AUC, Lakewood Heights, Lithonia get EcoDistricts

Sustainable Atlanta, a nonprofit organization committed to finding balance among environmental stewardship, economic development, and social equality, has named Lakewood Heights, the Atlanta University Center, and Lithonia as participants in the first year of its Greater Atlanta EcoDistrict Initiative.

The organization plans to help launch both large and household-level projects aimed at increasing each neighborhood's sustainability. Midtown became an EcoDistrict in 2012. Similar programs have proven successful in neighborhoods in Portland, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

"This project looks at bringing sustainability down to the neighborhood level," says Sustainable Atlanta EcoDistrict Coordinator Melonie Tharpe. "We spent about a year looking over what would work for Atlanta and these three neighborhoods just really fit."

The AUC, Lakewood Heights, and Lithonia will soon begin their first year as template neighborhoods. Sustainable Atlanta plans to help guide and train community leaders interested in participating.

"The idea is not that we plan projects," says Scott Briskey, Sustainable Atlanta's director of communications. "Applicants need to know what their team is going to look like, who is going to be at the table."

Proposed projects for Lakewood Heights, a neighborhood in southeast Atlanta, include efforts to increase local food production and design youth-centered parks. Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University could reduce their power bills 20 percent by 2015 implementing various energy efficiency programs. And land-use planning could help boost Lithonia's downtown area with development and green space.

Sustainable Atlanta, which relies on community level leaders to volunteer their time and skills, is now accepting interested community's EcoDistrict applications for 2015.

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