodatabase feature class using GIS information from University of Idaho Facilities Services and the City of Moscow. Initial green features were limited to public places primarily on the university campus, and data was organized by already-established categories.

To begin creating the actual green points that would show up on the Green Map, INSIDE Idaho staff began with a simple and commonly recognized type of green site on campus: walkway recycling bins. The staff created a point feature class of the locations by georeferencing a PDF of walkway recycling bins. Orthoimagery captured in 2006 at six-inch horizontal resolution was used to position the points.

click to enlarge
The Green Map identifies bicycle parking areas, community gardens, and other green features on the University of Idaho campus and in the city of Moscow, Idaho.

Bicycle parking racks were the next category tackled. An existing feature class of bicycle parking racks was updated using the orthoimagery and staff member knowledge of the campus. A point feature class was created from a City of Moscow parks polygon shapefile using the Feature to Point geoprocessing tool in ArcGIS 9.2.

Additional features were digitized on-screen over high-resolution orthophotography using ArcMap.

In the final process, staff—with the help of university facilities service personnel—added campus and city features for special trees, public forest and natural areas, composting areas, solar energy sites, cleaned-up/rebuilt sites, water recycling, and eco club/organizations. All features were digitized on-screen in ArcMap using 2006 orthoimagery of the University of Idaho campus and the City of Moscow.

Once all point features in the feature class had been added, INSIDE Idaho staff added icon information (licensed from to each feature. Name, appropriate display scale, and category attributes and a brief description were also added. The scale attribute allowed for the creation of label classes so icon display could be restricted to specific scales. The spatial and tabular data is maintained using ArcMap.

Designing for Interactivity

Simplicity was the major consideration in designing the geodatabase and Web application. As the staff moved through the planning and implementation phase of the Green Map, they kept the intended user in mind. They envisioned Green Map users as average members of the public: students and citizens who were interested in the green features of the community and campus but were not necessarily familiar with GIS. Consequently, INSIDE Idaho staff kept the Web interface as clean, colorful, and uncomplicated as possible while still providing detailed historical information about sustainable sites in the area.

Web application development was done using Esri's ArcGIS Server .NET Web ADF. Project staff implemented map tips to allow Green Map users to display information when hovering over a green icon, and a fused map cache was also built to increase the speed of the Web application.

Map users can access short descriptions of each green feature or more detailed information about green sites. For example, a short description might tell what kind of recycling options are available at a site. For a local park, such as East City Park, the map provides information about the Renaissance Fair that takes place there each May.

The INSIDE Idaho staff also used Esri's ArcGIS Server .NET Web ADF to create a map option that allows any user to mark a point on the map and submit a comment about an existing or new green feature of the town or the university campus. With this map option, members of the community who have a green roof or an organic vegetable garden from which they sell produce can submit their green practice or green site to project staff at any time. This functionality creates an interactive and collaborative picture of Moscow and the University of Idaho's sustainability practices.

This is a powerful way to communicate that fosters community mapping. Residents can shape the content of the map. "We hope that everyone can get something out of the Green Map," said Eckwright. "It is a different kind of map. With the community's help, it will continue to grow."

Seeing Green

With the creation of the Green Map, university students and citizens of Moscow have an organized way to learn about the sustainability practices of their campus and their community. But in addition to making this information quickly available, the Green Map lets long-time citizens, university staff, faculty, and students see their surroundings in a new way.

The campus contains many hidden green stories that Green Map brings to light. For example, in 1911 United States President Theodore Roosevelt planted the first tree in the university's Presidential Grove. The grove includes trees planted by former President William Howard Taft and Eleanor Roosevelt and has been visited by numerous dignitaries. The Liberty Grove, planted on Memorial Day in 1919, commemorates the 32 University of Idaho students who lost their lives in World War I.

With the creation of the Green Map, the community now has a repository for these and other important pieces of local green history that will be accessible for years to come.

"With today's focus on environmental efficiency, the green map project allows us to identify and recognize local contributors to that goal," said Flathers, INSIDE Idaho's lead developer.

Looking to the Future

In keeping with the collaborative nature of the project, Green Map's creators envision that undergraduate and/or graduate students will have a role in maintaining the point feature class and expanding the functionality of the Green Map Web application. Long-term maintenance of the site will also hinge on the relationship between INSIDE Idaho and the University of Idaho Facilities Services because Green Map staff will need to be notified when campus green sites are changed in any way.

Eckwright, Godfrey, Flathers, and the rest of the INSIDE Idaho staff hope to add more green features and enhance the site's functionality using ArcGIS Server 9.3 if additional funding for the project is secured.

For more information, contact

Bruce Godfrey, GIS Specialist
University of Idaho Library
Tel.: 208-241-1907
Gail Eckwright, INSIDE Idaho Administrator

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