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Networked-Neighborhoods for Eco-Conservation

Year Awarded: 2008
Awarded: $481,000
Team Leader:  Michigan State University
Tel: 517-353-3742
Email: bartholi@msu.edu

This project developed and tested a new approach to “networking” individual environmental improvement activities on a neighborhood level in order to achieve results that matter at local and regional scales. Networked Neighborhoods for Eco-conservation or NECO; www.networkedneighbors.org, is a web-based application that uses mapping and social networking concepts to stimulate the adoption of green practices focused on slowing or capturing stormwater, and to track their implementation in communities across the Great Lakes region. The idea behind this is that while a single individual practice, such as creating a rain garden, may seem inconsequential, these practices can collectively have a significant impact if they are adopted across an entire watershed. NECO provides a way for individual participants to monitor their own actions and effectiveness, as well as those of their neighbors, via the Internet. Ultimately, NECO will foster friendly competitions within and among Great Lakes communities to conserve water, manage runoff and adopt watershed improvement activities.

NECO allows users the ability to map environmental improvement practices, add photos, visualize activities in their neighborhoods, and share practices with others with over 50 social information sharing tools. Users can calculate the volumes of water managed, and other environmental benefits provided by their practices. Other features include a Star Awards program, Top 10 Most Liked Practices, and a ‘group’ function that allows users to add themselves to existing groups or create new ones that will promote friendly competition. NECO also scans the Weather Underground website for alerts of severe storm events so users can lessen negative impacts at those times.

The team partnered with neighborhood organizations (West Michigan Environmental Action Council, West Michigan Strategic Alliance, Toledo Ohio Rain Garden Initiative, and the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network) to install and track green practices in Grand Rapids, MI; Toledo, OH; an 8-county region in west Michigan; and Racine, WI.