Here is a feel-good story that is both true and inspiring. It reminds me that we can do a lot to move our country in a green direction, even if Congress is failing to address climate change and other pressing environmental issues.
Three and a half years ago, the western Kansas town of Greensburg was flattened by a tornado. A week after the tornado, which destroyed 95% of the buildings in town, Greensburg officials passed a resolution that the town would rebuild, and it would rebuild green. Municipal buildings over 4,000 square feet would be built to meet the U.S. Green Building Council's prestigious LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum designation.
Greensburg's commitment to rebuilding green attracted a great deal of media attention. It even sparked the creation of a reality TV show on Planet Green that starred Leonardo DiCaprio. Thanks to all the outside interest, the town was able to attract help from many sources as it began its green rebuilding initiative.
The nonprofit Greensburg GreenTown was launched to coordinate the green rebuilding efforts. With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) formed a team to work with city and county administrators, businesses, and residents to rebuild the town greenly. Numerous corporate sponsors also contributed a great deal.
Today, three and a half years after the devastating tornado tore through the town, Greensburg truly lives up to its name. The town is carbon neutral, and it has more LEED Platinum-certified buildings per capita than anywhere else in the world. More than 100 new Greensburg homes are 40% more efficient than code requires, and many buildings are headed toward LEED certification. A wind farm owned by John Deere produces enough power for more than 4,000 households.
A few highlights of the Greensburg of 2010:
- The new City Hall is LEED Platinum-certified. The building has solar panels and geothermal technology. It was built of reclaimed brick from a power plant destroyed by the tornado. The building will have a green roof with a vegetable garden on it.
- The new Centera Bank has energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems and energy-efficient lighting systems. The building uses water efficiently and has an onsite bioswale (a landscape feature designed to remove pollutants and silt from runoff surface water). The bank is seeking LEED certification.
- The Eco Silo Home has solar panels, a green roof, eco-friendly finishes, energy-efficient mechanical systems, water-efficient fixtures, and more. The building is cylindrically shaped to withstand winds of up to 200 miles per hour. The Eco Silo Home is headquarters for Greensburg GreenTown and also serves as a bed and breakfast for tourists interested in experiencing green living.
- Kiowa County Memorial Hospital was rebuilt with an onsite wind turbine and is expected to use 40% less energy than a hospital built to standard code.
- Thanks to help from NREL in developing a conservation plan, the John Deere dealership slashed its utility bills 40% and its water use by 50%.
- Greensburg has become an eco-tourist destination, with interested individuals and groups coming from all over the world to learn from Greensburg's experience.
I find the story of Greensburg extremely heartening. Here is a town in a conservative area that has enthusiastically embraced a much greener way of life than the one they had before the tornado hit. Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixon told E Magazine, "Sometimes we hear the word "green,' and we think modernistic. But green is just being good stewards of the resources we've been blessed with."
If Greensburg, Kansas, can go green in a big way, it should be possible anywhere. April Moore