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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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GreenTown's Green Building Products: Week 4

The past three weeks I have discussed sustainable features of the Silo Eco-Home’s building envelope, outdoor features, and flooring. This week, it’s time to talk about the plumbing and HVAC (heating ventilation air conditioning) system. These systems and products were donated to GreenTown from Caroma, evolve, Noritz, BMK Plumbing & Solar of the Midwest, Johnson Controls, and cfm Distributors.

Products that conserve water play a big role for sustainability, especially in drought conditions like what Kansas is experiencing right now. The Silo’s dual flush toilets from Caroma and the water-saving evolve showerheads allow us to use 21,000 gallons of water per year LESS than households with conventional toilets and showerheads! Dual-flush toilets allow you to control the amount of water per flush in order to get the maximum utility from each usage. Caroma generously donated over 400 toilets, plus some sinks, to the people of Greensburg back in 2008. GreenTown distributed these throughout the community on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you will find them all over town. This single gift alone is saving the town millions of gallons of water annually, compared to pre-tornado usage. (Read this archived article for more info on this gift from Derek Kirkpatrick of Caroma, who traveled to Greensburg from British Columbia in support of the town's recovery.)

Our downstairs toilet: when you flush it, the sink runs to refill the tank, so you get two uses out of the water!

Evolve showerheads use less water than normal showerheads without compromising water pressure. This happens by restricting the flow of water from about 6 gallons of water per minute to 1.5 gallons of water per minute by directing the flow of water in a more efficient way. Additionally, ShowerStart Technology prevents you from wasting water before you get in the shower by reducing the flow of the water once it heats up saving both water and energy. A year after the tornado, Troy Sherman and Chevon Martin from evolve drove to Greensburg from Arizona to distribute the company's gift and pitched in with helping GreenTown's anniversary weekend activities.

Our tankless water heater from Noritz uses 40% less energy than conventional water heaters, which in turn saves 40% on our energy bill. The tankless water heater works by heating water instantaneously when you need it rather than heating it constantly. Walk through the process here.  The Silo’s plumbing comes from BMK Plumbing and Solar of the Midwest (Salina, KS). BMK offers a variety of services with solar energy including solar water pumping, solar water heating, and solar air systems. The sun’s natural energy is a great way to conserve resources and reduce your energy bill.

Johnson Controls donated their York split system heat pump to the Silo Eco-Home. A split-system heat pump is unique and energy efficient because it doesn’t require two separate systems for heating and cooling. Heat pumps do not use ducts and systems with ducts use about 30% more energy than heat pumps. Additionally, heat pumps take up less space than conventional HVAC units. We are thankful to cfm Distributors for the delivery of our York unit.

See you next week with more great, green products!


GreenTown's Green Building Products: Week 3

This week for the sustainable building products series, it’s all about our flooring! Floors are especially important for building sustainability because they are everywhere. What we have learned is that green flooring is not only better for the environment than conventional flooring, but it is also nice looking! The featured products this week are from Skimstone, Murray Decorative Concrete Supply, Warner Bamboo, Permapave, and Trex.

Skimstone donated the finish for our cement floors on the downstairs of the Silo Eco-Home. As I mentioned in my previous entries, cement is a great green building product due to its strength and insulatory capacities. Skimstone is great addition to a concrete floor because it is a covering that allows the concrete to match with any room. It is low-VOC, which contributes to a home's air quality, and it is water resistant. In the first floor of the Silo, our Skimstone covering is made to look like marble. It really warms up the rooms! Special thanks to Murray Decorative Concrete Supply (Shawnee, KS) who applied the Skimstone to our concrete floor.

Marble Skimstone concrete floor covering on the first floor of the Silo Eco-Home.Another incredibly green building product is bamboo. Bamboo is more sustainable than wood because it is a rapidly renewable resource. At peak growing season, bamboo can grow a whopping 30 inches per day! Hardwood trees are lucky to grow two feet per year. Our beautiful stairs and upstairs floor were donated by Warner Bamboo, which boasts a lifetime structural warranty and a 25-year finish warranty.

Permapave and Trex are two outdoor options for sustainable flooring. Permapave was donated for our driveway and our backyard walkways. The aspect that makes Permapave sustainable is its ability to allow water to pass through it instead of running off into sewers. Permapave comes in pored blocks and the pores allow water to seep through it into the ground. This enables water to be used more effectively in the dry conditions experienced here in Kansas and elsewhere. Trex was donated for our second floor deck. It is made from a mixture of reclaimed wood and plastic, which gives these products a second life. The reclaimed wood comes from woodworking projects, sawdust, and used pallets. Another sustainable aspect of Trex is its strength because it is more durable and will last longer than decks comprised of only wood.

Laying Permapave driveway in front of the Silo Eco-Home.Being green is easy with long-lasting, attractive flooring products like these!  Until next week.


GreenTown's Green Building Products: Week 2

Welcome to the second week of my blog series about sustainable building products donated to the Silo Eco-Home. Last week I talked about Serious Materials, Diamond Roofing, and Dryvit. This week our featured donors are Heft & Sons, Excel Industries, American Honda Motors, and the Overhead Door Corporation, who all donated items that are located outside of the house.

Heft & Sons, a Greensburg-based cement company, sponsored the deck and provided the underlayment of the Silo Eco-Home’s driveway. Cement is a valuable green building material due to its strength. Using cement conserves resources because it will not need to be replaced for a long time. Heft uses especially sustainable practices in their cement business including crushing and reusing old concrete, recycling old asphalt, and using warm-mix asphalt (which reduces fuel consumption). They recycled 30,000 tons of concrete after the tornado, crushing it for re-use and keeping it out of the landfill. We are thankful for their support and acknowledge their generosity not only to GreenTown, but also to many other Greensburg entities. They are a true corporate citizen here in the community.

Exterior sustainable features including the driveway, garage door, deck (above garage), and natural gas vehicle.

Excel Industries (Hesston, Kansas) and American Honda Motors both donated vehicles, which the Silo Home uses to keep day-to-day operations running smoothly. Excel Industries provided the Silo Home with its Hustler Zeon mower, an electric riding mower. Besides being a zero-emissions product by virtue of it using electricity instead of fuel, it is also quieter than conventional mowers. It can mow for 80 minutes on one charge. The lack of fumes and reduced noise makes for a more pleasant mowing experience. Staff and local folks had a great time taking the mower for a spin when company representatives from Excel personally delivered the Zeon to us in Greensburg.

GreenTown has been the fortunate recipient of two natural gas Honda Civics the first donation was from Roger Scholfield, President of Scholfield Honda in Wichita. Thanks to Roger's connections, The American Honda Motor Company followed suite with the donation of a second vehicle, with the idea to auction one car in a national contest as a fundraiser for GreenTown. Our Honda is sporty to drive and it reduces GreenTown’s carbon footprint. Natural gas is the cleanest-burning fuel; it also corrodes the engine less than gasoline, leading to a longer life for natural gas vehicles. Additionally, natural gas is less expensive than gasoline and diesel fuels. With our natural gas fuel pump on the side of the Silo, we are able to refill our little green car with no hassle!

Our garage door was donated by the Overhead Door Corporation, which has a branch in Dodge City, Kansas. The door is a sustainable product, as it is made from 81% douglas fir scrap. Its sustainability also manifests in its durability thanks to resins, wax, and sealers. Installation of the door was courtesy of Chris Padget from the Dodge City dealership.

As these products prove, green building can save money in the long term due to less maintenance or lower energy costs. We enjoy demonstrating our sustainable building products at the Silo to show our guests and visitors the benefits of green living. I hope you enjoyed reading about these tried-and-true eco-friendly products. I’ll be back with another installment next week!


Exciting Partnership with Drury University Launched!

We are excited to officially announce a partnership between GreenTown Joplin and the Drury University Hammons School of Architecture. This semester, students will work with us to design a model eco-home for Joplin that will serve as an information center and a showcase of sustainability, and feature a bed and breakfast suite where people can experience "green" living firsthand. Students will partner with us on the build phase during fall semester. We invite you to read the press release for all the details. The Drury architecture folks have already been instrumental in Joplin's recovery by creating a tribute to volunteers in Cunningham Park. The Monarch Eco-Home project is a demonstration of their ongoing commitment to help the community in its recovery. Stay tuned for updates, photos and announcements of partnerships. If readers have recommendations for potential corporate sponsors for this project, please let us know: info (at) greentownjoplin.org or 417-622-0612.



GreenTown's Green Building Products: Week 1

Since 2010 Greensburg GreenTown has been lucky enough to work out of an operational eco-home: The Silo Eco-Home!

The Silo Eco-Home in 2010 (Greensburg, KS)

The home came into existence thanks to the hard work of GreenTown’s staff as well as the generous donation of land from Ki and Kim Gamble, the concrete building from David Moffitt and his associates at Armour Homes, and product donations from some of the latest and greatest companies in the field of green building. Beginning today, I will talk about some of the green product donations we received and how their sustainable aspects are helping us save energy and conserve resources. This week, our featured green products come from Serious Materials, Diamond Roofing, and Dryvit.

Serious Materials donated the triple-pane windows that contribute to the Silo’s energy conservation. Windows are typically a major source of heat loss or heat gain.  The third pane adds another layer of insulation, which allows less energy to enter or escape. The additional insulation also provides the Silo with a great sound barrier from the trains that come through town and the constant high winds.  Since Serious Materials’ donation to us, they have been bought by Alpen High Performance Products where they continue to sell high-efficiency products. There are a variety of factors that go into making high efficiency windows, which you can check out here.

Installing the sedum plants on Silo's roof

Diamond Roofing provided the Silo Eco-Home with its beautiful green roof.  Our green roof consists of sedum plants and it is sustainable because it adds insulation and conserves rainwater. The roof is another part of a house that tends let a significant amount of energy escape, but each square foot of sedum adds to its R-value (number used to denote insulation ability). A green roof increases a roof’s life expectancy by protecting against UV rays. Sedum is a great plant for green roofs in Greensburg because they can tolerate the windiness and dryness of south-central Kansas quite well.

Dryvit sponsored the stucco exterior of the Silo Eco-Home. The stucco, sprayed directly on the concrete of the Silo, provides another layer of protection for the home.

I would like to remind our readers that you can stay in our Silo Eco-Home because it is also a bed & breakfast. Staying in the B&B allows you to experience all of these products first-hand. Stay tuned for my next post about our green products next Tuesday!


Students from Barton County Get a GreenTour

Education about sustainability and how to build in energy saving ways is the foundation for our work at GreenTown.  Luckily teachers think Greensburg is a great educational town, so we lead many school tours each year.  In December, a group of students from the Barton County came for a GreenTour as part of a school trip.  The 24 elementary school students, who came from schools in Great Bend, Ellinwood, Hoisington, and Otis, are all members of a gifted program in the area.

I sat down with one of their teachers, Martha Wondra, and asked her what influenced her decision to bring her students to Greensburg.  She said her primary objective in bringing her students to Greensburg was to let her students experience sustainability in action.  Wondra believes that being green is the future and she hopes that her students cultivate an appreciation for natural resources.  The desired outcome for Wondra is that the students' trip to Greensburg will have a “ripple effect,” affecting the way her students think and act regarding the environment, which in turn will affect their peers’ thoughts and actions.

The students had a quick tour around town, starting off in The Big Well, then visiting our Silo Eco-Home, after which they took a tour of Kiowa County Schools, where they ate lunch.  They wrapped up their day in the Kiowa County Commons visiting the Museum, Media Center, and Soda Fountain.  As the students recouped at the Soda Fountain after their busy day, I asked them about their experience in Greensburg.

Many students were impressed with The Big Well, referencing the descent into the well with enthusiasm.  Others were impressed that a wind turbine powers most of the school, adding that they are glad that Greensburg is not using nuclear power.  Greensburg's repurposing efforts caught the eye of some students, who were pleased at the efforts to reuse items instead of throwing them away.  A final sentiment, stated by one student, but affirmed by many more, was, “I want to move to Greensburg, move into the [Silo Eco-Home] and I would go to the Soda Fountain every day!”  This sentiment reminds me how wonderful it is to live in a place where the entire town is a tourist attraction by virtue of the green rebuild.  Hopefully the children’s experience in Greensburg at this formative age will allow them to initiate the green ripple effect throughout their entire lives.

Barton County students in The Big Well.


Tips for a Healthy Home in 2013

image credit: achooallergy.com

Greetings for the new year. If one of your resolutions for 2013 is to lead a healthier lifestyle, we have some great ideas here for greening up your home.

The average person probably doesn't have time to research all that goes into traditional cleaning and home care products. So we've done the research for you. A couple of years ago I was invited to make a presentation to a group of Extension staff in Wichita and share ideas for how to live in a healthier home. I thought I knew a fair amount about the topic; when I started digging as I prepared my PowerPoint presentation for the audience I was dumbfounded by what I uncovered.

I knew, generally, that there are health concerns associated with many of the traditional cleaning products on the market. That research has found that conditions such as asthma, allergies, and immune illnesses are associated with exposure to certain chemicals found in everyday off-the-shelf household products. However, what I didn't know was staggering. Did you know that the average American house is home to 60 hazardous products? That indoor air quality in a typical home is 2-5 times more toxic than outdoor air? That nearly 80% of the chemicals used in the home haven't even been tested for safety? And that companies are not even required to list the ingredients in the products they sell? These statistics (are there are MANY more where these came from) are not meant to scare you, but rather to inform you and invite you to consider healthier alternatives for yourself and your family. Knowledge is power.

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20th Annual Forestry Council Conference Focuses on Disaster Preparedness and Recovery

The Missouri Community Forestry Council is hosting its 20th annual conference Tuesday, March 5 through Thursday, March 7. The theme of this year's educational event, to be held in Joplin, is Preparedness Diminishes Disaster. There are a plethora of interesting workshops from which to choose, including "Basic Disaster Preparedness and Response for Your Community Forest" and "Risky Business: How to Manage Tree Risk in Your Community". There will be sessions dealing specifically with the Greensburg and Joplin tornado events: "Greensburg, Kansas – Lessons Learned from Their Experience": and "Blown Away: Joplin’s Tornado Story – Timeline, Weather, Path, Impacts". Participants will also have the opportunity to plant trees in the Joplin tornado zone on Wednesday afternoon. Early bird registration is available until February 1.


New Partners for Smart Growth Conference

GreenTown is pleased to be a cosponsor of the upcoming New Partners for Smart Growth conference. New Partners for Smart Growth promotes building safe, healthy, equitable and livable communities for all. To this end, they think it is important for people of all disciplines to be literate in sustainability.  It’s a great opportunity to network! This year's 12th annual conference will take place in Kansas City from February 7-9. The deadline for registration is January 18.


Japanese Delegation Visits Greensburg

On November 7-8, Greensburg GreenTown and the City of Greensburg welcomed a delegation from Japan interested in building with clean energy and technologies. Our guests were primarily from the Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures, which are two regions of Japan severely impacted by Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami. They shared with us heart-wrenching pictures of the destruction in their regions. One of the visitors lost his wife, the mother of his five children, in the disaster. Needless to say, we at GreenTown and many other Greensburg residents were eager to help them get back on their feet by sharing our “living laboratory” with them.

Before their time in Greensburg, the delegation spent two days in Denver and Golden, Colorado touring the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). NREL was a key partner in getting our community on the right track, post-tornado, in terms of employing energy efficiency strategies from projects as small as individual homes to that as large as the wind farm that powers the community.

In Greensburg the visitors were able to see the implementation of green building technologies, after which they flew back to Japan. During their two days in Greensburg, the entire crew - eight visitors from Japan, three interpreters from the US State Department, a representative from NREL, plus GreenTown staff - toured all over town. They visited The Big Well, the 5.4.7 Arts Center, GreenTown’s Silo Eco-Home, City Hall, Kiowa County Schools, Kiowa County Memorial Hospital, the Greensburg Wind Farm, Bucklin Tractor & Implement Company, and the Gamble family’s home. Greensburg residents including Bob and Ann Dixson, Steve and Judi Kirk, and Darin and Kathy Headrick generously hosted the delegation for dinner on the night of November 7.

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