Breaking Down Barriers, Backed by Data: The EnviroAtlas Interactive Map
For a lot of organizations, it can be difficult to know exactly who is in the communities they serve or to identify who they might be missing in current programming or outreach efforts. While there’s a lot of data out there, it can be intimidating and time-consuming to start digging through census databases or other large-scale datasets, especially when it comes to navigating geospatial tools.
Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designed a set of interactive tools to help make this process a little bit more approachable. The EnviroAtlas Interactive Map is a user-friendly geospatial database that can help community organizations understand more about the natural and human environments in which they work. Even better, the EnviroAtlas Interactive Map is free and requires no special software or login information to use. Through EnviroAtlas, you can learn about everything from basic demographics of different neighborhoods like income and racial breakdown to the walkability level and number of farmers markets. You can also find environmental data on pollutant levels, species richness, and protected land boundaries all by zooming in on an area of interest and easily adding different layers to the map.
One interesting data layer available through the map is related to linguistically isolated households, or homes where there are no individuals over the age of fourteen who speak English well. Learning about linguistically isolated households in local communities can help organizations reach families that may have been overlooked in the past because of English-only outreach efforts or a lack of translation services at public programs.
While navigating EnviroAtlas might sound overwhelming because of the depth of information available, it is designed with non-technical users in mind. Features are clearly labeled and the EPA has several tutorial videos and training tools embedded into the program. This EPA infographic is also a great reference point for visual learners to get started with EnviroAtlas.
We can’t hope to have culturally-responsive or socially-relevant organizations if we don’t first understand who makes up the communities we’re serving and what their daily environment is like. It can be tough to start collecting the data that allows for better informed decision making, but EnviroAtlas is one place to begin that journey that gives access to lots of information without the headache of navigating complicated geospatial programs. Striving for equity and inclusion means acknowledging the systems in place that make certain spaces and activities inaccessible to some community members. Data from EnviroAtlas can show you what some of those invisible barriers might be so you can start working towards knocking them down.
Interested in learning more about EnviroAtlas? To contact the EnviroAtlas team directly, email EnviroAtlas@epa.gov.