Partnership Awarded for Raising Environmental Awareness

wood chips that were rounded and carved into with string at the top looking like keychains

An initiative aimed at raising environmental awareness and engagement in Monroe, Michigan, that was born out of a collaboration with MSU’s College of Arts & Letters is now being recognized with the Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Service by MSU’s Office of University Outreach and Engagement.

Kelly Salchow MacArthur, Associate Professor of Graphic Design in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, and two of her students, Larissa Moyer and Malarie French, who both are now graduated from Michigan State University with Graphic Design degrees, worked with the River Raisin Institute of Monroe on an innovative project, called the Resilient Monroe Green Map Initiative.

The goals of the initiative are to introduce green mapping to the local community by focusing on fresh, local food resources and to engage the community to explore the green living as well as the natural and cultural resources of the area, such as the local food, recycling, and eco organizations, in the hopes that they will make thoughtful food and environmental choices. The initiative also seeks to involve children in order to foster the next generation of environmental stewards.

How the Initiative Came to Be

Salchow MacArthur initially reached out to the River Raisin Institute to see how she could work with this environmental group, which is committed to creating a systemic and holistic approach to tackling environmental issues in Michigan by bringing environmental and community organizations together.

“My research and personal interests are connected to environmental concerns,” she said. “For me, this was a way to get my research outside the discipline of graphic design, gallery exhibitions, and design publications, and really get on the ground and contribute to a community through a grassroots effort. It has been incredibly fulfilling.”

We wanted to think outside the box and approach the community needs holistically. The goal to serve the community in diverse ways led to the multipronged approach that became the Resilient Monroe Green Map Initiative.

Dr. Kelly Salchow MacArthur

Through this collaboration, the Resilient Monroe Green Map Initiative was born.

“What I brought to the River Raisin Institute was nonlinear thinking, the challenge of looking beyond what was an expected or common approach to how this problem could be solved, and ways to visually develop and implement those solutions,” Salchow MacArthur said. “We wanted to think outside the box and approach the community needs holistically. The goal to serve the community in diverse ways led to the multipronged approach that became the Resilient Monroe Green Map Initiative.”

Designing and Creating Materials

To help create the deliverables for the initiative, Salchow MacArthur worked with her College of Arts & Letters Undergraduate Research Assistants, Moyer and French, for aid in designing booklets, medallions, and maps.

“The fact that I was able to design for a project involved with promoting sustainable living and protecting the environment was even better because that’s something I’m passionate about,” Moyer said. “I was able to combine two passions together.”

As part of the initiative, a green map of the City of Monroe was created that identifies local eco organizations, wildlife habitats, fishing spots, composting/recycling centers, and fresh, local food resources. The map also includes information on recycling and composting, reusable grocery bags, habitats for pollinators, and guidelines for safe fish eating.

light green map with red dots scattered with a directory on the right hand side
One of the Green Maps created for the iniaitive.

“Green mapping is the practice of identifying and plotting living resources – things that contribute to the culture, community, and the environment within the Green Map icon system,” Salchow MacArthur said. “Putting our surroundings in this context is a simple, yet eye-opening way to reframe how we view our lands and environment, as well as our impact on them. Well beyond intersections, streets, and parks, a green map specifically highlights the things we should all be aware of as participants and as stewards of the natural environment.”

The Resilient Monroe Green Map is available online and was printed, displayed, and distributed within the community as a way to introduce the concept of green mapping and to show how and why green maps are used.

For the younger generation, an interactive “My Green Map” passport booklet was created as an environmental journal and a place to draw their own green maps.

photo of journals with colorful fruits and vegetables on them with a green pencil
My Green Map passport booklets.

“The booklet is a personal journal in which children can record their favorite green places and learn to recognize environmentally beneficial elements of their community,” Salchow MacArthur said. “They observe their yard, street, school, and parks, and start to recognize the good and bad elements in those environments as they draw their own maps of familiar places.”

Plywood medallions also were created to be used on keychains, backpacks, or worn on necklaces. “The medallions are a way to further the reach of this initiative intrinsically through visual communication,” Salchow MacArthur said.

Moyer, who was in charge of designing the medallions, used environmentally responsible birch plywood, and the Kresge Art Center laser cutter to create them.

Moyer, who was in charge of designing the medallions, used environmentally responsible birch plywood and the Kresge Art Center laser cutter to create them.

Taking It to the Community

The Resilient Monroe Green Map Initiative kicked off at the 2018 Monroe County Earth Day Expo held on April 14 at Monroe County Community College. Recipients were introduced to the concept of green mapping, and were encouraged to look at their own yards, neighborhoods, and schools as “mapmakers” searching for environmentally positive aspects within the community.

The Resilient Monroe Green Map materials also were distributed through local schools, libraries, events, and other community organizations.

child writing in a small booklet next to a large green map
Elementary school student writing down some of their favorite green locations in their passport booklets. 

For their efforts, Salchow MacArthur and the River Raisin Institute will be awarded the 2019 Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Service on February 20, 2019.

“This exciting project was highly regarded by the review committee. It exemplifies meaningful engaged scholarship through service developed collaboratively through university-community partnerships, and we were delighted to see it submitted,” stated the review committee from the MSU Office of Outreach and Engagement.

Salchow MacArthur continues to work with the River Raisin Institute, and now the Monroe County Opportunity Program and the Gleaners Community Food Bank have joined in. Their next project is an environmental and health initiative that will utilize green maps to make fresh, local food more accessible to the residents of Monroe County, while addressing food deserts in the area.