The purpose of Eco-mapping is to provide small companies and organisations with a free, visual, simple and practical tool to analyse and manage their environmental behaviour. It involves making a map of an organisation’s site, for example, a shop floor, a workshop, an office, a community centre to create an understanding of an organisation’s current environmental situation.
Eco-mapping is not a goal in itself, but a process framework that helps to define and prioritise environmental problems and issues to act upon. Once completed, Eco-mapping can serve as the basis for a wider environmental management system.
The first step involves drawing a map of an organisation’s site, as seen from above. This includes access areas, roads and the immediate surrounding environment. This is called an ‘urban situation’ map and is used twice. A simple, recognisable map of the internal site is then drawn to-scale to show the interior spaces. This is used six times.
An organisation’s environmental situation and problems are then drawn onto these copies to create eight ‘eco-maps’. These map copies reflect:
- Urban situation: situates the organisation’s site in its wider spatial context.
- Nuisances: looks at external environmental ‘nuisances’ that affect people: noise, odours and waste storage.
- Water: looks at the organisation’s consumption of water and discharge of waste water.
- Soil: looks at the storage of flammable, dangerous or hazardous products in relation to groundwater.
- Air, odours, noise, dust: looks at all the points of emissions and the functioning of equipment inside an organisation.
- Energy: looks at consumption of energy and its impacts.
- Waste: looks at management and prevention of waste.
- Risks: identifies risks of accidents and pollution.
For each eco-map framework, two symbols are used to map the environmental issues:
- Hatched lines for ‘a small problem to be monitored’
- A circle for a large problem for corrective action (the more serious a problem, the thicker the circle)
If an organisation wishes, it may develop its own symbols to draw onto the maps.
For each of the eight maps, the Eco-map Brochure explains the review process. It suggests possible environmental issues and problems that the organisation compiling the maps should draw using the symbols, as well as documents, estimates and data that can be used to help with thinking about which issues to map. Also included is a list of questions to ask when conducting the review and useful information such as how to calculate the pollution generated by an organisation’s vehicles.
The first two maps (Urban situation, Nuisances) give an indication of an organisation’s environmental situation in a wider spatial context. For example, for the Nuisances map, it suggests drawing points of discharge into the air, sources of noise and odours, and areas of storage of waste and hazardous products. This means an organisation has to think about its ventilation, bins, noise and overall energy use.
The next six maps deal with the internal space of the organisation’s site. For example, the Energy eco-map requires the organisation to draw the location of machinery or computers, useless lighting and where there are areas of heat loss. It seeks to help an organisation consider its energy consumption and what it can do to be more efficient.
Once all of these maps have been drawn, they can be copied onto overhead transparencies and placed on top of each other. This helps to clearly identify the areas on an organisation’s premises or site with environmental priorities. Action is then taken on problems surrounded by thick circles, with priority given to issues that affect worker health and safety. The areas of potential problems to be monitored – denoted by the hatch symbols – can be followed up after the immediate concerns and solutions have been dealt with. These actions are at the discretion of the organisation itself although the Eco-mapping Brochure provides some guidance on each issue.
Eco-mapping was originally developed for small to medium-sized businesses, but any organisation in any field can use the tool effectively. Larger organisations might use this as a starting point before moving on to a more intensive approach, such as EMAS.
Development, ownership and support
Eco-mapping is a copyrighted tool developed by Heinz-Werner Engel as part of the International Network for Environmental Management (INEM) initiative, EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit) Toolkit for SMEs. The Eco-mapping tool should not be repackaged for profit-making purposes without the express written consent of Mr Engel. It is a shareware process and organisations are encouraged to report their experience to feed histories into the tool’s continuous improvement loop.
Eco-mapping is available free of charge to interested individuals, companies, organisations and local authorities for personal use.
The International Network for Environmental Management (INEM) also provides some information on Eco-mapping and its use as part of further environmental quality and impact work.