Atlanta_skylineMayor Kasim Reed unveiled a plan this week that will guide Atlanta’s sustainability efforts for the next several years with the goal of making Atlanta a top 10 city for sustainability. “I believe the City of Atlanta should be a leading example of how a major urban municipality can take greater responsibility for efficient energy and water use, the conservation of green space, and the promotion of a healthier, cleaner and greener environment,” Reed said. “It is vital we take concrete, measurable actions around sustainability now to protect the future of our city.”

The mayor’s plan, entitled “Power to Change,” includes a combination of new projects and policy initiatives, as well as the continuation of several successful, well-established programs. The plan sets sustainability benchmarks for all City departments, such as the reduction of petroleum fuel usage and water system leakage.

In addition, the plan’s new initiatives will create green jobs, push more transit and transit-oriented development, and reduce food “deserts” in the city –neighborhoods where access to locally grown produce is limited. Targets include a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions within the City of Atlanta’s jurisdiction (25% by 2020, 40% by 2030, and 80% by 2050); a reduction of energy use for existing municipal operations (15% by 2020, 40% by 2030, and 80% by 2050); making renewable energy at least 5% of total municipal use by 2015; and bringing local food within 10 mins of 75% of all residents by 2020.

Atlanta is currently ranked 19th among the SustainLane U.S. City Rankings. The release of the city’s Power to Change plan is the inaugural event of Atlanta’s first Sustainability Week, which runs Oct. 25-29. Each day of the week includes daily activities and programs highlighting different focus areas of the plan, such as water quality and conservation, energy efficiency, jobs growth, local foods, and electric vehicles. “Being a more sustainable city not only protects and preserves the environment, it makes economic sense for the city,” said Mandy Mahoney, Atlanta’s first Director of Sustainability. “It helps drive financial savings and efficiency and creates jobs.”

The City of Atlanta’s Office of Sustainability has already established a strong track record of success. in 2008, Atlanta became the first Georgia city to determine its municipal carbon footprint. By 2010, that footprint was reduced by 12.5%. Likewise, several city departments have made progress in environmentally sensitive areas such as reducing energy use, repairing leaking water pipes, and reducing gasoline use by municipal fleets. More than half of the objectives introduced only a few years ago have been achieved, including a 12.5% greenhouse gas reduction, 23% fossil fuel reduction, 16% natural gas reduction, 25% reduction in energy use at City Hall, and 13% decrease in water use at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

Atlanta’s Division of Sustainability has secured four federal and state grants to the sum of $28 million, to be leveraged up to $164 million in improvements and at least 25 new projects, geared towards continuing their environmental progress. To learn more about the city’s green initiatives, visit or, to find out more about the events taking place this week, visit the Sustainability Week homepage where you can also seen the mayor’s plan in full.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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