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Who We Are

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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The Inspirational Recovery of West Liberty, Kentucky

Former President Bill Clinton Visits with Morgan County, KY Judge Tim Conley

Readers may remember our story last year about the recovery plans undertaken by West Liberty, Kentucky after the community experienced a deadly tornado in March of 2012. Their leaders drew inspiration from Greensburg's re-identification as a model green community, and invited GreenTown's Daniel Wallach to town last August for two days of meetings with public officials and residents. After his visit, civic leaders have taken the ball and run with it, and their progress is nothing short of amazing.

In January, they issued a report, Rebuilding West Liberty, Kentucky, which lays out thirteen locally-inspired strategies that would make the town a a model not only for other disaster-ravaged communities, but also for all of rural America. Strategies include building the community back with eco-tourism in mind, celebrating its Appalachian history; affordable, energy efficient housing to replace homes destroyed in the tornado; a geothermal loop for the downtown area; green walking corridors and public spaces; compressed natural gas transportation and much more. They are actively seeking partners to aid in funding these visions via an online Rebuilding West Liberty initiative.

Representatives from West Liberty recently returned from Chicago, where they were invited to address the annual meeting of Clinton Global Initiative, June 13-14. Making the case for a sustainable recovery plan, Judge Tim Conley told members of the CGI America Residential Energy Efficiency Working Group that affordable and energy efficient housing is a key to helping break the cycle of poverty.

“Even before the devastating tornado fifteen months ago, many of our citizens could not afford to pay their utility bills. With this project we can demonstrate to all of rural America the extraordinary economic value of sustainability and energy efficiency,” Conley said.

Judge Conley provided insight on one of Rebuilding West Liberty’s most urgent stakeholder-inspired strategies and most critical needs: rebuilding roughly half of the 300 residential homes that were lost to the storm. To meet this dire need, Rebuilding West Liberty has committed to the construction and development of 150 affordable, highly energy-efficient factory-built and site-built homes. The three year project includes a $27 million investment of equity, grants, debt and operating grants to complete the project in West Liberty and scale innovations piloted for other disaster response efforts and affordable housing projects for factory-built homes across the nation.

The West Liberty folks are already paying it forward to other communities through their visionary work, even as they are knee-deep in the rebuilding process themselves. You are encouraged to read the press release issued by West Liberty about their presentation in Chicago. We'll keep you posted on their progress. Think about a visit to this beautiful little town with its giant aspirations.


The Surrounding Summer Smorgasbord

Greensburg is surrounded by farmland, but most locally grown crops aren’t directly available for purchase by locals. In order to take advantage of regional specialties, you have to do a bit of “digging.”

One way to sink your teeth into local produce is by joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). When starting a CSA, a farmer determines the number of shares of her produce she wants to sell. A share typically consists of a box of vegetables and is sometimes supplemented with other produce or foods.  We are lucky enough to have a CSA in Kiowa County run by Kathleen and Joe Blair of Haviland, Kansas. This year they are growing an impressive variety of produce including strawberries, spinach, lettuce, green onions, onions, potatoes, peas, Swiss chard, zucchini, yellow summer squash, pattypan squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, tomatoes (many varieties), peppers (hot and bell), cucumbers, corn, green beans, radishes, carrots, turnips, beets, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkins, and gourds. Because these plants receive personalized care and are raised in their natural growing season, they are flavorful and nutritious in a way mass-produced food isn’t.

Last week’s spread: lettuce, strawberries, and spinach.

As a member of their CSA, you get a share of seasonal produce every week for 21 weeks from the first week in June until the last week in October. In order to join, contact Kathleen at kb82565@gmail.com. Kathleen normally likes to know who is interested by the beginning of April so she knows how much to plant, but it might be possible to join now.  A full share is $300 plus tax, but shareholders can pair up and split the cost if they are both interested in half shares. Shareholders aren’t expected to help with the harvesting, but one can help if one is interested.

Another option to enjoy fresh, locally grown produce is to participate in a Community Garden. This is a plot of land gardened by a collective group of people. Community Gardens are becoming especially desirable in cities where residents can establish a connection with the land, have access to fresh food, and develop community. This is GreenTown’s second year of having a garden in the backyard of our Silo Eco-Home. We are growing strawberries, squash, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and a few flowers. We are very thankful to our volunteers who help us keep our garden watered in the unforgiving south-central Kansas summer! When our fruits and veggies are ready to pick, everyone is welcome to our produce free of charge; however, our volunteers will have first choice. People interested in volunteering should contact GreenTown at (620) 723-2790. Here’s to a bountiful harvest!

GreenTown’s garden is ripening up.


Green Town U.S.A coming soon to stores and on ebook

Green Town U.S.A. is a story of hope and opportunity—even in the face of obstacles and difficulties—and provides a real-world proving ground for sustainable solutions. Green Town U.S.A. takes you through the entire reconstruction process, from Long-Term Community Recovery planning for Greensburg, to the latest advancements in green materials and technology, to the leadership and teambuilding necessary to realize an achievement of this magnitude. 

"There was never a town with a truer name, though it didn't really discover it till tragedy created an opportunity that residents seized with head and heart!" 

- Bill McKibben, author Oil and Honey:The Education of an Unlikely Activist

"From the rubble of a tornado, a Kansas town becomes a model for environmentally friendly living"

USA Today



Reaching Out to Moore, OK

In the wake of the horrific tornado in Moore yesterday, Greensburg GreenTown and GreenTown Joplin staff have met to determine how we can be of service to the community there. We've been contacted by a couple of entities from Oklahoma seeking assistance with recovery planning. As the residents of both Greensburg and Joplin have experienced, it's difficult to know where to start when recovering from a disaster. Our Sustainable Disaster Recovery Handbook is a work-in-progress, but we are sharing completed sections with folks in Oklahoma and aim to have additional information ready for them soon. Resources related to debris removal, temporary housing, and insurance are being shared, along with our thoughts and prayers. If you have helpful information on disaster recovery for the citizens of Moore, please e-mail sydney (at) greensburggreentown.org or call us at (620) 723-2790.

Moore, OK after yesterday's tornado.


Drury U. Students Wow the Crowd with Their Eco-Home Design for Joplin

photo credit: Sydney Menees

If you've been following GreenTown Joplin's projects, you know that third-year architecture students from Drury University have been hard at work all semester designing a project for the Chain of Eco-Homes. Under the tutelage of professors Traci Sooter and Nancy Chikaraishi, they have painstakingly researched every aspect that goes into the Monarch Eco-Home - and last night they unveiled the results of their labors to a standing-room-only crowd at The Hive Business Center in downtown Joplin. The eager audience included not only GreenTown's sustainability advisors, but also several folks from the City of Joplin, most of our current partners on the project, the director of Drury's architecture program, builders, local leaders, a group of FEMA Corps members, and interested citizens. 

Our hats are off to this international group of Drury students for their remarkable dedication, skill and enthusiasm: Beatriz Juan Miranzo, Cesar Valdez Jimenez, Paul Clements, Jamie Lu, John Pennekamp, Joshua Warren, Juan Calderon, Rich Conyers, Tiara Hughes, and Zehua Jia.

The home is designed for net zero energy usage, which means that it will produce at least as much energy as it uses. It will achieve this through a myriad of technologies and design features, including a south-facing bank of windows, with a roof angle that will maximize heating from the sun in the winter and reduce the need for cooling by allowing only a minimal amount of direct sun in the summer. A photovoltaic array on the roof will capture sunlight and convert it into energy. And the high-performance concrete wall system, donated by TF Forming Systems along with with Joplin Concrete (part of the Monarch Cement family of companies), will offer not only energy efficiency and noise reduction, but also extreme durability and wind resistance.

With the design unveiled, we move into the fundraising phase of the project, seeking investment partners and sustainable product donors. We look forward to sharing the vision of the demonstration home, a place in Joplin where everyone will be welcomed to learn about all aspects of sustainability - from recycling to repurposing to saving energy through retrofitting to building affordable high performance homes. There will be something for everybody. Plus, a bed and breakfast suite will enable visitors to spend the night and experience green living firsthand.

Reporter Debby Woodin from the Joplin Globe wrote an excellent article about the evening. And television stations KOAM (Joplin) and KY-3 (Springfield) each sent journalists to record the event.

We'll keep you posted here and will upload more images of the home soon. Thank you for your interest in this project!


Earth Week Wrap-Up: Arbor Day & Shopping Local

The following article is by the Association for Sustainability's Development Director, Ama Hapke:

Friday, April 26 marked the 141st annual Arbor Day! To celebrate Arbor Day and Earth Week, Kansas State Extension Agent Barrett Smith collected cedar trees from CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) fields around Kiowa County and donated them to Greensburg GreenTown to distribute to community members. We still have a few trees left! Trees are first come-first serve, and all you have to do get get one of your own is sign up at the Silo Eco-Home: either stop by (402 S. Sycamore Street) or call us (723-2790). Greensburg is experiencing some beautiful spring weather (finally!), so celebrate a late Arbor Day by enjoying a walk, reading a book under a tree, taking class on tree or plant care, or taking a look at the trees currently on your property and plan for the future.
Cedar seedlings available for planting.
Another way GreenTown celebrated Earth Week was by promoting local businesses. There are many reasons to shop locally.  Shopping locally helps to ensure more money will stay in the community and be reinvested there.  For every dollar spent locally, 45 cents is reinvested in the community - compared to only fifteen cents when spent at a corporate chain. Purchasing locally increases the tax base (which contributes to city improvements and community development), creates jobs, and increases overall community well-being.

Shopping locally can also significantly reduce your environmental impact.  Products bought locally often require less packaging and do not have to travel as far.  Local business are also more likely to provide products produced locally; these products have a significantly smaller footprint than products that travel farther distances.  Businesses set up in a centralized downtown or town center help to reduce community sprawl, habitat loss, and pollution. Local businesses also contribute 250% more, on average, to local organizations and community projects than do larger corporate businesses. We would like to thank the local artists and businesses who invested in our community through supporting our events during Earth Week. 

Dillons (Greensburg, KS)

Greensburg State Bank (Greensburg, KS)

Duck Salt (Greensburg, KS)


These donations were prizes for the entrants into the Nuisance Weed Roundup.  We will be determining the winners within the week! Here's a picture from the weigh-in on Saturday. That's right, there are 19 pounds of dandelions on that scale. Way to go Kiowa County Residents! We enjoyed your participation this Earth Week.

19 lbs of dandelions collected during the Nuisance Weed Roundup



GreenTown's Nuisance Weed Roundup!

In honor of Earth Week, GreenTown hosting a Nuisance Weed Roundup to encourage controlling weeds in an ecological way. Our target this year is dandelions. Here is the brief version of how to participate:


  1. Sign up as an individual or team any time between now and April 27th.
  2. Get a biodegradable bag from Greensburg City Hall or GreenTown.
  3. Pull dandelions by the root using a screwdriver-like tool from April 20-27.
  4. Bring your biodegradable bags of weeded dandelions to the Southern Plains Coop on Saturday April 27th at noon for a weigh in.
  5. The three people who collect the most dandelions by weight will all win prizes, including two cash prizes ($50 for first place and $25 for second place).
  6. If you didn't collect enough dandelions to win, everyone can enter to win door prizes!


Stop by the Silo Eco-Home this Saturday April 20th from 9 am - 3 pm to learn more about the Nuisance Weed Roundup! We will be showing Little House on the Prairie, Wall-E, and the Planet Earth series. You can also sign up to get a cedar tree to plant!





Origin: Europe. In Roman times, they were used as a medicinal herb.  Today, people still use dandelion leaves in salads if they are free of chemicals because they are a good source of Vitamins A, C, and K, folic acid, calcium, and iron.  

Crimes: Dandelions grow easily taking over turf, which causes lawns to look less uniform. When they take over fields used for sports, it can make for uneven footing.

How to help: Pick up a bag or bags from the City of Greensburg or GreenTown and help the community reduce the number of weeds in town from April 20-27! In order to remove dandelions, one needs to eliminate the seed head and roots (see picture below).  Pulling out dandelions and using a tool like a screw driver to unearth the taproot is an effective way to remove a dandelion plant.  Tip: It is easiest to pull dandelions when the soil is moist.  Inorganic herbicides are not an ecological way to get rid of dandelions.  Herbicides can be harmful to humans and animals, and when organic methods for removal are available they are preferable and beneficial to our natural environment, especially to our water.  Use of inorganic herbicides also leads to herbicide-resistant plants.

Reward: Bring your collection to the Southern Plains Coop Saturday April 27 at noon.  Those who collect the most dandelions by weight will win prizes (see GreenTown’s Facebook page for details). Community Service hours are also available at 4 hours per bag collected. Participants can compete individually or in teams and can sign up online, by calling (620) 723-2790, or by visiting GreenTown. You can sign up anytime before April 27th. Good luck and thanks for keeping Greensburg green!

You will need:

  • Biodegradable bags provided by the City of Greensburg (at GreenTown or City Hall)
  • Screw driver-like tool
  • Gloves (optional)

A properly pulled dandelion.


Creating a Healthier Home Environment

Jaclyn Nicholson from elocal.com submitted an eye-opening inforgraphic to help us learn more about potential problem areas in the home. Here is her introduction to Healthy Home Invaders:

With the amount of chemicals that we are exposed to daily, we tend to steer clear of bringing these toxins into our home, and we therefore think we are living in a healthy environment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. These chemicals and various microscopic critters can infect areas in your home that you would never expect nor see. From dust mites in your pillows to nasty bacteria on your cutting boards, there is more filth than meets the eye. Check out this inforgraphic to learn more about the toxins in your home and how to lessen the health risks. (Click here for a larger version of the chart.)

Home Health Invaders


Off-the-Grid Home Design Competition Announced

Attention, all you visionary home designers! Check out this opportunity to design a model off-the-grid sustainable home. All the pertinent details can be found on the Beyond the Grid website.

Beyond the Grid is an architectural design competition that challenges students and young professionals to create beautiful, sustainable shelters that integrate “off-grid” energy, water and waste system solutions for specific, pre-selected climate zones. The primary goal of the competition is to provide a showcase for design talent and provide media exposure and business opportunities for winning contestants. The competition also aims to promote sustainability and resources conservation in the residential housing industry.


How to Recycle in Kiowa County

Recycling is a great way to notice how much waste we as individual citizens create, and it affords us the opportunity to reuse it the way our frontier ancestors did. The average American produces about 3.8 pounds of recyclables every day. Even though recycling takes a few minutes of time, it can give you great personal satisfaction to know that the items you separate out are being reused instead of sitting uselessly in a landfill for hundreds of years. When you make the decision to keep a bottle to recycle at home instead of tossing it in the closest trash can, consider these benefits of your action: resource conservation, energy conservation (it uses more energy to make a new product than to recycle an old one), better air quality, land conservation, and economic growth (850,000 jobs and $86 billion in sales).  Of course, the positive effects of recycling are most obvious when many people do it, which is why it is wonderful that Kiowa County has many options for recycling!

Greensburg and Haviland are fortunate to have monthly recycling pick-up through Nisly Brothers. Nisly’s recycling pick-ups in Greensburg occur on the second Wednesday of the month for east-west streets and the third Wednesday of the month for north-south streets. In Haviland, recycling pick-up by Nisly is the fourth Wednesday of every month. Nisly does “single-stream recycling” for their residential monthly pick up, which means that they do all the separating of papers, plastics, cans, etc. for you after they pick up your recycling, which saves your time.  

Kiowa County's recycling facilty at 1002 S. Grove St in Greensburg.

All residents of Kiowa County have the option to bring their recycling to the Kiowa County Recycling Facility at 1002 S. Grove Street in Greensburg if you separate your recycling into the following categories: white paper, mixed office paper, newspaper, magazines, plastic bottles, colored plastics, milk jugs, mixed plastics #3-#7, aluminum cans, steel cans, mixed paper and chipboard, phone books, green/blue glass, clear glass, brown glass, corrugated cardboard, feed sacks, and egg cartons. To view a list of items accepted and not accepted by the Kiowa County Recycling facility, visit their webpage or call Joel Schmidt, Recycling Supervisor, at (620) 723-1034. In Mullinville and Haviland, there are county trailers located within each community as a drop-off point for pre-separated recycling.  Drop-off points are located at the intersection between Highway 54 and Main Street (Mullinville) and behind the nursing home on Main Street (Haviland).

In addition to the items collected by Kiowa County Recycling, the City of Greensburg has started a few recycling initiatives of its own. You can turn in handheld electronic devices, cell phones, eyeglasses, spent batteries, and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to collection boxes at the Greensburg City Hall. While one of the collection points for these items is City Hall, the eyeglasses collection is part of an initiative by the Lions Club where they provide glasses to the needy. The batteries, cell phones, and small electronic devices will be sent to The Big Green Box, which specializes in recycling these items. Contact City Administrator Ed Truelove for more information at (620) 723-2751.

In conclusion, recycle when you can! It’s good for you, good for the County, good for the Earth, and it gets us back to our resourceful roots.  Special thanks to Joel Schmidt, Joe Blair, Ed Truelove, and Catherine Hart for their consultation for this article.

The diligent work of Kiowa County recyclers.