Tennessee offers unsurpassed natural beauty, cherished culture and hospitable cities and towns. In order to preserve this way of life, Tennessee makes sustainability a priority. Here’s a sampling of festivals, attractions and accommodations that are putting the earth first with sustainable practices, ensuring residents and visitors continue to enjoy the state for generations to come.
Eco-Friendly Tennessee Places to Explore
Seven genres of music call Tennessee home. Those and many more are written, recorded and played live here every day. Tennessee Music Pathways connect you to the people, places and genres significant to music history. From the largest cities to the smallest communities, this statewide program identifies, explains and preserves the legacy of music in Tennessee. Visit any of the Pathways locations and get discounted rides with Lyft to help reduce travel pollution through the ridesharing program. If you’re new to Lyft, you can get $5 off your first 2 rides with code TNMusic5 and if you use Lyft, you can still get 10% off your ride with code TNMusic10.
When you travel along the Civil War Trail, which travels through all of Tennessee, you can be sure the signs and panels used to share the Civil War’s stories of the people, military and politicians involved are fully recyclable, helping to ensure a sustainable future. The program now utilizes an innovative printing process that extends the life of signage and makes it easier to recycle. In 2018, The Civil War Trails recycled 765 sign panels, 682 pounds of aluminum and 6,400 pounds of paper. The program has been recognized by the Maryland Green Registry and Virginia Green Tourism.
Rivian, an electric vehicle automaker and automotive technology company, has partnered with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to install Rivian Waypoint EV charging stations at Tennessee State Parks. Level 2 chargers will be installed which are compatible with all EV models currently on the road. The open-network chargers can provide up to 11.5 kilowatts of power which can give you a top up on miles as you enjoy a day trip or overnight camping trip in one of Tennessee's 56 state parks. Installation begins Fall 2021 and is slated to be completed by March 2022.
Ober Gatlinburg – Gatlinburg
The only ski resort in Tennessee, Ober Gatlinburg in Gatlinburg boasts 10 trails to ski or snowboard, snow tubing lanes, year-round indoor ice skating, shopping, dining, an aerial tramway, ski and snowboard equipment rentals and more. Ober Gatlinburg’s snow-making process for folks to enjoy the powdery fun is one of the most advanced in the world and, at Lower Bear Run, it’s sustainable. Ober Gatlinburg has five low-energy HKD Snowmaker towers. The snowmaking towers make less noise and use less energy while still providing an efficient way to snow the slopes.
Bush’s Beans – Dandridge
For more than 100 years, Bush’s Beans in Dandridge has brought canned beans of all varieties into the homes of Americans everywhere. The business started out as a family cannery in 1897 in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee. Bush’s Beans also runs a beef cattle 2,000-acre farm, which allows them to use the water left over from the bean plant to water pastures, making sure none of the production plant water is wasted. You can learn the history of the company, the bean process and more, including their sustainability practices in the visitor center, housed in the original A.J. Bush & Company general store. It’s approximately 19 miles from Pigeon Forge and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the first Monday in April to the first Monday in November and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting the first Monday in November to the first Monday of April.
Ruby Falls – Chattanooga
Ruby Falls in Chattanooga was the first U.S. attraction to earn Green Globe certification for its leadership in sustainability and environmentally-sensitive business practices. Some of their work includes capturing rainwater and using it for irrigation which saves more than 16,000 gallons of water a year; water conserving plumbing is used in all restrooms; the Ruby Falls building features low-E windows, LED lighting, efficient HVAC systems; the building’s construction included recycled content and materials within a 500-mile radius; and recycling bins are available for guests’ use. The nation’s largest and deepest underground waterfall is open for tours 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Take a classic waterfall tour or wait until the sun goes down to travel the path to the waterfall by lantern.
Tennessee Aquarium – Chattanooga
When you purchase a ticket to Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, America’s highest rated aquarium for overall guest satisfaction, you’re also partnering with them in their efforts to educate the public about water safety and wildlife conservation. Research shows 662 out of 905 U.S. native species are found in the Southeast. The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute focuses on restoring these freshwater ecosystems by analyzing water temperatures, analyzing environmental DNA from the Tennessee River and investigating nearby fish species. The LEED-certified Conservation Institute’s facility is a 14,000-square-foot space with a fully-equipped lab space to assist the scientists and researchers in their conservation work.
Dry Levee Salvage – Cookeville
Plan a day to explore Cookeville and shop at the Dry Levee Salvage where John Owen and his team scourge Middle Tennessee for historic structures, artifacts and vehicles to preserve and repurpose. At their store, you’ll find vintage decor, homeware, local crafts and even raw materials and architectural supplies for your next DIY project. It’s a way for Dry Levee Salvage to preserve history and tell these materials’ stories to younger generations.
Bonnaroo – Manchester
Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester who plays host to big name performers from Mumford & Sons to Post Malone and Cardi B also takes sustainability seriously. The festival organizes compost efforts, recycling programs, community projects and BonnaROOTS dinners, using $1 from every ticket sold for these programs they’ve developed. While on-site at the festival, check out Planet Roo, a space that welcomes a diverse group of non-profits that provide everything from healthy, organic meals to yoga and information on sustainable travel. Stop by The Clean Vibes’ Trading Post where bottles and cans are your currency to get t-shirts, festival and camping gear and more. Bonnaroo also has a completely solar-powered stage. The 2019 schedule of performers for the solar-powered stage will be released soon.
Mirimichi Lakes Golf – Millington
Mirimichi Lakes Golf in Millington is an award-winning, eco-golf course that conducts environmental education for staff and visitors, utilizes integrated pest management and water conservation. Tee up to enjoy Mirimichi’s native landscapes, wildlife habitat, waterfalls and creeks on-site. The more than 7,400 yards of championship level golf accommodates players of all skill levels while also providing a challenge to seasoned players.
Sustainable Places to Eat and Drink in Tennessee
Known for their ever-changing menu of fresh ingredients all from the south, Husk takes Southern cuisine to the next level. This farm-to-table approach provides a menu full of seasonal food and drinks all while saving the environment and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
Located in Pigeon Forge, the Local Goat specializes in locally sourced and sustainable foods. Customers can enjoy a selection of craft food and drinks such as “bhaahhbu” back ribs, ahi tuna steak, a buckberry old fashioned and much more.
With two locations at Overton Square and Regalia, Belly Acres prides itself on bringing their customers the best food “from our acres to your belly.” They have a wide selection of signature burgers, salads and beef-less burgers. They are so passionate about inspiring others and future generations to eat clean that on Wednesdays kids eat free.
Sip and support local vineyards in Tennessee. The Winery at Seven Springs Farm, for example, in Maynardville harvests and makes their wines on-site, limiting their overall greenhouse gas emissions. Take a tour of the facility to learn about their scientific wine-making process and see the beautiful vineyards on the 370-acre farm. Then, make your way to the tasting room to sample the large selection of award-winning wines.
Crafted, distilled and bottled in East Tennessee, Knox Whiskey Works in Knoxville utilizes local farmers and artisans for their spirits. Riverplains Farm is its farmer and uses non-toxic farming and preserves genetic diversity among seeds. Valentine Mill is its miller and is locally-owned and operated 20 minutes from Sevierville. Knox Whiskey Works distills their spirits in small batches, including their award-winning Old City Heirloom Corn Whiskey (made with local corn). You can take a tour to immerse yourself in their process. You’ll quickly learn you get a full sip of East Tennessee in each glass.
Eco-Friendly Places to Stay in Tennessee
Camp Atagahi – Gatlinburg
“Atagahi” in Cherokee means “healing place” and that’s what A Walk in the Woods Camp Atagahi in Gatlinburg wishes to bring to their guests with environmental hikes and trip guides who cultivate a love of nature. Stay at the new Eco camp which helps you disconnect from the hustle of everyday life. The roomy tents include lamps, tables, comfy cots with air mattresses and gourmet camp meals. Bathe and drink fresh mountain spring water and zipline, hike or raft among the acres of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Located in Chattanooga, The Crash Pad is an eco-friendly, LEED-certified glamping spot unlike any other. Offering 24 bunk beds or five private rooms, complimentary DIY breakfast and walking distance to some of the area’s restaurants and bars, this classic, yet charming hostel provides visitors with a blend of reclaimed and renewable resources to ensure the best of energy efficiency while supporting local sustainable businesses.
Known for its four-star, four-diamond service, the Hutton Hotel goes above and beyond to provide its guests with an eco-friendly stay. From the time guests arrive, they are greeted by bamboo floors and furniture made from reclaimed wood. The rooms are equipped with automatic, motion detection lights, and to cut back on the use of plastic guests can find soap, shampoo and conditioner all in dispensers. To reduce the use of carbon-emissions and air pollution, the hotel is within walking distance to several popular attractions, restaurants and bars.
The David Crockett State Park cabins are the perfect, family weekend getaway. Equipped with geothermal-powered HVAC units and gas fireplaces, these LEED-certified vacation homes are ahead of the curve on energy conservation. The state park also has the Tennessee Naturalist Program which serves as an educational training program to provide service and outreach efforts to help preserve Tennessee’s natural beauty and resources.