Editor's note: This story was originally published in Plenty in October 2007. MNN.com is reprinting it now because highlights are still relevant. 

Metro Atlanta is better known for sprawl and traffic than for eco-consciousness. But Southern-fried environmentalism is sizzling across the city’s rejuvenating core. Suburbanites desperate to shorten their commutes have joined hip, young creatives as they convert splotches of urban wasteland into New Urbanist neighborhoods. Mainly because of a commitment by Emory University, Atlanta is now among the nation’s leaders in LEED-certified construction. And even — gasp — streetcars are starting to creep into the dreams of residents’ auto-manic culture.

Worth seeing

The vision of Internet-pioneer-turned-green-developer Charles Brewer, Glenwood Park is an eco-village-within-the-city that includes houses, apartments, shops, offices and public spaces. The best thing about Glenwood Park is that, unlike many other developments in Atlanta, it’s designed to get people out of their cars. Houses here follow “Earthcraft” principles established by the Southface Energy Institute, which is housed in its own green building downtown. Exhibits at the Museum of Design Atlanta downtown and the Fernbank Museum of Natural History often focus on environmental issues. If your taste runs to fine art, visit the High Museum, which is a highly regarded cultural hotspot and is lit mostly by the sun.

Get outside

Now that so many metro-area trees have given way to development, civic boosters boast less often that Atlanta is “The City in a Forest.” But nearby natural attractions still abound. Among the highlights: a float down the Chattahoochee River and a hike in Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Two hours north, in the Blue Ridge mountains, you’ll find the start of the Appalachian Trail and whitewater rafting on the Chattooga River.

Eat up

In addition to new farmers markets, fine restaurants and even a microbrewery use locally grown, organic ingredients. Woodfire Grill on Cheshire Bridge Road near Midtown relies on a network of nearby organic farmers to offer a seasonal menu. Chef Linton Hopkins’ Restaurant Eugene, in lower Buckhead, brings a Southern sensibility to the local organics movement. The 5 Seasons Brewery in Sandy Springs extends the concept to pub food and the city’s finest beers and ales. 

Editor's note: Woodfire Grill was opened by Michael Touhy but is now owned by Nicolas Quinones, Bernard Moussa and executive chef/co-owner Kevin Gillespie. They have continued Touhy's devotion to using fresh, local produce and have added the use of local sources of meat, proteins and dairy. 

Shopping

Stefan’s is just one of several vintage clothing stores in the alt-culture Little Five Points district. A goldmine of vintage, Mid-century modern home furnishings can be found at City Issue on Peachtree Street in Buckhead. By Hand South is a gallery in Decatur that features jewelry and a variety of other hand-crafted products.

Ring in the new

Georgia Tech architecture student Ryan Gravel conceived Atlanta’s most ambitious makeover since General Sherman torched the town in 1864. Gravel noticed a loop of unused rail lines around downtown. Now the tracks and rights-of-way are being converted into the Beltline, an “emerald necklace” of new parks connected by streetcars. The ambitious scheme is projected to require about $2.5 billion and 25 years to complete. But the city has already approved financing and has begun to buy property. Tours of the area are offered regularly.

Getting around

The Marta rail system whisks visitors from the airport to downtown and up most of the famed Peachtree corridor. Cycling enthusiasts will enjoy a network of paths to some of the city’s major sites, including the Carter Center, Little Five Points, Decatur and Stone Mountain Park.

Story by Ken Edelstein. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2007.

Copyright Environ Press 2007