10003393_682566628470104_1074073429_nBy Collin Kelley
INtown Editor

In 2010, Mayor Kasim Reed announced his goal of making Atlanta one of the top 10 sustainable cities in the country. Four years later, there have been significant strides in making the city green and there are more, exciting changes to come.

The city’s Office of Sustainability, led by Denise Quarles since 2011, said the greening of Atlanta has been possible through the unprecedented collaboration between stakeholders citywide. The most notable collaboration has been with the business community, which has signed on as part of the Better Building Challenge to make 20 percent of Atlanta’s commercial buildings energy and water efficient by the year 2020.

“We have 200 buildings now participating in the challenge,” Quarles said, “and 76 of those are municipal buildings.

Atlanta was one of the first cities to complete a flagship project as part of the challenge with its upgrade of the Atlanta Civic Center. The city is now working with the Georgia World Congress Center on a similar project.

Initially, the city was only going to try for 20 percent in energy efficiency, but became the first city to add water to the challenge.

As part of the move toward energy efficiency, the city’s fire stations and Atlanta Public School facilities have installed “cool roof” systems that help reduce the urban heat island affect. Quarles said the fire stations have seen thousands of dollars in energy rebates because of the roofs.

One of the most significant water-saving projects has been at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where new toilets and faucets have saved 44 million gallons in wasted water per year since 2008.

Atlanta-based Home Depot joined the challenge by installing a rainwater harvesting tank at its Midtown store. The project was so successful that the company is installing tanks at other locations around metro Atlanta.

Quarles encouraged residents to get involved with greening Atlanta by having a free energy audit on their homes by Georgia Power and Georgia Gas Light. “You will save money with the information and tools provided,” she said.

Other things Intowners can do include installing their own rain barrel, buying locally-grown produce and goods at a farmers market, bike to work, carpool, use more public transit and recycle.

Quarles said she is also proud that the city’s Energy Star ranking has moved from 5 to 3. Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect the climate through energy efficiency.

“We still have a long way to go, but I’m excited about what’s ahead for Atlanta,” Quarles said.

You can read the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge annual report at this link