Yesterday found me with a little time to explore while waiting for my mom (whom I drive to a doctor appointment every few weeks) since I can’t go in to the doctor’s office during this global pandemic. As there is a shortage of public parks where I live, I swung by the North/South America headquarters for IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), which is connected via a stunning walking path (complete with waterfalls and many shady patios for sitting) to the hotel management company’s showcase USA property, the Crowne Plaza Ravinia. (This is all literally two seconds from the deadliest highway in the USA, by the way, so this kind of respite is a find.)
Last I checked, IHG was the greenest hotel company in the world*. Back in 2009, I actually met with the Green Team of the Crowne Plaza Ravinia (which was started by a woman passionate about sustainability named Elisaveta Dimova, who moved to the United States from Bulgaria around the turn of the 21st century) shortly after where I live became the newest city in the United States and the first mayor appointed me the chair of the first commission (the Sustainability Commission) within one week of when the city starting operating.
We had discussed the sustainability initiatives that they practice that had enabled that hotel to become the first one in the state of Georgia to receive Green Globe certification. They were, as far as I was concerned, the stake in the ground for a Zero Waste Zone for the City of Dunwoody, about which I met with the mayor to encourage and which he mentioned as imminent in his first State of the City address (but which never happened).
I had a sweet little thought back then, when anything was possible, of packaging the city’s main business district’s composted food scraps and branding that finished black gold as City of Dunwoody compost to sell to businesses and individuals, with a percentage of proceeds going to school and community gardens. Even though that never happened, we did start what became the largest volunteer-run community garden in the State of Georgia shortly thereafter. Here is a post from its 10-year anniversary cake-cutting last August. Almost every school started a school garden (some of which are still going, albeit abandoned during this pandemic, but maybe that will change soon). So, yes, trust the journey. It all works out, if you take leaps of faith when needed (which is daily for me lately).
Anyway, so yesterday, I walked the whole thing, with appropriate leaps along the way. I never once encountered another human being (including in the recently-redesigned lobby of what used to be a bustling hotel).
I was also never once questioned why I was on private property, by the way, and that may or may not be because of my privilege as a practically-invisible aging white woman (even when leaping all over the place). (That invisibility is what made it easy for me to become a street photographer, by the way.)
I saw this touch screen in the lobby and paused a moment to think about how “touch” is quickly becoming a relic of history. I hope this hotel doesn’t become history as well, and that it can go the distance, as this sculpture commemorating the Centennial Olympic Games here on its property suggests.
Speaking of the Olympics, Centennial Olympic Park in Downtown Atlanta (pictured below, and on the back cover of my book) is now closed indefinitely. That’s another private park, by the way (which many people may not know). It is owned by the Georgia World Congress Center (here’s when I toured that with the head of sustainability there and the always-brilliant Holly Elmore while working on the Sustainability Bike Tour for Bicycle Tours of Atlanta). They control who gets to use it and when. Keep this is mind as our public spaces increasingly become privatized. Let’s hope truly public space doesn’t become a relic of history as well.
* Fun fact: My city held its State of the City address at Crowne Plaza Ravinia a few years ago (during Mayor Number 3’s service) and I rode my bike there. I was surprised to discover that this supposedly green hotel had no bike rack (and equally surprised to find out I was the only person to ride a bike there, in a city that is a Gold Level Green Community at an event where a Sustainability Hero is actually awarded). The concierge took care of my bike that night. I did locate a bike rack in the Visitor’s Parking Deck near the IHG building yesterday, so that’s good to know for if I’m Traveling at the Speed of Bike there for another event sometime (although it would be a long, dark walk to the hotel from that parking deck at night).