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PRESS RELEASE: Ruby Falls Honored With Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award

Tennessee natural attraction recognized for excellence in environmental sustainability 

CHATTANOOGA, TN (August 6, 2019) – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers presented Ruby Falls with the esteemed Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award (GESA) at a formal ceremony in Franklin, TN on August 1.  As the 2019 Excellence in Building Green award winner, Ruby Falls was honored for the exceptional impact the East Tennessee attraction’s ecologically-sensitive 2018 expansion, sustainability efforts and conservation initiatives have on the state’s natural resources and communities.  Ruby Falls President, Hugh Morrow accepted the award. 

Statewide nominations were judged by a panel of 16 experts representing agriculture, conservation, forestry, environmental and academics. The rigorous vetting criteria for the Building Green accolade focuses on significant environmental and conservation outcomes utilizing innovation in siting, structure design and use, deconstruction and construction techniques, supply chain and materials sourcing, water conservation, energy efficiency, longevity and flexibility of use, protecting occupant health and productivity, reduction in overall carbon footprint and a demonstrated commitment to sustainability from company leadership.  

Speaking at the award ceremony about the resources unique to Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee said, “Environmental richness is a quality that we never want to lose, we want it to be even better in the years ahead.” Addressing the honorees, Governor Lee continued, “I’m deeply grateful for your work. Your efforts that will be recognized today are efforts that will benefit my children and my grandchildren and my grandchildren’s children. You are raising awareness and continuously working on projects that improve the quality of life. Our grandchildren’s children will inherit land that is cleaner, and that has species that are more diverse and land that is better stewarded and better maintained. “ 

Ruby Falls’ 2018 expansion, involved repurposing the historic 1929 Cavern Castle, adding a 13,000-sf building expansion and 4,000-sf outdoor venue; creating recreational and ecological benefits for guests, the community, and the state of Tennessee. The award-winning project demonstrated a meticulous focus on energy efficiency, water conservation, occupant health and wellbeing, habitat protection, land conservation, and community access.

In 2008, Ruby Falls began what company leadership describes as an infinite, aspirational pursuit towards greater sustainability. Hugh Morrow, president of Ruby Falls, explains, “Our sustainability endeavors continue to expand as we learn more about sustainability practices, what impacts the environment and as technology develops.” Morrow continues, “Initiatives previously centered on retrofitting existing systems and existing facilities. This once in a lifetime expansion, gave us the uncharted prospect of scaling up initiatives from the ground-up by seamlessly integrating sustainability within the design, construction and use of the venues.”

National Federation of Independent Business State Director Jim Brown attended the ceremony noting a significant shift in small businesses explaining, “15 or 20 years ago, small and independent business owners weren’t necessarily thinking about environmental sustainability. Today, we see small businesses, like Ruby Falls, recognizing that although there may be a higher cost on the front end, sustainable business practices are a good investment for business, it’s good for the environment and it’s going to attract a new customer base.” Brown continues, “Like Ruby Falls, small and independent businesses are spending more time investigating sustainability and investing in sustainable upgrades.” 

This year marks the 33rdyear the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards have recognized exceptional voluntary actions, not required by law or regulation, that improve or protect the environment and natural resources and wildlife with projects and initiatives. The 2019 GESA award-winning projectsare located in Shelby, Davidson, Anderson, Dickson and Hamilton County.“The projects and organizations recognized by this year’s Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards reflect the best of environmental protection, conservation, community engagement, and partnerships,” said David Salyers.  

For more information about the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards visit https://www.tn.gov/environment/program-areas/opsp-policy-and-sustainable-practices/governor-s-environmental-stewardship-awards.html