You are here: How a Greenmap gives you the keys of your city

Earmarked in a bigger project and the worldwide action of Cities Foundation, We own the city contest aims to break down boundaries of conventional practices, while spotlighting the innovative potential of bottom-up initiatives in sustainable urban development, so as to catalyze discussion and capitalize on debate. This is also the red line guiding the publication of We Own the City in May 2014.

When reading the submission guidelines, I wanted to share one of the most useful tools a foreigner like me can find when coming to a city, a Greenmap.

Following the example of the Greenmap of New York, green mapping has spread to several French cities, including mine, Rennes. In the capital of French Brittany, associations have named theirs Carte-Ou-Verte, a tongue twister meaning both Greenmap and Map-or-Green. So as not to get lost neither in translation nor in the city, I think. Very important when you are a foreigner and don’t speak much French. Hopefully, I do.

But, what’s a Greenmap? How does it work? Is it useful for urban development? These are the questions that this post intends to answer in the framework of the competition.

Think global, get local” seems nowadays common sense. However, when faced with everyday choices, the average citizen (and even me) feels limited. How can s/he get a greener attitude without spending much more money and time?

What is a greenmap?

The first Greenmap was born in New York in 1992. The idea is simple, guiding (new) population to the greenest resources available through a map. Afterwards, several cities around the world have repeated the experience and created e-maps that list their sustainable initiatives; many of them are named today under a social innovation label. Now growing rapidly online and taking advantage of shareware and free software, the movement has reached world scale.

How does it work?

Together is a key word. In Rennes, the bottom-up dimension was essential. The associations working in sustainability where already working together at the House of Consumption and Environment when they decided to create a Greenmap for Rennes and the neighboring shire of Vitré (any clue on how to translate the french “pays” or the Spanish “comarca”? No? OK, shire will stay)

This citizen’s initiative is currently driven by a working group, where associations like Rayons d’Action, Espace Piéton, Gulliver, Bretagne-Vivante and Ivine lead the tool, supported by other actors like Réso Solidaire and the Local Agency for Climate.

Implementing the three dimensions of sustainability (economic, social and environmental), the map lists the following resources:

  1. – Alternative ways of transport
  2. – Information and social participation
  3. – Consumption
  4. – Barter and second-hand
  5. – Waste and recycling
  6. – Solidarity
  7. – Energy and resources management
  8. – Gardening
  9. – Urban Biodiversity

In addition, once the map is open, a pop-up shows all the events going on, so it is also useful as a citizen’s agenda.

Does it contribute to urban development?

Quoting common knowledge again, all policy makers agree on striving for sustainable urban development. So we should analyze Carte-Ou-Verte in this view.

Green is not just a label in this project. It is a requirement, a way of action and a result. As a requirement, to be listed, every resource has to prove an environmentally-friendly approach. As a way of action, the map seeks the promotion and the facilitation of attitudes which are more respectful with the environment. As result, the final aim is to achieve a critical mass of conscious and pro-active citizens actively reducing their carbon footprint.

Since the green map creates community, the social and economic dimensions are closely interlinked. As it ensures the continuity of traditional trades, it fosters employment and proximity. Guiding inhabitants to resources enhances city’s way of life, thus fighting against desertion of the centers and the neighborhoods to commuter towns and peripheral stores. In this sense, individualism is tackled by the joint use of resources, from the alternative modes of transport to collective events. Activities also aim for intergenerational exchanges and democratic participation. As a foreigner, I may say that it also facilitates integration. For instance, when I started in a new house, I’ve found furniture, books and friends at Saint Martin’s market, pictured above.

In conclusion, projects like the Rennes Greenmap give back the city to its inhabitants, as they are also allowed to list the resources they have found. The goal of the above-mentioned associations is to enhance identification between the sustainable resources and the citizens, making the society able to own the city.

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