Geographic Information Systems Applications in Sustainability

Technology is one of the most important and pivotal drivers in human advancement, sustainability included. Technology has given a generation of sustainable practitioners a new outlet for improving the field. With the technological age growing in significance in the upcoming years, there is no doubt an obligation for practitioners in the field to learn about the most important forms of technology. Only through this will practitioners be able to really unlock the potential for advancement.
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Example of GIS applied.  Image via

One of these forms of technology is Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Due to the widespread adoption of this technology, an understanding of how GIS can be implemented into the field of sustainability is a strong asset. Even today, GIS is making an impact already.  Thanks to the technology, the field is given the assets of accuracy, depth, and unprecedented prediction.

Using Geographic Information Systems in Sustainability

GIS is a technology that allows multiple forms of data to be displayed, captured, stored, and analyzed. Through the use of applying data to maps, it gives anybody who uses it the ability to analyze data in depth. Often, this date is applied to locations over a certain area. GIS maps let users track and study trends, patterns, and anything that may give one an edge to understand and interpret data. Its use is flexible and varies from field to field, which is a testament to its use and diversity of application.

True to its status as a diverse application, GIS applications in sustainability are extremely useful. The EPA themselves utilizes its benefits. According to the EPA, their use for GIS is analyzing the relationship between natural resources and the populations that utilize it. With their analysis, the EPA has been able to gather useful data from many regions.  The EPA has much to offer in regards to GIS and sustainability; their National Geospatial Program provides grants, data, application, and much more.

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GIS displaying land use data.  Image via

Given that the college career is required to mold future employees in the sustainability field, many universities are pushing education in regards to GIS. Almost every college that offers courses on sustainability and related fields will offer education for GIS. Aside from education, college programs also have the tendency to offer opportunities for training, such as internships.  Effectively, colleges are molders of future minds, and those colleges in turn are doing their part to prepare all future employers for the application of GIS.

GIS Applications in Sustainability

Due to the fact that GIS is already used a healthy amount, most reasonably sized cities will be utilizing GIS to aid the sustainability process. If a department has or deals with sustainability, there is undoubtedly some form of GIS being applied to their planning methods. Many internships offered by cities for positions related to sustainability require some knowledge of GIS.  It’s safe to say that this requirement of knowledge will only be more frequent as time goes on.  This also applies to businesses that provide sustainable solutions. There’s a large chance that those businesses will require knowledge of GIS to achieve the sustainable solutions they provide. In short, all future employers of sustainability owe it to themselves to have an understanding of GIS technology and its role in the field.
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Example of GIS used in sustainability.  Image via

Esri is a company that provides systems and information pertaining to Geographic Information Systems. Due to their large involvement with GIS, it’s no surprise that they push the benefits of GIS as it’s used to find sustainable solutions. There are numerous case studies provided by Esri that illustrates the many ways GIS is aiding the sustainability process. “Sustainable development” and “preservation and use of natural resources” examples are provided by their own website, and every single case study they offer is highly worth looking into. Their case studies provide solutions to numerous sustainability issues, including urban sprawl, open space conservation, and the human network itself.

About The Author

Alex Ageno earned his degree in Urban Planning in 2013 from Arizona State University. Alex's interests in Urban Planning include Urban Design, Sustainability, Form Based Codes, Zoning, and Environmental Planning. He resides in Arizona.