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From Green to Platinum

ARC’s Green Communities Program awards Gwinnett with Platinum level certification

Two hundred and one years ago when Gwinnett County was founded, there wasn’t much talk around the cracker barrel about green spaces, air quality, or environmental sustainability. Life was simpler, there were trees aplenty, and the roads––such as they were––weren’t crowded with the exhaust-belching vehicles of today.

So what is a county to do when the progress that has brought it prosperity brings problems our forebears couldn’t conceive of two centuries ago?

Gwinnett County, with an eye toward the future of everyone who calls it home, has been at the forefront of making our county greener. The buzzword today is “sustainability.” But that far-ranging concept really boils down to viewing ourselves as people who ultimately are passing through and who will leave this county to our children. 

“We’re trying to be good stewards of our resources to further protect the environment, reduce the environmental impact, promote sustainability, and not harm any more than is necessary,” says David Mogge, a division director for Gwinnett County Support Services, which has been working with the Atlanta Regional Commission to further those goals.

Not only has Gwinnett County taken its mission of stewardship seriously, it has led the way among all government entities in the ARC by proactively implementing programs and policies that are leading to a greener county, whether it’s reaching out to schools with classes on water conservation and usage, constructing community gardens, or connecting trails and parks.

For their efforts, Gwinnett has become the first and only county in the region to earn Platinum level certification under the ARC’s Green Communities Program, recognizing the strides it’s made in environmental action. Action like that taken at the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center, which not only treats wastewater and returns it to Lake Lanier cleaner than when it came in, but also recovers energy from treatment byproducts on site to help power the plant. Not only is it environmentally sound, it saves money.

It’s been an effort ongoing since 2010 when foresighted local leaders took to heart the ARC’s initiatives. “The ARC team was very creative in developing this program, which outlined ways to be more environmentally responsible,” says Mogge. “By pursuing these initiatives, the message was, ‘Here are some ideas for how to become more sustainable.’ Some of these we were already doing but with others, we thought, ‘That’s a good idea. We can do that as well.’”

And well is exactly how Gwinnett has done it, earning Bronze certification in 2010, Silver in 2012, Gold in 2014, and now Platinum, joining Decatur and Norcross as the only other two local governments to achieve both Gold and Platinum certification.

Awards and recognition are nice for the county résumé but more impressive and significant is how leaders turning vision into action are making Gwinnett County a safer, cleaner, and healthier place to live.

For more information on Gwinnett County’s sustainability efforts, you can quickly find the ARC website by visiting gwinnettmagazine.com/arc

You can see a comprehensive list of the steps Gwinnett has taken by viewing this document: gwinnettmagazine.com/greengwinnett

What makes Gwinnett so Green?

GREEN BUILDING

Ensures green building and renovation practices for county buildings, and incentivizes private developments that gain environmental and energy efficiency certifications.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Implements energy-saving practices and equipment including a lights-out/power-down policy of nonessential lights and electronic equipment when not in use.

GREEN POWER

Converts methane gas produced at F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center into a fuel source for a natural gas-powered generator.

WATER EFFICIENCY

Reuses non-potable water for irrigation, flushing toilets, and heating and cooling systems and educates the community on water conservation.

TREES AND GREENSPACE

Increases recreation opportunities through increased connectivity via a system of greenway trails and encourages environment-friendly landscaping.

TRANSPORTATION AND AIR QUALITY

Lowers fuel consumption through an Intelligent Transportation System and Traffic Control Center and sets design criteria for safety, mobility, and accessibility for all modes of travel.

RECYCLING AND WASTE REDUCTION

Partners with Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful to facilitate the recycling of nontraditional items like electronics, batteries, cell phones, and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

LAND USE

Develops, among other things, abandoned or unused properties for the purpose of revitalization and redevelopment.

EDUCATION

Keeps the public up to date with the county’s latest sustainability initiatives through the Internet and hands-on workshops, day camps, and classes.

INNOVATION

Develops more environmentally efficient ways to conduct business, from delivering meals to promoting literacy.

For more details, go to gwinnettmagazine.com/greengwinnett