Greer Tidwell, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and Mike Robertson, director of operations for Tennessee State Parks, accepted the award at the association’s national conference in Sunriver, Oregon, according to a report.
The award is given to an individual or organization that has made an extraordinary contribution, innovation, and best practice at a state, regional or national level, furthering the goal of a state parks system.
“We are very grateful to the (association) for honoring Tennessee State Parks,” said Tidwell. “The teams at our parks show commitment to sustainability practices every day and are worthy of this honor. We look forward to such commitment well into the future.”
“This award recognizes the importance of sustainability and the work that goes into it in our parks,” said Robertson. “The ‘Go Green With Us’ program is a valuable service to Tennesseans, and we are honored that our parks have been recognized by such a prestigious organization.”
“Go Green With Us” was created in 2015 as a partnership between Tennessee State Parks and citizens to help protect and preserve the parks through conservation, sustainable operations, and recycling.
The program implements sustainable practices throughout park operations. It provides sustainable options for park guests, such as recycling, water bottle filling stations, earth-friendly merchandise, and environmentally friendly lodging and recreational opportunities.
The program uses nine metrics for the evaluation of the 56 state parks. The parks can earn Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum recognition levels through this evaluation process.
In the program’s first year, no park reached Platinum, and only three parks reached Gold. Only five years later, 22 parks reached Gold, and 28 reached Platinum.
Each of the state parks has a designated Go Green representative who works to incorporate Go Green initiatives such as education and outreach, water conservation, and waste reduction.
Other sustainable initiatives include energy efficiency, recycling upgrades, food recovery, recycled tires, solar panels, and electric vehicle charging stations.
The Go Green With Us program has a feature article in each issue of The Tennessee Conservationist where you can stay updated on the latest Go Green initiatives in the parks.
Robin Peeler, East Tennessee park area manager, and Kelsey Davis, environmental consultant for the Office of Sustainable Practices at TDEC, are co-managers of the “Go Green With Us” program.
This article originally appeared on The Paris Post-Intelligencer.