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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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« What do our guests think? | Main | Program Book for Next Week's Conference »
Saturday
Nov102012

Sustainable Recovery Conference a Success!

Joplin builder Frank Schaffer presents at a break-out session

The first annual Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference co-sponsored by GreenTown and Saint Louis University Center for Sustainability exceeded our expectations and the goals we had set for ourselves (our Measures of Success). Over 200 people participated in the 2-day event held on the SLU campus on October 29-30. We had set a big agenda and scheduled many choices for break-out options so that folks had could focus on what they were most interested in.

The Greensburg story was recounted from several different angles. Former City Administrator Steve Hewitt (now serving as City Manager in Clinton, Oklahoma) participated in a plenary panel of municipal officials who were on the front-lines of sustainable recovery, post-disaster. He was joined by Jonathan Raiche, who is with the City of Joplin's Planning Department, and Dennis Knobloch, who served as Mayor of Valmeyer, Illinois in the 1990s when it was ravaged by a flood and the decision was made to move the town to higher ground.

Greensburg business owner Mike Estes, Vice-President of BTI, joined Rob Threlkeld, GM's Global Manager for Renewable Energy, for a plenary presentation where they discussed the role of business and entrepreneurship, post-disaster.

Greensburg residents Jill and Scott Eller, owners of the most recognizable home in the community, joined Joplin residents Hugh and Ramona Shields and their builder, Will E. Perkins, to discuss how they felt inspired to rebuild model "green" homes after tornadoes ravaged their respective communities. Coincidentally, both couples chose to use SIPs technology for their new houses. The Ellers have been in their new home for several years now, and the Shields look to get settled in later this month.

Larry Schwarm, who grew up in the country just outside Greensburg - and whose parents still reside there - shared a powerful presentation of photos he took just after the tornado in May of 2007. Former Greensburg resident (and current GreenTown Board Treasurer) Laura Stoltenberg joined Joplin resident (and current GreenTown Joplin Committee Chair) Andrew Whitehead in discussing how their lives changed in dramatic ways after the tornadoes that hit their cities. The focus of their talk was how they emerged as community leaders in the wake of the sustainable recovery commitments made by their respective towns.

Representatives of several agencies that were key in Greensburg's comeback were also on hand to share their expertise, notably Chuck Banks, former Kansas State Director for USDA Rural Development (now employed by the financial management firm Deloitte, LLC); Steve Castaner with FEMA; and Mary Werner with the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado.

These are just the folks with Greensburg ties. There were a host of representatives from Joplin, academics from several universities, and experts in sustainable recovery from around the country - each with a compelling point of view to share. The conference ended on an inspiring note with the lunch plenary keynote presentation by Eric Cesal, who is part of the well-respected Architecture for Humanity group that works to bring affordable, sustainable housing to people in need from around the globe.

For a complete list of speakers and a summary of the program, please refer to the conference website.The plenary sessions were professionally filmed by St. Louis-based HEC-TV. These are being edited and will be available on their website, as well as on both GreenTown sites and on the conference site. We want to make sure that the content is easily accessible to people throughout the world with a need for/interest in this type of information. When an area is hit by disaster, it is important that those with history share their resources and experience so that communities in need don't have to reinvent the wheel. Paying it forward is a key value in the "industry" that is sustainable disaster recovery.

We are enormously grateful to the presenters, the participants, the sponsors, the exhibitors, and the staff that made this whole thing possible. It was truly a labor of love. We are already considering how to build upon this year's offering and will keep you posted. If you have ideas for program content, speakers, exhibitors, or sponsors for 2013, please don't hesitate to contact us: info [at] greensburggreentown.org or sustainability [at] slu.edu.