Gov. Bill Lee speaks at the Cool Springs Marriott hotel in Franklin at the 34th annual Governor's Environmental Stewardship Awards ceremony on Oct. 4.

On Monday, Gov. Bill Lee spoke at the Marriott Hotel in Franklin to celebrate this year's leading environmental conservationists at the Governor's Environmental Stewardship Awards (GESA) ceremony.

Launched in 1986 by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Health, the GESA is an annual awards ceremony that celebrates "individuals, local governments, businesses, organizations, educational institutions, and agencies for successful environmental projects and conservation measures."


Well over 150 people attended the 34th annual Governor's Environmental Stewardship Awards ceremony.

Now in its 34th year, this year's ceremony saw 25 organizations or individuals across the state awarded for their roles in environmental conservationism, with local examples being Vanderbilt University for "excellence in energy and renewable resources," and The Nashville Food Project for "pursuit of excellence."

Long an advocate of relegating the tackling of societal issues to the private sector as opposed to government, Lee again touted this belief as it relates to environmental conservationism, and championed the award recipients at this year's ceremony.

"The environment, conservation, stewardship... the ability to do that in a meaningful way is much greater than the government's," Lee said.

"It's like so many things that I talk about; government is not the answer to the greatest challenges that we have, and protecting, preserving and conserving our environment - our natural resources - is a great challenge.


Members of the Coffee County Soil Conservation District pose for a photo with Gov. Bill Lee after being awarded for "Excellence in Agriculture and Forestry."

"It is one of the great challenges of our day - government can't solve that, it takes the private sector, nonprofits, individuals, it takes the commitment of passionate people in the community across this state to partner and come together to preserve, protect and conserve."

Lee harkened back to his life growing up on a farm in Franklin, which with it came an "appreciation for [the] outdoors," and argued that every Tennessean could play a pivotal role in helping environmental conservation efforts.

"Our state celebrates 225 years this year... we have an obligation and a responsibility to make certain that 225 years from now, the people that live here have full access to this remarkable place that we call Tennessee," Lee said.

"We need all of our citizens to understand it even more what you do [that] allows that to happen.

The 2020 and 2021 award winners of the Governor's Environmental Stewardship Awards are as follows:

Excellent in Agriculture and Forestry

  • 2020 - Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry
  • 2021 - Coffee County Soil Conservation District

Excellence in Building Green

  • 2020 - FedExFamilyHouse
  • 2021 - Tennessee Tech University

Excellence in Clean Air

  • 2020 - Shelby County Health Department

Excellence in Environmental Education and Outreach

  • 2020 - green | spaces
  • 2021 - Trevecca Nazarene University

Excellence in Energy and Renewable Resources

  • 2020 - City of Knoxville
  • 2021 - Vanderbilt University

Excellence in Materials Management

  • 2020 - Paint Oak, LLC
  • 2021 - Clayton Savannah

Excellence in Natural Resource

  • 2020 - Johnson County
  • 2021 - City of Kingsport

Excellence in Sustainable Performance

  • 2020 - Stanley Black & Decker
  • 2021 - Nakian Tyres Dayton

Excellence in Water Quality

  • 2020 - Milcrofton Utility District
  • 2021 - Cumberland River Compact

Pursuit of Excellence

  • 2020 - Crosstown Concourse
  • 2020 - The Nashville Food Project
  • 2021 - Knoxville Utilities Board
  • 2021 - Metro Nashville Department of General Services
  • 2021 - Tennsco

Lifetime Achievement

  • 2020 - Dodd Galbreath
  • 2020 - Bob Fulcher
  • 2021 - Christine Hunt