Glimmering Lake Oconee, towering pine trees and lush landscaping greet visitors at this Central Georgia spot boasting million-dollar homes and a rustic Ritz-Carton hotel that has hosted presidents and other celebrities.
Some eco-friendly efforts are visible while others are behind the scenes at this lakefront resort and its nearby historic towns of Greensboro and Madison.
The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation is situated in a luxury residential community about 75 miles east of Atlanta, where homeowners include athletes, politicians and CEOs. The cedar-shingled lakefront hotel, which has 251 rooms, six cottages and a 5,400-square-foot presidential house, has introduced efforts to reduce waste, conserve energy, recycle and use environmentally sensitive cleaning products and paints.
Guests can opt to reuse bed linens, which the resort replaces every other day unless they're requested more or less often. The marble bathrooms have low-flow toilets, as well as low-flow faucets and showerheads on its separate shower and tubs. Outside and inside the AAA Five Diamond property, which has beamed ceilings, cozy seating areas around fireplaces and lakefront views, recycling containers accept glass and cardboard. The staff also recycles light bulbs, batteries, copier cartridges and wood pallets.
Guests checking in during 2010 and beyond may notice additional efforts to reduce the resort's energy usage. Two intriguing ideas: Redirecting heat generated by various equipment and using solar-heated water in the guest rooms at the hotel, which has been named one of Travel & Leisure's 500 Greatest Hotels and Resorts in the World.
A garden created by Ritz chefs in May often grabs guests' attention as they're heading to the lake, infinity-edged pool, beach area and other activities, such as a lakeside dinner beside a chiminea fire. Guests who stop to ask chefs about ingredients they're picking for the day's dishes learn the garden supplies all the herbs they need for appetizers, entrees and desserts. The 400-square-foot garden (likely to be expanded) is filled with several types of basil, along with rosemary, parsley, mint, thyme and other herbs.
For the "Garden to Grill" cooking classes, guests help chef Jaco Smith of Georgia's Bistro pluck herbs from plants and juicy heirloom tomatoes off the vine for lunch cooked and eaten al fresco. Behind the scenes, its compost effort provides more than 1,800 pounds of raw vegetable materials weekly to Georgia's Deerwood Farm. The farm uses this to grow the organic vegetables and fruit used in resort dishes such as a strawberry, greens and herb salad and plum-glazed organic hanger steak.
If "reuse" is your mantra, the antiques shops filling the towns of Greensboro and Madison, which has the nation's largest historic district, are for you. You can spend the day strolling and discovering old items to reuse and recycle in your home, office, car or yard. The town's art galleries also feature artists who use organic or eco-friendly items or have given new life to previously used materials. At Genuine Georgia in Greensboro, which sells items from about 150 artists, baskets are made with recycled kudzu, gourd artists embellish their pieces with items from the outdoors, and everything from lamps to wreaths to woodwork to textiles to doors to jewelry incorporate recycled items.
Get on Reynolds Plantation's Oconee, National, Plantation and Great Waters golf courses, which have been certified an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary by Audubon International. Unwind in the 26,000-square-foot spa adjacent to the hotel, which uses organic products such as the Naturopathica line of 100 percent plant-based products.
Photo (Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation): The chef's garden supplies the Ritz's restaurants with all the herbs they need for appetizers, entrees and desserts.