Atlanta is a bit slow on the draw when it comes to taking the initiative on responsible travel, but there is some definite movement in that direction. In late 2010, the city received $47.6 million in federal funding to build a 2.6-mile streetcar line. The project will not only be a huge nod from the city to the importance of sustainability, but (hopefully) will also ease some of the gridlock that gives Atlanta traffic such a bad name. In addition, the streetcar line will connect with MARTA, the city's rapid-transit system. Officials project the four-car line will have the capacity to shuttle 4.7 million tourists and residents annually. Offering this option for environmentally sustainable transportation will certainly be a feather in the city's cap. The project is slated for completion in 2013.
In the meantime, a couple of Atlanta's top tourist attractions have acknowledged the impact their facilities can have on the environment and have implemented policies to oversee their sustainability measures. As the largest aquarium in the world, the Georgia Aquarium obviously recognizes the value of water and other resources. The aquarium has already cut water usage by 10% with a plan to cut an additional 10% once all sustainability projects are complete. Initiatives include waterless urinals that save 1 million gallons per year (who knew?) and not watering the landscape. Additionally, the aquarium strives to educate visitors about the importance of water conservation by posting tips throughout the facility.
Just up the street, the World of Coca-Cola has an environmental commitment that includes a "Gold" rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, earned through their emphasis on energy and water efficiency, recycling, reuse of resources, and waste reduction. It's one of just a handful of buildings in the entire state with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation. One cool feature is the cups in the popular Taste It! Lounge; they're produced from 100% compostable cornstarch.
While a handful of hotels have actively sought "green" certification of one type or another, the city continues business as usual, despite the ongoing water wars between neighboring states. Some hotels have taken the lead in adopting ecofriendly practices, including the Ellis, Emory Inn, Hotel Palomar, and the Westin Peachtree Plaza, all recipients of the National Green Seal Lodging approval. In addition, Hilton, Hyatt, Sheraton, Omni, and Marriott properties in the city have all implemented their company's sustainable practices. Doubletree Hotel Atlanta Buckhead was the first Buckhead hotel to practice green and sustainable initiatives. Elsewhere in the city, Stonehurst Place is likely the most ecofriendly lodging option, emphasizing recycling, rainwater reclamation, air purification, and solar energy, and serving strictly organic meals and snacks.
Speaking of organic, scores of Atlanta eateries have jumped on the farm-to-table bandwagon, creating menus to promote local sustainable and/or organic ingredients. Among those sustainable-supporting restaurants are Bacchanalia, Restaurant Eugene, Woodfire Grill, Leon's Full Service, Pura Vida, and Craft.
Outside the city, Serenbe Southern Country Inn is located in the Serenbe Community, a neighborhood built entirely on sustainability practices, including the lodging, dining, shopping, and residential offerings.
Visit Frommers.com/planning for more tips on responsible travel.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.