A Zondits Interview: green|spaces Helps Chattanooga Community

Elana Cole, ERS, for Zondits, June 28, 2018

green|spaces is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that strives toward regional sustainability by progressing the way we live, work and build in Chattanooga and the surrounding region.

Zondits recently interviewed Dawn Hjelseth LEED GA, Director of Development, to learn more about green|spaces and the recent work they have been involved in.


Can you give us an overview of what green|spaces is, and what attracted you to working for this nonprofit?

green|spaces is a non-profit that promotes sustainable living, working and building around the Greater Chattanooga Area, through innovative projects and educational programming. The organization has been advancing sustainable practices in the city since 2007, working with over 100 local companies, educating over 2000 individuals and partnering with over 40 other non-profit/governmental organizations. I was attracted to the non-profit over 5 years ago because it is a passion of mine to preserve our natural resources, especially in a city that has a history of environmental distress. Since starting, I have seen lives changed, progress made in our residential and commercial sectors along with a continued momentum to making Chattanooga a better place for all.


Does green|spaces work for both residential and commercial builders?

Currently, green|spaces offers a wide variety of programing for residential and commercial sectors.


Can you give us an overview of some of the program’s that green|spaces runs?

Lunch & Learns: Hosted monthly, sustainable products, innovative building techniques and projects are featured to educate designers, builders, businesses and community members.

Green School Summit: School administration and teachers learn how to incorporate STEAM based programs into their curriculum.

Chattanooga Green Prix: A student led design, build, race program where students are provided a hands-on opportunity to learn about teamwork and STEM skills.

green|light: Created in 2015, green|light has helped over 40 local businesses look at daily operations to make them more sustainable. The program not only addresses ways to reduce energy and waste, but also identifies simple steps to improve employee health and wellness creating healthier and happier workplaces. Any size and type of business can benefit from green|light.

Empower: Started in 2014, Empower has taught over 1200 low income residents low and no cost ways to reduce energy consumption.

BIG (Build it Green) Started in January 2018, Empower added a workforce development program for 18 – 24-year-old at-risk youth from the communities served by Empower. The next round will start in August 2018. The participants receive a stipend for the 12 weeks, learn soft skills like money management, job etiquette, and community building along with receiving OSHA Certification. Coming out of the program, they will be job-ready or connected to Chattanooga State for more technical training.

NextGen Homes: Started in 2014 with a design competition, NextGen Homes are now changing the residential building market to offer $0 net annual electric bills for the same price as conventional homes on the market. The project is educating realtors, builders, homebuyers, and students on the innovative building techniques and why it is a viable, profitable option for the future of residential construction.

Green Drinks: Hosted monthly, Green Drinks showcases a sustainable business or product while connecting eco-minded community members in a social atmosphere.

Community Resource Center: green|spaces was started as the one-stop shop for sustainability. We offer free consulting services and connect people to local businesses and products that offer sustainable solutions.


Can you talk about some of the recent achievements of green|spaces?

green|light: In May 2018, 10 local Chattanooga businesses confirmed that they will be joining the green|light program to show their commitment to sustainability. These 10 local businesses will receive a green|light certification and commit to sustainable initiatives this year. The list of green|light partners can be found here.

Green Prix: On March 24, green|spaces held an event called the Chattanooga Green Prix. 8 local schools received a base Greenpower USA kit car with instructions to assemble the kits and shell of a car, and learned to charge their batteries using renewables, challenging them to designate roles in their team and build teamwork and communication skills. More information on this event can be found here.

BIG: The Build it Green program is a training program that introduces low-income communities to green building skills. Students are introduced to several green building skills, such as sealing ductwork to understanding whole-house computer models. There are dual goals: to help low-income people find jobs in the green building industry and to encourage low-income communities to adopt sustainable building strategies. More information on the program can be found here.

NextGen Homes: In 2014, green|spaces launched a project to recognize healthy building materials that can be used in new construction, and invited teams of architects and builders to build net-zero homes using healthier materials while also keeping the price of these homes in the affordable range of homes in the area. As of this spring, 4 NextGen homes will be completely built, and green|spaces is continuing to work with other developers to help implement cost effective strategies. Some of the features highlighted in NextGen homes include: Energy Efficient and ENERGY STAR certified appliances, VaproShield envelope barrier, ductless, mini-split heat pumps, casement windows to create an airtight space, local materials and LED’s, solar panels, and efficient framing practices to reduce thermal bridging. More information on this project can be found here.


What is your favorite part about working for green|spaces?

My favorite part of working at green|spaces is our ability to be agile and diverse in our programming to meet the community needs. We listen to the community, learn about what is working well across the country and then create solutions that make Chattanooga a more sustainable place for all to live, work and play in Chattanooga.


How can folks in the Chattanooga and surrounding region get involved?

The easiest thing someone can do is Like us on Facebook and share! The more people who know what we are doing and how they can be more sustainable in their daily practices, the better! Here a few other ways folks can get involved:

  • Sign up for our E-newsletter – We send out regular updates on upcoming events, projects and opportunities for people to get involved.
  • Take the Empower Energy Savings Checklist & make your home more energy efficient!
  • Become a member – For just $10/month, individuals can help support sustainable living, working and building in our region. Corporations can become members for just $500 annually.
  • Sponsor a Green Prix Car – We currently have 24 public schools on a waiting list for the Green Prix. Any size sponsorship can help to support creating future STEM professionals.
  • Sign up your company for green|light. Help your business and co-workers be more sustainable in day to day practices