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Len Foote Hike Inn named a 2019 Clean Water Hero
Georgia Water Coalition recognizes backcountry lodge for sustainability efforts
hike inn pic 1
After a five-mile trek, guests are welcomed to the Len Foote Hike Inn, nestled high in the north Georgia mountains at Amicalola Falls State Park. - photo by Jessica Taylor

The Len Foote Hike Inn is no stranger to praise in the environmental community. In July of this year, the backcountry lodge received a LEED Platinum certification, the top rating from the most recognized green building rating system in the world.

On Thursday, Sept. 19, the Hike Inn added another piece of hardware to its environmentally conscious mantle as the Georgia Water Coalition named them one of their 2019 Clean Water Heroes in its annual Clean 13 Report.

According to a press release issued by Georgia Water Coalition, “the report highlights individuals, businesses, industries, non-profit organizations and governmental agencies whose extraordinary efforts have led to cleaner rivers, stronger communities and a more sustainable future for Georgians.

“Georgia is faced with many water challenges involving problems that affect the health of our rivers and the availability of clean water for us and wildlife,” said Coosa River Basin Initiative Executive Director Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman. “Those recognized in the Clean 13 report are on the front lines of meeting those challenges. From innovative wastewater treatment projects to important clean water education efforts, these entities are developing solutions to these challenges.”

The Len Foote Hike Inn’s conservation and sustainability focus extends beyond water, but for Executive Director Eric Graves, the recognition still important.

“It’s nice to have a little diversity in terms of who the awards are coming from. This one being a water conservation group is kind of what’s special about this one,” said Graves. “You know we get a lot of recognition for our solar practices that we’ve done over the years, so it’s kind of nice to be recognized for water conservation side of it as well.”

At the Hike Inn, sustainability is a way of life. Their solar upgrades power the entire facility for large stretches of the day; their composting efforts virtually eliminate waste from the facility; guests are served breakfast and dinner family style and challenged to have a collective three ounces or less of food waste at the end of the meal.

“It was basically the reason we were built by the State Park system — to be a showpiece for conservation and green building practices,” said Graves on the importance of sustainability at the Hike Inn. “It’s our duty to uphold that original concept and improve upon it.”

In terms of what makes their water conservation effort so impactful, Graves points to one unique feature in particular.

“The biggest thing on the guest side that the guests see on a day-to-day basis is the composting toilets being flushless. That’s our biggest water-saver there,” said Graves.

Another aspect for which the report praised the Hike Inn was their education programs. Most nights, guests are given the option of attending a program put on by staff or volunteers. These programs can range from plant identification to yoga for hikers, but sustainability is a frequent topic.

“The biggest thing I try to get people to take back with them is reducing food waste,” said Graves. “It’s one thing that everybody can do that doesn’t cost anything. I don’t expect people to go home and put composting toilets in their houses or redo their roofs with solar panels just from a visit to the Hike Inn, but if people can reduce the amount of food waste coming out of their households, that saves resources across the board.

The Clean 13 2019 report recognized individuals, organizations, and facilities all across the state. Another regional winner was Dahlonega-based group Georgia ForestWatch.

“We’re deeply honored by our inclusion in the report,” said Georgia ForestWatch Executive Director Jess Riddle. “We appreciate this recognition by Georgia Water Coalition of how important the headwaters of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest are and their importance to everyone downstream who depends on them for clean, filtered drinking water.”

For more information or to read the full report, click here.

Clean 13 map
Map of the 2019 Clean 13 recipients.