The Sustainable Communities Making Metro Atlanta a Greener Place

 

The Atlanta Regional Commission started the Green Communities program in 2009 to recognize local governments that prioritize programs and policies that create a more sustainable region. 

Let’s take a look at the eight cities and counties that earned Green Communities certification in 2021.

City of Norcross

Platinum

Green Community since 2010

The city’s Community Development Department and Sustainable Norcross Commission citizen advisory council have collaborated on bold plans for sustainable development.

Norcross’ Pinnacle Park, a former office park stormwater retention pond, has been transformed into a serene greenspace that boasts stormwater runoff mitigation, recreation and exercise facilities, electric vehicle charging stations and high-efficiency LED lighting throughout.

The park also prioritizes accessibility. 

Over 1.3 miles of ADA-compliant paved pathways and outdoor gym equipment welcome park-goers of all ages, abilities and economic backgrounds.

All environmental education signs are written in English and Spanish to better reach the community, whose Hispanic population makes up over 46% of its residents. (Source: 2020 Census data)

Norcross earned the most points for its sustainable measures of any Green Community to date. 

City of Roswell

Platinum

Green Community since 2009

Roswell re-certified at Green Community’s Platinum Level for its ongoing commitment to making their community a greener, cleaner place to live.

The city has retrofitted its public buildings to use less energy and water.

High efficiency plumbing fixtures, such as faucets and toilets, decrease water use, while LED light bulbs and highly reflective “cool roof” material keeps energy bills low.

Their water and energy saving efforts have reduced their environmental footprint and their operational costs. 

The city also encourages multimodal transportation and provides residents community garden spaces to grow food and make space for our pollinating friends.

Cobb County

Platinum

Green Community since 2009

In 2021, they became the second county in the metro Atlanta region to achieve Platinum status in recognition of the county’s ongoing sustainability efforts, such as its significantly expanded recycling programs.

Cobb County has become a program leader for their comprehensive waste and recycling program.

Cobb County invested in robust recycling programs to address less regularly recycled materials, like glass and thin plastics.

Did you know that only 1/3 of all the glass in the U.S. is recycled? (Source: EPA data)

Cobb also participates in the Hefty EnergyBag Program, which turns hard-to-recycle plastics, like grocery bags, into cinder blocks to use in various construction projects.

The Hefty Energy Bag implementation is led by the Keep Cobb Beautiful Foundation which educates residents about the importance of recycling and works with Cobb County’s contracted waste and recycling haulers to reduce contamination and ensures the program is a success.

City of Woodstock

Platinum

Green Community since 2010

Woodstock has risen to the Green Community Platinum level in recognition of the city’s robust energy saving measures and innovative Sustainable Parking Ordinance.

Woodstock’s Sustainable Parking Ordinance, adopted in 2015, sets a parking spot maximum for commercial developments. Developers wanting to exceed the allowable spaces may choose sustainability measures to balance, such as providing electric vehicle charging stations, pervious pavement for stormwater mitigation or adding solar panels to their infrastructure.

In the U.S., there are about 8 parking spaces for every car – that amounts to thousands of acres that goes unused! (Source: New York Times)

City of Douglasville

Silver

Green Community since 2012

Douglasville’s sustainability efforts include comprehensive recycling programs.

The city’s municipal buildings offer recycling facilities for paper, aluminum and plastics, copier toner, printer ink cartridges, batteries and much more.

Did you know that the average person throws away 8 batteries per year? That’s almost 85 million batteries in landfills in Georgia alone! (Source: University of Illinois)

Douglasville also recently constructed a community garden to help build a community of eco-conscious food consumers and residents.

Staff oversee the property and provide educational programming to the community. They teach residents about gardening basics, seasonal vegetable and fruit cycles and more.

Douglas County

Silver

Green Community since 2009

Douglas County’s commitment to sustainability is exemplified in their LEED Gold Certified Sheriff’s Office. Constructed and certified in 2013, the 500,000 square foot building was built to the highest energy and water efficiency standards available.

The county invested in the building’s construction to save utility and operational costs over the lifetime of the building. This multidecade commitment to sustainability affirms Douglas County’s ongoing commitment to ensuring a greener tomorrow.

City of Milton

Silver

Green Community since 2012

In response to resident interest, Milton created a permanent glass recycling drop off facility at ball field and arboretum. Since the facility was built, participation has skyrocketed.

Milton also recognized the city’s forested land as an important part of metro Atlanta’s greater ecosystem. They have worked diligently to preserve it and build community buy-in by constructing hiking trails and implementing a tree species education program.

The city has planned over 400 acres of recreational forested preserve space – a major step towards implementing their community forest master plan.

The preserved areas are filled with self-guided and interactive learning opportunities to engage and educate the community.

DeKalb County

Bronze

Green Community since 2009

DeKalb’s Seminole Landfill is one of the most parts of the Atlanta region’s waste management system.

The landfill was previously served as a pilot for methane capture and currently serves as a multifunctional community hub that offers residents free compost, electric vehicle charging stations and recycling drop off stations for traditional and nontraditional materials.

The landfill has become a one-stop shop for clean transportation, waste stream reduction and carbon reduction through composting.

Points Explanation

Local governments earn points towards their program certification for implementing sustainable measures in the following categories:

  • Green Building
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Green Power
  • Water Use Reduction and Efficiency
  • Trees and Greenspace
  • Transportation
  • Recycling and Waste Reduction
  • Land Use
  • Education
  • Innovation

Points are totaled to achieve four levels of Green Communities Certification:

Platinum: 330 – 435 points

Gold: 280 – 329 points

Silver: 230 – 279 points

Bronze: 175 – 229 points

2022 applications for the Green Communities Program are due Thursday, May 26. 

For more information about ARC’s Green Communities certification program and how your local government can apply, visit atlantaregional.org/greencommunities.

If you would like to learn more about the certification, contact: greencommunities@atlantaregional.org

Images are courtesy of the 2021 Green Communities.