By Erin Allday
San Francisco, CA (April 22, 2009)- San Francisco residents will get their first peek today at an inventive Internet-based tool that lets them track their personal carbon footprint and gauge how green their neighborhood is compared with the rest of the city.
The Web site at UrbanEcoMap.org was built by Cisco Systems engineers using information such as trash collection, recycling rates, and hybrid-car ownership to break down energy consumption and other environmental factors by Zip code. For example, the map shows that Mayor Gavin Newsom’s neighborhood has the 10th lowest level of overall carbon emissions.
The interactive technology won’t be available to San Francisco users until mid-May, but residents can check out a video that explains the Web site and how to use it starting today. “We hear so much about climate change, but the challenge is either so abstract or so big that consumers don’t know what they can really do,” said Wolfgang Wagener, director of the connected urban development program for Cisco. “The ecomap provides citizens with concrete, tangible access to information and resources with relevance to their daily life.”
San Francisco is the first city in the world to take advantage of the ecomap technology. Amsterdam and Seoul will follow sometime this year. The maps will be updated regularly as part of a 12-month pilot project paid for by Cisco, which plans to transform the site to nonprofit status sometime in 2010.
The Web site has been in development for about two years, said Jared Blumenfeld, director of the San Francisco environment department. While Cisco designed the Internet platform for displaying the information and making the Web site interactive, city officials collected vast amounts of information from state and local resources that could be added to the map to create a more accurate carbon footprint for each neighborhood.
The site is divided into sections that break down carbon emissions by type- whether they come from transportation, energy use, or waste- as well as an overall picture. Users are encouraged to look at specific information for their Zip code and then find ways to improve the carbon footprint. A section on the Web site will help them find ways to bike to work, for example, or save energy by hanging clothes to dry. There are even tools to help them map a bike route with the fewest hills or find a buddy to ride to work with.
“The holy grail of the intersection between the Web and the environment is to get real data that people can use to make decisions,” Blumenfeld said.
It’s not just individuals who can take advantage of the Web site, Blumenfeld said. City officials are already fascinated by some of the trends they’ve seen on the ecomap and will likely use the information there to effect policy change. “I would never have guessed there are such big differences between neighborhoods,” Blumenfeld said. “From a government perspective, it’s our job to find out how we can serve people better.”
San Francisco Chronicle- Net tool tracks carbon footprint by ZIP code
Urban Forest Map Project