The Greening of Small-Town America
Much like the story of Soldiers Grove, a natural disaster almost wiped Greensburg, Kansas, off the map in May 2007. An EF5 tornado tore through the town of 1,500, leveling most of its homes and buildings and killing 11 people. Just days after the tragedy, the people of Greensburg vowed to rebuild their community and make it what they call a sustainable "GreenTown".
"It has been amazing to watch what is possible in coming through a tragedy when there is hope to give the adversity meaning, like rebuilding as a model [community] for the world," says Daniel Wallach, the executive director of Greensburg GreenTown, a nonprofit organization working to rebuild the town. "Creating beauty out of chaos is art and can be enormously rewarding. I think many residents feel this."
Using some of the knowledge gained from Soldiers Grove's venture into solar power after a natural disaster and Rock Port's commitment to producing wind energy, Greensburg is hoping to create a community that is sustainable now and for future generations. "Why build buildings that have short life spans, cause problems because of poor indoor air quality or cost a bundle to heat and cool? Rural folks have a strong tendency toward common sense, and when you look at all the angles, building green is plain common sense," Wallach says.
Kosisky also featured Greensburg in Solar Town USA . He says there are many lessons from Soldiers Grove that Greensburg can incorporate into its rebuilding efforts."Keep it simple, plan for the systems' upkeep, allow upgrading to be affordable and educate the citizens on the best use of the new systems," Kosisky says.
Wallach says Greensburg is taking advice from Soldiers Grove to heart. The town is not only educating its citizens about sustainable building—it's hoping to teach the rest of the world as well. "The town is now an eco-educational tourist destination, which will likely be a significant economic engine in the new Greensburg," he says. "The American spirit is about ingenuity, resourcefulness and caring. This is a huge part of the culture in Greensburg, and it is something our country needs at this time more than ever."