Ruby Falls Environmental Sustainability
Ruby Falls holds the distinction of being America's deepest commercial cave and most-visited underground waterfall. Annual visitation exceeds 400,000. Transformation of our 80-year-old natural attraction, listed in the National Register for Historic Places, into a more sustainable and environmentally friendly business operation was a challenge we knew we needed to undertake.
Ruby Falls is committed to the reduction of our environmental footprint while providing a better experience for our visitors. The process included hiring an outside environmental consultant - Dobbin Callahan of Skye Con Consulting, the formation of internal environmental management teams, and 3rd party audits. We have four main environmental initiatives: the production of renewable energy, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, recycling and waste reduction, and land use planning.
While our environmental journey will never be complete, we have made enough progress in these four areas to be the first U.S. attraction to successfully complete the Green Globe International environmental certification process.
"Third party certification is crucial to holding us to a higher standard and keeping us focused on more environmentally sensitive business practices," stated Hugh Morrow, President of Ruby Falls, LLC. "Since 1928, when Ruby Falls reused the limestone excavated from the cave to build the Ruby Falls building, until today, Ruby Falls is committed to another 80 years of offering one of the most unique natural attractions in the world."
Ruby Falls' array of solar panels, installed by Big Frog Mountain, is capable of producing 16,000 watts of renewable energy, enough electricity to light over two hundred and fifty 60-watt light bulbs or to operate 16 microwave ovens at full power! This combined with the use of computer-controlled high efficiency lighting in both LED and compact fluorescents has reduced our power consumption by over 24%. This is just one way Ruby Falls is demonstrating our commitment to the reduction of our environmental footprint, while providing a better experience for our visitors.
1. This system will produce between 16,000 and 20,000 KWH of electricity annually.
2. Between our energy efficient lighting and solar offsets we will operate the cave on approx 8 to 9 months of electricity vs. 2007.
3. Electricity will be sold back to the Electric Power Board for their Green Energy Program.
Ruby Falls would like to thank the State of Tennessee Economic and Community Development Energy Division's Tennessee Clean Energy Technology Grant Program for assisting with the purchase of this state-of-the-art solar energy production equipment.
Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Whenever we save energy - or use it more efficiently - we reduce the demand for gasoline, oil, coal, and natural gas. Less burning of these fossil fuels means lower emissions of carbon dioxide, suggested as the major contributor to global warming. The United States releases about 40,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per person each year. If we can reduce energy use enough to lower greenhouse gas emissions by about 2 percent per year, in 10 years we will "lose" about 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per person.
In addition to installing the solar panels, we evaluated our indoor and outdoor lighting and have seen energy savings by:
1. Replacing incandescents with both LED and compact fluorescent lamps
2. Changing the timing and duration of lighting
3. Adding lighting and equipment controls
We also traded our older van used for brochure distribution for a 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid, the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market.
Waste Reduction and Recycling
Our efforts in waste reduction and recycling address three needs:
1. Source reduction - to use less material overall by altering the design, manufacture, or use of products and materials to reduce the amount of toxicity of what gets thrown away.
2. Recycling - sorting, collecting, and processing materials allowing others to manufacture and sell them as new products.
3. Environmentally friendly products - the remaining materials used should have a lower environmental impact
Sustainable Land Use Planning
Ruby Falls is a natural attraction. It's our responsibility to protect and preserve the natural beauty of the natural environments inside and outside the cave. Our initiatives for land use planning deal with development, environmental characteristics, and site level design.
1. Invest in drought resistant shrubs requiring less water
2. Evaluate capture of rain water on parking areas and basement
3. Guild Trail Development
4. Land Conservation
5. Land Trust donation