In my house, I’m the one that insists on recycling. Even more than my husband, in typical “Dad” fashion, it’s me who’s fussing at the kids about turning out the lights and running the water. It’s not that I want to nag, but when you were raised running in the woods and playing outside, you want to make sure your kids have the same big, bright world to explore.
It’s no wonder that our family is big on outdoor adventure. Whenever we take a weekend away, we try to build in at least one nature-centric activity. Sometimes that means an aquarium, sometimes camping, sometimes just finding a nice park, but last weekend we chose Lookout Mountain. Here, everything we did had us surrounded by natural beauty. When my son was geeking out over the Incline Railway’s big engine room or my daughter was gleefully hopping between sculptures of magical characters in Rock City’s Fairyland Caverns, nature was there all around us.
There was no eco-guilt to this awesome trip, but I was especially impressed when we got to Ruby Falls, and I learned about their sustainability efforts. I may not be world’s greenest mom—don’t get me started on the single day we lasted without plastic—but seeing everything they are doing to help maintain the natural beauty of Ruby Falls made me feel so good about our decision to make this journey.
From the observation tower, you can see the array of solar panels that help power the LED lights in the cave. These spectacular lights paint the picture of what Leo Lambert and his team saw as they first explored the cavern system. The light show that ignites Ruby Falls rivals any masterpiece hanging in an art museum, hands down. Finding out that they’re energy-efficient enhances the effect all the more; you know that you’re witnessing a true natural wonder and not damaging it in the process.
During the tour, we also learned that recycling has been built into the attraction since the beginning. The castle was built using the limestone excavated to reach the falls, and just recently, two 8,000-gallon water collection tanks were placed under the newly created plaza to collect rainwater for irrigation. Ruby Falls is also the first U.S. attraction to achieve Green Globe Certification, the international standard for sustainable tourism. Whether or not all this information about saving the planet made its way down the line to my kids, who were busy looking for patterns in all the cave formations and racing to find new ones of their own, I don’t know. But I do know that as a mom who cares about leaving behind a beautiful world for the next generation to enjoy, Ruby Falls’ conservation efforts have made a big impact on me.
For a whole weekend, my kids weren’t plugged into any screens or complaining about the “boring” nature stuff I keep asking us to do. They were engaged, fascinated, and out in the natural world. And because of all the green efforts, I noticed while we were there, I feel confident that we’ll get to keep doing this, even when they have kids of their own.