I began working for Greensburg GreenTown on Friday, August 3rd. Before moving here two weeks ago, I had been to Greensburg twice: once just passing through and the second time in June for my interview with GreenTown. It would seem that I knew what I was getting into when I decided to move here, but there are some intricacies you discover only when you live in a place full-time.
I’m originally from Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City which is about five hours east of Greensburg with a population of just under 200,000. Though I’ve claimed Kansas as my home state, I now feel as though I’ve been misrepresenting myself. Overland Park, despite the fact that it lies within the borders of Kansas, isn’t the heart of the state in the way that Greensburg is. Greensburg has a population of about 800 and it takes no longer than 20 minutes to walk to virtually everywhere in town from my house. True to Greensburg’s legacy, the weather can be extreme. During my second night here the power went out for about an hour and a half as howling winds invaded the town. Though I tried to be brave, I couldn’t help fearing that a repeat of May 4, 2007 was on its way. Thankfully it wasn’t, but tornado awareness is constant; Greensburg tests its tornado sirens four times per day (7 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., and 6 p.m.). Dodge City and Pratt, the two closest good-sized towns, are 45 minutes and 30 minutes away, respectively, and the closest big city, Wichita, is two hours away. The towns are separated by vast expanses of tree-less agriculture. Luckily there is a grocery store in town where you can shop for the necessities; for more exotic ingredients like feta cheese and oregano you need to visit one of the larger towns. Another truism that is unique to towns with a small population is the lack of anonymity. Sometimes people know who I am simply because I’m new, but everyone I’ve met has been friendly and welcoming when I introduce myself.
While the core of this experience ostensibly holds true throughout many small towns in America, Greensburg’s focus on sustainability sets it apart from small towns and major cities alike. Though I obtained my respect for Greensburg’s green endeavor before I moved here, the magnitude of sustainable rebuilding didn’t hit me fully until I started experiencing Greensburg from the inside out. From most locations in town you can see wind turbines taking advantage of the copious wind. Solar panels also adorn many buildings on main street. Easily observable features like the wind turbines and solar panels capture one’s attention at first, but even more incredible are the underlying sustainable features. The more discreet design concepts like rainwater harvesting, which reuses rainwater for irrigation, and reclaimed materials, which preserve resources by reusing old ones, make a big impact on the sustainability of Greensburg. The GreenTour Book has a full list of the sustainable features in Greensburg and has been instrumental to my knowledge of the community. I came to realize that the most remarkable aspect of Greensburg, however, is the people themselves, who made a sustainable community their mission. They didn’t pick the easy way out by choosing either not to rebuild or to rebuild hastily. The town has been carefully planned with the green focus at the forefront, making it a sparkling example in the middle of America. I’m excited to be working for GreenTown and to become a regular contributor to the GreenTown blog. Here’s to a great year!
Here I am in the city, but thinking about Greensburg!