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Green Maps - positive community collaboration

Updated: May 6

The Gouda Greenmap in the Netherlands, one of the first clickable maps on the WWW.

Print Green Guide with directory for the Gouda Greenmap

At this wintery time of year, I'm finding more time for reflection. We are still suffering from the pandemic here in the UK and especially after the recent COP26 held in Glasgow (November 2021), when many of the resolutions have proven in effect to be toothless, things could feel dark.

However, there were many hopeful, practical, community changing events brought into the spotlight at COP26 and here is one of them! After 25 years of green community mapping, the Green Map system has gone from strength to strength and this was highlighted in a webinar with Wendy Brawer and current green map makers at Glasgow. I developed one of the very first interactive (clickable) Green Maps on the World Wide Web way back in 1996 and continued to update and enhance the burgeoning graphics interface for the next three years. Here's an overview of how it happened.

The Gouda map was developed in a few months at the end of 1996 by me and Frits Van de Laan who was a member of a local Friends of the Earth (FOE) group. The FOE group gave a small grant for the printing of a paper version of the map along with a directory of local green services, while the Municipal Council supportively shared city map data. I had geographic information system mapping (GIS) experience, so I was able to take the map data and convert it into one of the first clickable maps on the WWW for the Green Map project.

Although a city paper map had been provided by the Council, creating a digital version by scanning it was not successful because the subtle map colours did not display with enough contrast on the screen, (back then there were only 16 widely understood colour names in HTML’s graphic user interface).

One of the first clickable pages for the Gouda Green Map

Using mapping software, I re-drew the map and then added new layers of information using the latest available version of HTML (3.2), with ‘Frames’ and ‘Map’ elements that allowed clickable hyperlinks to the visual map. Frits discovered a glitch in the very first version of the Green Map’s Icon symbology, but we resolved the problems in the Green Map Font and 25 of the icons were incorporated with graphic editing software.

Green Map icons used in the printed Gouda guide

At the time the Gouda map and the Greenmap system were pioneering, using the latest software specification from the W3C and those long forgotten versions of the very early web browsers - Netscape 3 and Internet Explorer 3. Wendy Brawer who is a founding pioneer of the Green Map system and who still oversees the Green Map's development has said: "At Green Map's New York office, we were so excited to see [that] this new thing, 'interactivity', would work!"

Twenty five year's on, it is inspiring to see how many communities and countries have been involved since then, motivating and supporting local people to recognise the positive steps they can make and have made; as well as drawing attention, very clearly, on their local green maps, to the hazards and environmental challenges they have yet to overcome.

To think global but act local, here is how you can get involved in creating a Green Map for your local area:

I wrote the short overview above about Gouda, the first interactive map for the Green Map system:

Thumbnails used for the Gouda Green Map in The Netherlands
Thumbnails for Gouda Green Map

The Green Map system webinar presentation at COP26, with information from five countries who were making Green Maps:

Email exchange on the problems of creating the first clickable map between Michelle and Fritz Van De Laan in 1996:


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