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Ecomapping – the environmental Starter kit

"Traveler, there are no paths.
Paths are made by walking."

Australian Aboriginal saying

 

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What is Ecomapping ?

Ecomapping is a creative tool that helps small companies to implement environmental management , ISO 14001 and EMAS. This visual and practical tool helps SME managers and employees to analyse and manage the environmental performance of small companies and craft industries.

The purpose of Ecomapping 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, community centre to create an understanding of an organisation's current environmental situation.

Ecomapping 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, Ecomapping can serve as the basis for a wider environmental management system.

Ecomapping has several functions as :

  • an inventory of environmental practices and problems ;
  • a systematic method of conducting an on-site environmental review and audit ;
  • a tool that allows employee involvement and participation ;
  • a support for training and awareness, and to assist with internal and external communication ;
  • an easy way to document and track environmental improvements ;
  • a catalogue of immediate small positive actions.

The basic Ecomapping process

Ecomapping is scanning environmental impacts, problems and practice in SME 's in a participatory process of learning and gathering systematically useful environmental information within the physical reality of the shop floor and not only in the books. This toolbox gives instructions to create maps in order to facilitate and visualize environmental problems ("hot spots") within a company. The Different maps (water, energy, air, wastes) create a useful multi layer set of graphical information and lead immediately to environmental action programs.

As 80 % of environmental information is location based and the Ecomaps show what is happen and where in terms of environmental protection. Ecomapping is a toolbox and its ten working steps are leading into - and enriching the next one. The Work is partly done in the office, mainly on the shop floor.. It helps and assists in understanding environmental problems, materials flows ,opinions and problem perception of workers and work processes in 10 steps.

Ecomapping : Step by Step


1 "The Urban map "and sector specific environmental problems and legislation

2 Material flows and a rough evaluation what is going in an d out and the environmental qualification of the products

3 Workers opinion pool and implication

4 5 6 7 8 9 Six site "Ecomaps "with specific environmental topics

10 Data Integration, indicators and Micro reporting



Step 1 The SME in the city : the overall situation

Mapping of the site, including car parks, access areas, roads and the surrounding environment. Analysis of legal situation and sector specific impacts, conflicts with neighbors

Step 2 What is going in and out ?

Identification of Material flows and their very nature and planning of the initial review work followed by fine-tuning of some aspects like storage, health risk resource use.

Step 3 The 120 second mini audit

Workers are adults with experience, opinions and ideas. They will be involved from the start with a 120 second audit to sense what they think and how do they feel with respect to environmental problems on the shop-floor. This will highlight specific problems and influence the further assessment on the shop floor


Steps 4 5 6 7 8 9 Map out the environmental problems

The objective is to observe and evaluate personal behavior and state of equipment. The Eco maps should show the real situation of the shop floor they should be simple, recognizable and in proportion. They should have a date, a name and a reference. Sitemaps are the outline of the site with two or three significant equipment's or architectural items to help orient straight away in the site (e.g. machines, boilers, etc.).

During the observation tour problems are discussed identified and judged in their significance


Step 10 Integrate , manage and communicate

During the process the participants will discover information deficits but also decide on environmental steps and actions to implement . This relevant information will be put in the appropriate "cases "and files.

Environmental indicators and very lean reporting will help the small SME to be well informed but as well be able to dialogue with all other stakeholders like the marketplace or public administrations.


Conclusion

Eco-mapping can be called as "Environmental Management Light" and can serve to help with an initial review to implement ISO 14001 and EMAS. It is:

  • an inventory of environmental practices and problems,
  • a systematic and participatory method of conducting an on-site environmental review,
  • a collection of information which shows the current situation using pictures,
  • a work and awareness-raising tool,
  • a do-it-yourself tool for SMEs,
  • a tool which allows employee involvement and participation.
Ecomapping : Benefits, limitations and Resources

The potential benefits of Ecomapping
  • Eco-mapping allows an organisation to easily visualise the origins of environmental impacts at its premises ;
  • The tool is free and can be used inexpensively ;
  • It can be used to encourage all employees to become involved in embedding environmental changes and thinking across the organisation's personnel and 'on site' activities. Anyone in the organisation can use the tool to support their work and training ;
  • Raises awareness, by providing an easy-to-understand visual representation of the seriousness and geographical impact of environmental behaviour and management;
  • Provides a systematic review for wide ranging environmental issues ;
  • Can be used regularly to instill continuous improvement ;
  • Can provide a method for communicating environmental assurance to stakeholders.
  • Ecomapping can provide a base upon which to seek other environmental standards such as ISO 14000 and EMAS - the Eco-management Audit Scheme regulation or other enviroonmental management system.

What are the limitations of the system?

  • Can be perceived as not being serious or formal enough for larger organisations ;
  • It is less strong on determining risks and future challenges and trends while focusing on direct aspects;
  • It is more difficult to use for a site that covers a large area ;
  • It focuses on site premises and so may be difficult for organisations that work at multiple sites or in a more diverse set of places ;
  • It deals with environmental impact only, and does not focus on social or economic impacts, except when they are concerned directly with the environment.

What resources are needed?

Leadership
Anyone can lead on conducting the Ecomapping exercise though it is best if the tool has the support of the entire organisation, including management so that changes can be implemented and risks addressed.

Proficiencies or skills
The tool is very simple to use, though an ability to draw a relatively simple map from which to work will be beneficial. An existing site map or blueprint could also be used. Knowledge of the site under review will help to facilitate the process.

Staff time
My experience with Eco-mapping suggests that less than one hour of work for each map will be required. Approximately 8 days per year will be sufficient time to implement ,maintain and document the tool on the recommended yearly basis.


From Ecomapping to the lean EMS systems

But Ecomapping as such is not an EMS following in all details the PDCA cycle.

New elements had to be developed to transform the work process into a compliant and functioning EMS according to ISO 14OO1 and the EU EMAS regulation and move Ecomapping from Baseline assessment to the logic of an  environmental management system. This new module is EMASeasy.


Heinz Werner Engel has served a number of Organizations worldwide
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