Databases Working For the Environment

We love technology projects that work to support social change and community efforts.

Jordan Ramos, one of our newest team members, is working on a database and mapping project to support environmental sustainability in the Santa Cruz community of California.

Below is our chat with Jordan about his project. He is thinking out loud with you to give an introduction to his idea and an insider look of the steps to start a community-based technology project.

Things are surely going to morph and change as new information and developments happen. We invite you to read to get to know him and please get involved if you are interested. Just email

What’s the name of your project?

I’m calling it the Santa Cruz Green Business Database just to give it a straight-forward name I can refer to it as. However, this will certainly change over time.

How long have you been working on the project?

Since June 2013.

Who’s supporting the project?

I’m working with the Global Information Internship Program at the University of California Santa Cruz. Hasnain Nazar from GIIP is assisting with the logistics and project support.

What are you trying to create?

Essentially, I would love to create a collection of richly detailed information about organizations, nonprofits, and businesses in Santa Cruz area and their environmental efforts or actions.

The database will be a resource for those interested in transparency of environmental actions of certain businesses or organizations, especially businesses that might not have “environmental” certification or go beyond the certification.

I want environmentally-minded consumers to be able to rank and compare the environmental actions of the businesses to support there consumer decisions.

What’s the progress of the project?

I’ve been in the process of populating a database list of verifiably ‘green’ businesses in the area, and environmental organizations.

Also, I’ve been working on some sort of tangible scale to rank them on different criteria. Although, I am still working on that because it a fairly complex task.

What made you interested in this project? Why do you think it matters?

At my time in Santa Cruz as a student, this was a much needed resource that didn’t exist. I’m assuming primarily environmentally-minded students will use the database. But, it can be a much needed resource for any form of activism.

Does anything like this exist in Santa Cruz?

No, I don’t think so. There are many websites that list environmental organizations and others that list green certification, but they are all fairly fragmented, incomplete, or out of date.

What is the next step vision?

I’m still working on gathering data and the technology selection. Hopefully, we can create an easily-searchable webpage with the data and also present the data on a filterable map.

I could use people to help crowdsource data. It is arduous collecting large amounts of information, especially to be accurate. For this reason, I may try and open the platform up for community data collection similar to a Wiki or OpenStreetMaps.

There will also be a form for organizations and businesses to self-identify themselves, which could then be verified and approved.

What are questions you still have?

It would be nice to hear from people how they would use a service like this or a resource like this.

I’m still working on the idea of, “How do you compare different forms of environmentalism?” It is hard to compare subjective things in an objective way, especially in different industries.

‘In theory they recycle, but do they recycle everything they’re supposed to? Having 6000 solar panels is objective, but how do you compare that to recycling or using low flow toilets?’

There are still a lot of questions about the ranking system and how to make a scale from that.

What have you learned?

Difficult to figure out where to start.

I used some of the skills and knowledge I gained from past projects that worked and looked at projects and models that are roughly similar. I came up with some of the categories based on previous projects based on mapping homeless resources in Santa Cruz with GIIP.

What can we expect to hear next?

I should have some new partners joining me to help compile data and actually get a portal to get this set up.

On the technology side, you can expect to see a map and searchable database. Then, I’d like to share it out to have people test.

I’m interested to have things to compare to or people to bounce ideas off of. Please email me if want to hear more or get involved.

Thanks Jordan! We’re looking forward to what’s to come in the next couple of months.

Until next time