NASHVILLE — Ruby Falls on Lookout Mountain is a winner of one of Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Governor's Environmental Stewardship Awards.
The tourist destination, said to be the nation's tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public, won in the "building green" category.
Ruby Falls and winners of the eight other categories will be formally recognized for their achievements and positive impact on the state's natural resources and communities in an Aug. 1 awards ceremony in Franklin.
"We applaud those who proactively look internally at their own operations and capabilities to better our environment," reads a statement from Lee in a news release. "Tennessee is fortunate to have these passionate and innovative organizations committed to improving our state."
The Governor's Environmental Stewardship Awards program recognizes "exceptional voluntary actions" that improve or protect the environment and natural resources with projects or initiatives not required by law or regulation.
Now in its 33rd year, the awards program covers nine categories: building green; clean air; energy and renewable resources; environmental education and outreach; environmental education and outreach (school category); land use; materials management; natural heritage; and sustainable performance.
"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," TDEC Commissioner David Salyers said. "These award winners are taking the initiative to go above and beyond what is required."
In the case of Ruby falls, state officials are citing an "environmentally sustainable transformation," completed in 2018, which involved repurposing the National Register of Historic Places 1929 Cavern Castle, a two-story, 13,000-square-foot building expansion and a 4,000-square-foot outdoor venue addition.
State officials say Ruby Falls is already Green Globe Certified and Tennessee Green Hospitality Certified and is now on its way to achieving LEED certification. According to the news release, the building was designed and placed in a fashion that complements and emphasizes the location's soaring limestone.
During the expansion over 22,716 tons of rock were repurposed, more than 75% of all construction waste was recycled, and more than 20% of materials were manufactured within a 500-mile radius.