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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam talks about his Plan to Expand Medicaid to the editorial staff of the Times Free Press.

Hamilton County was awarded the 2015 Governor's Environmental Stewardship award for environmental education and outreach on Wednesday.

This award is one of 11 distributed by Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau and honors the voluntary actions made by communities to protect the environment with projects or initiatives not required by law.

"Today's award winners have demonstrated a commitment to our environment that will pay dividends for current Tennessee residents and generations to come," Haslam said in a written statement.

Hamilton County was awarded the environmental education and outreach award for GreenTrips, a program established last year by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency. GreenTrips works to encourage citizens to reduce emission and improve the air quality by walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transportation. The group's website allows people to register and log their green trips to earn points that can be redeemed for prizes.

The program was funded through a three-year $600,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, and has helped save more than 83,000 pounds of automobile emissions among other gasses and matter, according to a press release from the governor's office.

McMinnville was awarded the energy and renewable resources award for converting all of the city's street lights to LEDs to reduce energy consumption, saving taxpayer dollars. According to the release, McMinnville is the first city in the Tennessee Valley to fully convert to LED streetlights.

The Natural Heritage award was given to Polk County for its work continuing to remediate the environmentally degraded Lower North Potato Creek watershed for the past 14 years. The site in Copper Basin was used for copper mining and processing, and work has been done for more than a decade to improve the water quality and biological integrity in the area. In 2014, modifications were made to the North Potato Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant allowing contaminated water to get treated for metal before entering the Ocoee River, the release states.

"The quality of our environment directly impacts our quality of life, impacting how Tennesseans live, work and play," Martineau said in a written statement. "It's important that we pause to recognize the people and organizations that work so hard to protect our environment while teaching others about sustainability."

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