Awards Categories

The Governor's Environmental Stewardship Awards has ten categories. Each category represents a different area of environmental stewardship and sustainability. Applications in each category are judged on seven different judging criteria areas, which can be found on our Awards Criteria page.

The Agriculture and Forestry award will demonstrate innovation in implementation of practices supporting sustainable agricultural and/or forestry activities. Nominations may include but are not limited to programs and projects that incorporate environmentally-friendly asset management, water and stormwater management, soil conservation practices implementation, fertilization approaches, farming techniques, processing, byproduct and materials management, transportation, and other food systems production techniques. Special consideration will be given to projects that result in the production of  more profitable and resource efficient, higher quality, equitable, and healthier agricultural goods or services as well as those projects that enhance communities, build resilience and prioritize partnerships.

2021: Coffee County Soil Conservation District, Coffee County

The Coffee County Soil Conservation District (CCSCD) has been instrumental in transitioning from long-term no-till row crop production systems into higher functioning agro-ecological systems across Coffee County. CCSCD began to realize that even though the county’s soils were not eroding at a high rate and fields appeared healthy from the surface, after 40 years of continuous no-till practices, agricultural fields in Coffee County were performing at a low ecosystem function level, compared to expected soil performance. Implementation of diverse cover crop mixes following growing of corn and soybeans allowed CCSCD to address low infiltration, sheet and rill erosion, low soil biology, low above and below ground biological diversity, low organic nutrient cycling, high plant pest pressure, low drought tolerance, and invasive weeds.

CCSCD’s successes in assisting farmers with transitioning from long-term no-till row crop production systems to higher functioning agro-ecological systems required education and outreach, technical assistance, partnership agreements, and financial help to assist the producers in adopting these systems. CCSCD partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Quail Forever, Soil Health Institute, University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Agency, and local agricultural retailers to educate farmers about agro-ecological systems via annual Soil Health Field Days, which drew participation from farmers representing local, national, and international communities, regenerative producers, academia, and retailers. CCSCD has also made over $10,000,000 of federal and state funds available to producers in Coffee County to support efforts to rejuvenate cropland, grazing land, and forestry land. Through the support of CCSCD, over 400 producers representing 70,000+ acres of land in Coffee County have adopted regenerative practices.

Additionally, in cooperation with the CCSCD, 18 producers, representing 58 fields and covering 2,200 acres, have participated in the Coffee County Soil Health Study. The data collected from these fields in this on-going study is used to monitor trends in soil health improvements associated with adoption of more progressive, regenerative practices the progressiveness of these systems. Based on the results of the soil health study, all areas of poor ecosystem performance and soil health have seen vast improvements.

The Building Green award recognizes innovation in siting, structure design and use, deconstruction and construction techniques, supply chain materials sourcing, operation efficiency (water use, energy efficiency), longevity, flexibility of use, protecting occupant health and productivity, and reduction in overall carbon footprint as applied to the built environments and land use projects or developments. A project using in-fill, brownfields, underutilized land, preservation of green spaces in site design, or repurposing of existing structure will receive special consideration.

2021: Tennessee Tech University, Putnam County

Tennessee Tech University is a public higher education institution, located in Cookeville, TN, occupying a total of 267 acres. For several years, construction has been a big part of the campus’ landscape, as efforts have been underway to build a state-of-the-art science building, recreational facility, and other spaces. All renovated space and new construction on campus are designed and constructed according to the conditions of the Tennessee High Performance Building Requirements (TN HPBr). The design team factored in special considerations when selecting building locations, with the goal of reducing the environmental impact of both building locations, including preventing any erosional impacts during construction. Both facilities are conveniently accessible by public transit systems, including Tech’s Bikeshare program. As part of construction, native plantings were utilized to eliminate the need for irrigation and access to open space was prioritized. The Laboratory Science Commons Building occupying 150,000-square-feet of space is the largest academic building on Tech’s campus. In addition to being the University’s largest academic building, the new laboratory sciences building is also Tech’s first LEED v4 Silver certified facility.

Upgrades at the Marc L. Burnett Student Recreation & Fitness Center included improvements to the pool filtration system. The school chose a regenerative media filtration system, which reduces chemicals for water treatment, saves energy, reduces wastewater produced by the backwash process, reduces the need for potable water to fill the pool, reduces the purchase and handling of chemicals to treat additional pool fill water, and reduces the quantity of water that must be processed as wastewater by the local sewer facilities. It is estimated to save over $10,000 in annual operating costs and 700,000+ gallons of water annually.

Other major renovations were completed at each of Tech’s fourteen Residence Halls and the entire Tech Village apartment complex in accordance with TN HPBr. In addition, Bruner Hall, which is a 58,000 square feet academic building, underwent a full building renovation, with HVAC upgrades to include outdoor air units with automated damper controls; new energy efficient windows; LED lighting; and water bottle filling stations.

Tech is a member of the Association of the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, which hosts the Sustainability Tracking & Rating System (STARS) program. Through STARS, the University is evaluated on sustainability in academics, engagement, operations, planning & administration, innovation and leadership and has been certified as a Silver STARS University.

The Clean Air award will demonstrate measurable progress in reducing hazardous air pollutants, volatile organic compounds, acid rain precursors, greenhouse gases and other air emissions sources, outdoor exposure to toxic air contaminants, and/or air deposition loading to land and water. Nominations may include programs and projects that incorporate installation of pollution prevention technologies, logistics, and/or operational change that result in improved air quality. Cap and trade activities will not be considered.

2021: No Winner

The Energy and Renewable Resources award recognizes projects that further the widespread use and adoption of alternative fuels or novel domestic fuel sources, energy conservation and energy efficiency strategies, or innovative energy or alternative fuel devices or techniques. Nominations may also include projects that increase the energy efficiency of buildings or equipment, the use of environmentally-friendly energy production technologies, developing advanced energy technologies, using renewable energy resources or the use of innovative technologies that will reduce dependence upon traditional fossil-fuel-based energy sources. Special consideration will be given to nominations that demonstrate a comprehensive approach to energy issues and highlight the relationship between the environmental benefits and the associated social and economic benefits.

2021: Vanderbilt University, Bedford, Davidson, and Franklin Counties

In January of 2020 Vanderbilt University began its efforts to power its campus through investments in off-site and large-scale renewable energy. Partnerships with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Nashville Electric Service (NES), and Metro Nashville to procure renewable energy through TVA’s new Green Invest program are helping to mitigate the campus’ greenhouse gas emissions. Through these partnerships, Vanderbilt is the first higher education customer to partner with a local power company in the seven-state TVA region to tackle climate change by working toward its goal of powering its campus entirely through renewable energy and committing to carbon neutrality by 2050. Through the Green Invest program, Vanderbilt will procure renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset 100 percent of their indirect GHG emissions, equaling 39,661 MTCO2E.

Vanderbilt’s initial project located in Bell Buckle will mitigate approximately 70 percent of the university’s indirect greenhouse gas emissions by fall 2022. The second project, which was announced in November 2020 between Vanderbilt and Metro Nashville, will supply enough renewable energy to offset the remaining 30 percent of the university’s annual indirect greenhouse gas emissions from purchased electricity by fall 2023 and will be located in Tullahoma, Tennessee. The second project’s 100 megawatts of solar power will produce the clean-electricity equivalent of carbon emissions from powering over 11,000 homes or removing more than 14,000 cars from the road.

The investment made by Vanderbilt and its partners represents a combined 125 megawatts of solar energy and will result in $3 million to $6.8 million dollars of health benefits across Tennessee from reduced air pollution associated with existing energy sources.

The Environmental Education and Outreach award recognizes an outstanding education and/or outreach program that promotes environmental stewardship, increases citizen awareness, and results in enhanced environmental protection. Nominations may include demonstration projects, awareness campaigns, or programs allowing communities to address environmental issues such as waste reduction, energy and water conservation, or non-point source pollution.

2021: Trevecca Nazarene University, Davidson County

Trevecca University Urban Farm’s TreeCycle program is rooted in environmental justice and advocacy, community engagement and action, and a holistic perspective on healthy living. TreeCycle is a youth employment program that works to structurally remove barriers to health equity by empowering and employing youth to plant an edible tree canopy and vegetable gardens in their neighborhood. The youth employees, known as TreeCyclers, are mobilized on a fleet of second-hand bicycles, promoting active transportation and a healthy living. TreeCycle focuses on the low-income South Nashville neighborhoods of Napier, Sudekum, and Chestnut Hill.

The Trevecca Urban Farm was founded in 2011 by Jason Adkins to serve as a teaching tool which believes that growing food in the city is an elegant solution to the challenges of feeding a community and healing the ecosystem. The intention of the farm is to show that the overwhelming problem of food inequity in South Nashville is neither inevitable nor impossible to overcome. The farm equips local young people and students with practical skills of farming and advocacy. The unique combination of bikes, trees, and youth is a solution that has the potential to positively impact the environment and economy statewide.

Using bikes and urban farming, TreeCycle puts youth leadership to work on many challenges at once: hunger, diet-related health, beautification, clean air, flood prevention, nature connection, community advocacy, and transportation that is healthy for our bodies and for the environment. TreeCycle is planting an urban orchard and gardens that beautify the community and provide free access to fresh fruit and vegetables. This edible canopy will prevent flooding, cool homes, sequester carbon, reduce noise, settle air pollution, improve mental health, and feed pollinators. Partnerships with Harvest Hands Community Development Center, Oasis Bike Shop, and the Cumberland River Compact have helped with developing a community engagement plan, bike repairs and creation of a tool that calculates the environmental impact of each tree planted.

In addition to a farm team, the program hired three AmeriCorps VISTAs to support and implement the daily objectives. TreeCycle employs eleven youth who have completed 360 hours of green collar job training. TreeCycle addresses systemic economic disparities and the need for community-based work through employment instead of volunteerism. TreeCycle has become a green collar job training and environmental education program for youth that works toward healthy futures, not just by planting trees and riding bikes, but also by developing job skills and teaching community advocacy.

The Material Management award recognizes conservation and protection of natural resources and cost reduction through waste prevention, reducing toxicity, re-use, recycling, composting, environmentally-preferable purchasing, supply chain dynamics, as well as product design and stewardship. Nominations may include projects addressing input change, product reformulation, and production process redesign, conservation techniques, material re-use and beneficial land application. Special consideration will be given to nominations that demonstrate a comprehensive approach and highlight the relationship between the environmental benefits and the associated social and economic benefits.

2021: Clayton Savannah, Hardin County

While several manufacturing plants and recycling facilities suspended operations due to COVID-19 disruptions in 2020, the Clayton Savannah facility remained open and operating throughout the year. Shifts in Clayton Savannah’s supply chain and access to recycling markets provided the company with an incentive to focus on process improvements to reduce waste and explore other opportunities for diverting waste from the landfill. The primary focus of Clayton Savannah’s efforts became material reuse, taking material scraps from one area of the production and working systematically through the operation to see how material could be used elsewhere in the building process. As a result, in 2020 over 1.5 million pounds of materials were able to be reused in the production process. Ninety percent of the reuse material was notoriously difficult to recycle construction waste—wood and sheetrock. These reuse activities allowed Clayton to substantially cut down their waste per home built. In 2015 their facility created an average of two tons of waste per home built, half of the waste compared to site-built homes. By the end of 2020, they were able to reduce that by 71% to 0.58 tons of waste per home built. Not only were they reducing waste, they became more efficient—both of which resulted in substantial cost savings—allowing them to produce more homes while reducing their waste and overall carbon footprint.

Accomplishments over the last year include diverting 6,726,000 pounds of waste from the landfill; 1,576,960 pounds in material reuse; nineteen percent decrease in natural gas usage; eight percent decrease in electricity use; two percent decrease in water consumption; eighteen percent decrease in hazardous waste; three percent reduction in general refuse; thirty-six percent reduction in VOCs and  fugitive dust; a total reduction in GHG emissions of -3,383 MCO2e or equal to removing 736 passenger vehicles per year; and a total reduction in energy use of -7,367 million BTU’s.

Clayton Savannah became a Tennessee Green Star Partner in 2019 and has increased recycling by 300% and diversion by 117% since implementation of their recycling and environmental programs, representing a total of 6,180 tons of material recycled and 13,495 tons diverted. 

The Natural Resource Conservation award recognizes innovative approaches, methods, and achievements in preserving, protecting, restoring, and enhancing Tennessee's natural resources in a variety of environments. Nominations may span a wide range of activities that address Tennessee;s natural, geologic, or ecological resources include in open space, wetlands, estuaries, biological diversity, endangered species, and preservation of land or conservation. Projects may also include efforts that occur in Tennessee's rural, suburban, and urban areas that result in preservation, restoration or development of green spaces, greenways, or other major public projects that result in parks or natural aquatic features for communities. Special consideration will be given for integrated approaches that benefit Tennessee's natural resources, preserve cultural resources, and enhance communities.

2021: City of Kingsport, Sullivan County

In 2020 the City of Kingsport completed the remaining mile of trail necessary to finish the Kingsport Greenbelt Master Plan, a project that began in the 1980’s. The Kingsport Greenbelt is a 10+ mile linear park that connects residential neighborhoods, traditional parks, downtown, commercial districts, historical landmarks, schools, and activity centers across the Kingsport community. It provides transportation links, waterway access, environmental enhancement, ecosystem protection, and recreational opportunities. The project has leveraged $7M in investments from multiple partners, community donations, 35 state and federal grants, 104 property acquisitions, city funding, and over 82,000 community volunteer hours.

A special feature of this unique park is a pathway for pedestrians and bicycles. It includes over 2,000 feet of elevated boardwalks, built with an innovative product called Perennial Wood, patented, and donated by Eastman Chemical, and valued at more than $80,000. These boardwalks are carefully designed to minimize any environmental impact as they go through wetlands, traverse hillsides, cross streams, and provide ADA accessibility.

This unique park has trail and sidewalk connections to various community agencies that provide support for the underserved and underrepresented population of Kingsport, which includes multiple non-profits, nine churches, and two title one elementary schools. Additionally, a Safe Routes to School project added lights and an emergency call box on a trail connector to one of the schools.

The Greenbelt provides an important riparian buffer for two waterways, Reedy Creek and North and South Forks of the Holston River, protecting over 55 acres of wetland property that adjoin the Greenbelt. The city added 260 trees, more than 100 shrubs, 150 herbs, 30,000 flower bulbs, and a pollinator garden along the trail system. The signage throughout the trails include wayfinding kiosks with display panels depicting area bird species, special bird identification signs, signs explaining the important role wetlands play in our environment, rules signs that ask the public to help protect wildflowers/vegetation and wildlife, and information signage explaining the importance of watersheds. A “Fitness Zone” located beside the Greenbelt provides a unique space to exercise in an open area and provides versatile outdoor fitness equipment to strengthen all muscle groups and can be used for free. Lastly, pedestrian and bicycle counters on the Greenbelt indicate an average of 70,000 annual users in 2020.

The Sustainable Performance award recognizes a holistic approach to achieve sustainability and integrated environmental values and conservation of natural resources into comprehensive, decision making, and long-term leadership from management of businesses and facilities. Nominations must demonstrate achievement in multiple operational areas such as facility lifecycle, supply chain management, community engagement, employee involvement, and product or service design and delivery.

2021: Nokian Tyres Dayton, Rhea County

Nokian Tyres located in Dayton, TN, recently completed construction on their new manufacturing facility. With construction of the Dayton plant, Nokian Tyres saw an opportunity to build a campus in the heart of Southeast Tennessee that prioritized sustainability and helped protect Rhea County’s dramatic landscape. The project is one of the most eco-friendly tire production factories in the world – an energy-efficient campus partially powered by solar energy, brightened by green spaces and engineered with sustainability in mind at every step of the process.

When Nokian Tyres broke ground on its Dayton facility in 2017, it set out to turn the facility into a showpiece for environmental responsibility. In 2020, the production building earned LEED v4 Silver certification – the first tire production facility in the world to achieve such a milestone. A three-megawatt-hour solar panel installation onsite, which fully powers the factory’s adjacent administration building, helped the facility achieve LEED v4 Silver certification. Additionally, the facility features a smart building automation system designed to save energy, is comprised of ecofriendly building materials, contains efficient water and waste management systems, and includes electric vehicle charging stations located in the parking lot, the same parking area covered by those solar panels.

Accomplishments include energy savings through renewable energy production, twelve percent of the building’s energy cost is covered by solar power, as well as indoor water use reduction and reduction of heat islands on the property. The factory’s administration building also earned LEED v4 Gold certification. Other successes include Nokian Tyres diverting 99% of production waste from landfills, either through reuse, recycling, incineration, or transportation to waste-to-energy facilities. Before raw materials arrive at the factory, Nokian Tyres aims to source them sustainably. In 2019, the company joined the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR), a platform that strives to increase supply and uptake of sustainable natural rubber in the global marketplace. They became the first tiremaker to have its emissions reduction targets approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative and have lowered emissions from production by thirty-three percentage.

The Dayton Factory has a three-pronged program that: supports education in Rhea County and the surrounding area; funds scholarships for high-achieving local students who share Nokian Tyres’ passion for sustainability; and serves as an advocate for sustainability in Southeast Tennessee and beyond. The company is preparing to award a one-time $2,500 scholarship to a high-achieving Rhea County High School student, which is intended to fuel college study tied to sustainability and STEM subjects. The plant also donated to the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute in 2020 to fund research studying the impacts of micropollutants in freshwater habitats, help the institute understand how changes to environment impact rivers and streams, and help restore endangered animals to their native habitats.

The Water Quality and Conservation award will demonstrate measurable progress and innovation in improving water quality, preserving water quantity, enhancing aquatic resource integrity, or employing practices in water treatment or water resource conservation and protection. Nominations may include programs and projects that incorporate water resource restoration, conservation and protection, installation of pollution prevention technologies, alternative water supplies, and facility or system design, logistics, or operational change that result in improved water quality or more efficient water use. Special consideration will be given to projects that integrate innovative solutions and technologies in improving water quality and increasing conservation and demonstrate potential for applicability by others.

2021: Cumberland River Compact, Davidson County

In 2020, the Cumberland River Compact (CRC) completed an ambitious three-year expansion of their Clean Streams Initiative (CSI). The full three-year initiative involved 235 stream cleanups in 17 Tennessee counties, 2,766 volunteers, and the removal of 134,674 pounds of trash from 64 different Tennessee waterways. The weight of all trash removed was roughly equivalent to 4,900 tires, six million plastic water bottles, or 305 million cigarette butts.

Despite the pandemic, the final year of the expansion involved 66 cleanups in 33 different Tennessee waterways. These cleanups adhered closely to local, state, and federal public health guidelines and occurred in every one of Tennessee’s 13 major watersheds of the Cumberland River Basin, in 16 Tennessee counties, and in the tornado impacted neighborhoods of North Nashville, East Nashville, and Cookeville.

With CSI, CRC developed a model for expanding the organization’s work from one community to the next across the state. CRC met city and county staff from parks and stormwater departments, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, resource managers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state, and federal park contacts, and more. With new contacts engaged, CRC organized stream cleanups in the areas that most needed it. In 2020 alone, CRC worked with 13 city or county governments, five state agencies, and three federal entities, 110 Tennessee organizations participated directly in cleanups (77 are now adopters), and over a dozen more provided other forms of support. Altogether, 2,766 volunteers cleaned Tennessee streams, contributing to 7,399 volunteer hours and $201,252 in volunteer labor.

The variety of litter in Tennessee’s rivers is exhaustive, but plastic litter is reaching truly astonishing proportions. A recent study of the Tennessee River uncovered 18,000 microplastic particles per meter. In 2020, after the tornado, CRC went to impacted areas of Nashville and Cookeville, removing insulation, roofing shingles and other potentially harmful materials before those materials could wash into waterways.

CRC targeted areas experiencing burden and prioritized work in six counties that were classified as economically distressed or at-risk counties. CRC worked with residents to clean streams in communities with thriving immigrant populations, such as Mill Creek, which flows through Antioch, and to clean streams in historically black neighborhoods, such as Drake Branch in North Nashville. Not only that, CSI provided a solid foundation for new partnerships in new places, which has opened doors to major bank restoration projects, rain garden plantings, paddle access builds, educational initiatives and more. 

The Robert Sparks Walker Lifetime Achievement award is given to an individual who has devoted at least 20 years of effective and valuable service to Tennessee's environmental protection or conservation stewardship. Past winners have demonstrated notable personal achievements in various areas, such as natural resource management, conservation, education, public service, and political support toward Tennessee's conservation and/or environmental protection.

2021: Christine Hunt, Hamilton County

Click HERE to view the Press Release of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Kathy Glapa

Kathy Glapa

Office of Sustainable Practices


This Page Last Updated: September 22, 2022 at 1:25 PM