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Greensburg GreenTown is a charitable nonprofit organization working in Greensburg, Kansas to rebuild the town following the devastating tornado in May of 2007. The town has made a remarkable comeback, reinventing itself as a model for sustainable building and green living now recognized around the world. GreenTown works to make green building and living easily understood, appealing and accessible to all.

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Living Green Around the Globe: Samso Island

Image courtesy of Inhabitat.com

We thought we would start off the new year on a positive note with a blog series entitled Living Green Around the Globe. The articles will highlight sustainable communities around the world and what has made them successful. The first community we have chosen to highlight is the completely energy self-sufficient Samso Island.

Samso Island is located nine miles off mainland Denmark and has a population of approximately 4,000 people. In 1997, Samso won a national contest sponsored by the Danish Energy Agency to select the off-shore island with the best plan to become 100 percent energy-sustainable within a 10-year time frame. The island has gone from being 100 percent reliant on petroleum and coal in 1997 to being energy self-sufficient, utilizing only renewable sources, in 2003. The island is powered by 11 on-shore and 10 off-shore wind turbines. The turbines are either privately or cooperatively owned by Samso residents, or by the municipal government. The turbines make enough energy to meet the community's electricity demands, supply the island's entire public transportation system, and have a surplus to sell to other regions of Denmark.

It's not that the Samso residents have given up their cars and other usual modes of transport. The three ferries that connect the island with the mainland, for example, consume large sums of petroleum every day. But Samso sells more clean energy to the continent than it purchases in fossil fuels. Some farmers have adapted their tractors and other vehicles to consume ethanol or other fuels distilled from locally grown plants.

Samso also has four generators that run on the combustion of hay, which is abundant on the island. The generators are especially efficient because they produce both heat and electricity. Many homes have installed solar panels, geothermal heating, and boilers fuelled with biomass to eliminate carbon emissions. Some dairy farmers have gone as far as to connect a heat transfer mechanism to their collection tanks to prevent the warmth from the milk from dissipating into the air, and harnessing it instead to help heat their homes.

The residents of Samso who were initially hesitant to embrace the renewable energy and eco-friendly trend, have embraced the lifestyle and the positive changes that it has brought their community. They have found that it has boosted their local economy; in fact one in ten residents own a share in a wind turbine. Samso has become an eco-tourism hotspot and the Samso Energy Academy serves as a visitor and educational center for the many tourists. For more information on Samso and its sustainability initiatives please check out this article by Scientific American.

Readers may find it significant that a resident of Samso Island traveled all the way to Greensburg not long after the tornado in 2007 to offer support, share information about their projects, and check out the local Green Initiative.