2012 Green Heroes – The Adopters

Spotlighting local businesses that have turned sustainability talk into tangible action

Green business has become big business in Nashville and across Middle Tennessee. For this year's iteration of Green Heroes, we assembled almost 30 individuals and companies in four categories: Adopters, Evangelists, Intermediaries and Makers.

As they and others get us toward a critical mass of sustainability, we will no longer need to make a distinction between being green or not. Green we will simply be.

 
Vanderbilt University

vanderbilt.edu

Keith Loiseau thinks of himself as one small part of the school’s hearty network of environmentally conscious students, faculty, staff and administration members. Still, Loiseau shines as a leader, although the university does have an impressive web of people actively involved in the ‘greening’ of campus.

As head architect of the campus planning and construction department, he has championed the school’s move toward environmental stewardship as far back as the 1990s.

“I’ve been interested in sustainability since college,” Loiseau says. “I had an awareness that design is all about allocation of precious resources.”

Loiseau has been in a position to help steer the success of several of Vanderbilt’s most successful LEED-certified projects, including the much-publicized Campus Commons residence and dining cluster, completed in 2007. That project, which was one of the largest construction projects in Vanderbilt’s history, delivered the first LEED-certified building on a university campus in the state and is the largest group of sustainable buildings in the Southeast.

“The Commons project really was seminal,” Loiseau says. “A lot of things took off after that.”

Vanderbilt now has 13 LEED-certified buildings, including seven in the design or construction phase. One upcoming project that Loiseau is particularly excited about is a new 250,000-square-foot combination engineering and medical lab building. He says each new project allows the VU team to integrate all they’ve learned from previous projects.

“With new projects, we can exceed previous accomplishments,” he says.

Loiseau is pleased with the recent renovation of the school’s central library because it didn’t involve new construction. It meant that pieces of the structure didn’t end up in the landfill. Architects and planners found additional space in the original library by opening up “grand spaces” that had been subdivided and built over.

“The greenest building you can have is often not a new building, but a renovation of an existing one,” he says.

Loiseau insists on giving much of the credit for the greening of VU to the students, and to the school’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management, a joint effort between plant operations and the VU Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

“I’ve been involved but it’s not just one person making all this happen,” he says.

 
Gaylord Entertainment
gaylordhotels.com

On the heels of rebuilding its Opryland complex following the 2010 floods, Gaylord officials announced a wide-ranging initiative to cut the companies energy consumption and emissions by 20 percent by 2015. So far so good: Through the first half of this year, consumption per square foot was down almost 15 percent from 2009 levels and spending on energy fell to a record-low 2.3 percent of revenues.

Andy Mims, vice president of sustainability, says capital investments such as high-efficiency LED light bulbs have been important, but adds that his team thinks more than 40 percent of the energy savings have been due to behavioral and operational changes — think turning off light bulbs and setting temperatures in empty rooms a little higher.

Other notable numbers from Gaylord’s four major properties around the country:

• Improved recycling efforts diverted 2,500 tons of waste from landfills
• Water consumption per occupied room was down more than 10 percent from 2009
• Cumulative energy savings since the beginning of 2011 now top $7 million

How these efforts progress under the planned transition to Marriott International management remains to be seen. But the next big step beyond further greening the physical plant figures to be making the hundreds of large meetings at Gaylord’s properties much more green.

 
Tayst
taystrestaurant.com

Owner and chef Jeremy Barlow is as passionate about sustainability as he is about quality cuisine. His 21st Avenue restaurant was the first to be green-certified in the state, three stars from the Green Restaurant Association. With his focus on utilizing small local farms that grow without pesticides and fertilizers and on bringing seasonal delicacies to the table, he has built a loyal following based on flavor, not just a carbon footprint. Behind the scenes, Barlow and his team minimize waste through recycling and composting and have also partnered with Erika Woodard of Cater to You to form Local Catering Kitchen, which focuses on a seasonal-sustainable food philosophy.

 
Piedmont Natural Gas
piedmontng.com

When it comes to powering infrastructure, we often hear how much more efficient natural gas is than other forms of energy. The Piedmont Natural Gas team not only extolls this data, but has put its philosophy of environmental conservation to work. Its Century City operations facility near the airport achieved a LEED “gold” rating. The 50,000-square-foot building has a five-acre wetland adjacent to the property, bio-ponds that help manage storm water runoff, a partial green roof and solar-powered parking lot lights.