Detroit: A Model for Visualizing Sustainability

How do you envision sustainability? What does it actually look like? Detroit has a really cool tool for just that!

When I think of sustainability, my mind often drifts to greener products, forests, or animals, but in Detroit the Office of Sustainability has created a sustainable feedback map that allows residents to voice their sustainability ideas and for the community to vote the ideas up or down and add to them. According to an article written by Emily Nonko and published by Next City:

The office decided on a holistic approach engaging residents on everything from housing to green space to energy bills to waste and air quality. It set a goal to engage with at least 7,000 Detroiters, a number surpassed in this year’s online and offline process.

The article goes on to say that the Detroit Office of Sustainability is less than two years old and runs on a staff of three. Office of Sustainability Director Joel Howrani Heeres mentions that matters of sustainability were thought through by residents and city agencies, they just never unified and focused on the same purpose. Director Heeres noted that:

We have myriad challenges that are different than a lot of other cities that have been the vanguard of sustainability.

What I love is the use of technology to create a grassroots movement throughout the city concerning sustainability and sustainable initiatives. Using a digital map to visualize where the feedback is originating and what the impact of the change could be is incredibly powerful. Apparently:

The digital map — and the invitation to leave feedback on it — is the result of a partnership with coUrbanize, a tech startup founded out of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning. Co-founder Karin Brandt, previously a city planner, got the idea after realizing many community engagement processes weren’t attracting diverse audiences, but rather only attracted residents more likely opposed to change.

According to Karin Brant, the Co-founder of coUrbanize: “In terms of community engagement, tech is a really important solution to supplement the existing process, but I don’t think it replaces it.”

I couldn't agree more and love this application and the good it will do. Visualizing sustainability can be so important if we want to make a change in the world. Kudos to the City of Detroit, the Office of Sustainability, coUrbanize, and most importantly, the Detroiters who are pushing to make a difference in their own community!

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. How do you engage in sustainability?

Q2. What are a few things you could do to be more sustainable?

Q3. How can you get engaged in sustainability initiatives in your community?

#EHS #Sustainability #Detroit