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Launched in 2008, the Office of Sustainability is an internally funded strategy organization focused on instituting sustainability best practices into Atlanta city government and the community so that every new environmental activity, program, or policy is screened and evaluated according to its economic and social impact..
As a first step in this culture shift, Atlanta was compared with other cities in best practices research for sustainability, and the research indicated that Atlanta is already implementing more than a third of what needs to be done. To reach the city’s full potential, the Office of Sustainability is working with departments across city government to improve current programs and policies and implement new ones.
Here’s a sampling of what’s in the works:
- Parks and Greenspace – The Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs is to provide all residents and visitors with the highest quality parks, facilities, recreational programs and cultural experiences. Introduced in 2005, the Greenspace and Recreation Opportunity Bond provides $105 million in bonds for land acquisition, new recreation amenities, and badly needed infrastructure improvements. In addition, greenspace and bike trails will be added along the BeltLine project. For more information about the efforts of the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs, click here.
- Lighting Retrofits and Building Efficiency – The City is switching to more energy efficient indoor and outdoor lighting, including LED traffic lights which use 80 percent less energy. Building efficiency practices are mandating lighting sensors, improving the maintenance system, installing automatic sensory faucets and setting citywide policies on temperature settings.
- Green Building – The City has passed an ordinance requiring all new city construction and major renovations to be Silver-LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Two examples under design and construction are the new Public Safety Headquarters and the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. To view the city’s green building ordinance, click here. Additionally, the City reuses and rehabilitates existing buildings to support neighborhood revitalization. For instance, the Atlanta Development Authority and BeltLine offices by Underground Atlanta are located in what was once the Block Candy Factory.
- Water Conservation – Atlanta’s water/sewer infrastructure improvement program mandated by the federal consent decree is on time and on budget, and has already improved operational performance, including reducing the number of spills by two-thirds; tripling the number of asphalt repairs; doubling the number of catch basins cleaned; and increasing the number of leak repairs from 750 per year to 800 per month. For more information about the Department of Watershed Management’s water conservation efforts, click here.
- Recycling – The City has a recycling program for all single-family homes and major city buildings and mandates recycling for all large events in city parks. The City also has a hazardous materials collection program in which e-waste and fluorescent light tubes are recycled. As a part of the City’s Demolition Waste Recycling program, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport recycles everything on demolition and new construction sites. For more information about the Department of Public Work’s recycling efforts, click here.
- Paper Use Reduction –The Department of Planning and Community Development has an automated Electronic Plan Review process eliminating paper and storage and reducing necessary travel. Also, City Hall is undergoing an effort to decrease the amount of junk mail by cancelling subscriptions and reduce the amount of returned mail by purging mailing lists, and more and more field staff across city departments are using computers rather than paper.
- Green Procurement –Though the City is already meeting EPA standards for its use of green products and a new green cleaning policy ordinance, alternative materials are being considered for all new procurement. City Hall’s cafeteria is working towards replacing all its Styrofoam cups and containers with alternative materials.
- Green Fleet – Atlanta is reducing the size of its fleet, revoking take-home policies, and launching a shared car program. Additionally, the City is seeking more fuel-efficient cars in new purchases and is applying for a grant to buy alternative fuels for its diesel fleet.
- Commute Alternatives Program – The City is working with the Clean Air Campaign and the downtown TMA to promote programs such as commuter rewards, RideSmart, and teleworking. The City also subsidizes MARTA fares for its employees and conducts various outreach events such as “Walk Day”.
- Outdoor and Landscape Greening – In 2003, the City of Atlanta built the first municipal green roof in the Southeast. The City Hall roof is a pilot program intended to raise awareness of green roofs and demonstrate the possibilities of incorporating them into Atlanta’s urban landscape. Additionally:
- Most major city parks have an onsite compost facility for used yard waste, and various locations collect Christmas trees for chipping as mulch.
- All new city landscaping incorporates native and drought-tolerate plants.
- Eleven new playgrounds were installed in 2007 by a certified environmentally-responsible company that uses at least 80 percent recycled, recyclable and biodegradable materials.
- The City’s Watershed Department is planning to harvest rainwater for the grounds of all of the city’s recreation centers and maintenance facilities.
- City Hall Green Roof
- BeltLine – Launched in 2006, this public-private project will be realized in a 22-mile loop of parks, greenspace, trails and transit around the city and ultimately serve as a bundle of solutions to the very challenges that threaten to limit Atlanta’s health and prosperity – traffic, deficient greenspace and recreation, and inequitable economic development.
- Connect Atlanta – Transportation planners are developing the city’s first-ever comprehensive transportation plan which incorporates expanded MARTA, light rail, BRT, and expanded HOV and express bus systems.
The City is developing a sustainability scorecard to track the progress of all projects across the various government departments.