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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 10

We have reached the final installment of our sustainable products series! Though the past ten weeks have been devoted to product donations that make the Silo Eco-Home sustainable (and we have a few more of those to cover), monetary donations were also crucial to its completion. Financial support to GreenTown specifically for the Silo Eco-Home came from Home Lumber Supply Co., Monarch Cement, and AT&T. We are grateful to these companies for helping to support our mission of sustainable building!


An important finishing touch to the Silo Home is that of landscaping materials. We received plant donations from Greensburg residents Randy Rinker and Joan Hayse, and from Tipsy Pix and NKP Media, with a tree donation from Sunflower Resource Conservation and Development. Plants are great sustainable additions to any property since they readily convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Trees and plants also prevent erosion and provide windbreaks (important in Greensburg!). After Greensburg’s 2007 tornado, many of the trees in the community had been destroyed or were severely mangled. Greensburg is still pretty sparse in terms of trees and each new tree planted is a wonderful addition to the town. Pearl’s Premium donated ultra low maintenance lawn seed to the Silo Eco-Home. In drought conditions like what Kansas has been experiencing in recent years, having a lawn that requires the least amount of water possible is important. The grass seed from Pearl’s Premium achieves this water-saving feat with a 12-foot deep root system. The grass also requires less mowing than more typical grass seeds.

Randy Rinker planting a tree at the Silo Eco-Home in 2011.

Even though the concrete Silo Eco-Home (designed and built by Florida contractor David Moffitt) is fashioned to resist hurricane-force winds, GreenTown also wanted to show other possibilities for safe shelter during severe weather. Dirk DeRose, owner of New Day Tornado Shelters, generously provided our Green Visitors Center with a unique option to demonstrate to our guests. The tornado shelters are retrofitted from propane tanks, which is an innovative way to repurpose. New Day is also committed to sustainable manufacturing practices. The shelters are bolted securely into the ground and they are designed to withstand an EF-5 tornado. Ours is on our backyard patio.

The OneCleanWorld Foundation and Ogden Publications both provided GreenTown and the Silo Eco-Home with sustainable donations in the realm of publications. OneCleanWorld donated over 500 copies of their book, Clean: The Humble Art of Zen-Cleansing, to residents of Greensburg, which we distributed at the GreenTown office. The book by Michael DeJong focuses on using only natural ingredients to fulfill cleaning needs, getting away from chemicals that are harmful to both people and the environment. (Additionally, Michael and partner Richard Haymes traveled to Greensburg from New Jersey to put on two educational sessions/cleaning demonstrations for the community, where they also signed copies of the book.) Ogden Publications donated ad space in Natural Home to the Silo Eco-Home and gave us a nice assortment of sustainable kitchen products.  Natural Home and Mother Earth Living magazine feature an abundance of sustainable products and ideas.

Finally, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a program of the US Department of Energy located in Golden, Colorado, has left an indelible mark on Greensburg and Greensburg GreenTown. A group from NREL headed by Lynn Billman donated incredible amounts of time and resources to help Greensburg build back green. They were instrumental in the development of the Greensburg Wind Farm, which provides power to the community 24/7. They provided expert consultation to Greensburg homeowners, businesspeople, and civic leaders to help them build as sustainably as possible, and provided GreenTown with copious written materials for our visitors. Last year, they released a study of 13 of Greensburg's new buildings detailing how much energy is being saved in the community - it's over $200,000 annually! NREL’s assistance made Greensburg’s rebuilding educational, streamlined, and highly successful.

An associate from NREL leading a presentation for Greensburg kids.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the past 10 weeks exploration of green building products! I have certainly enjoyed reconnecting with the great companies and organizations that helped us build the Silo Eco-Home. We are deeply grateful for the time, energy, and money devoted towards making a sustainable future more accessible. We have several exciting projects in the works to perpetuate this goal, so keep your eyes peeled!


GreenTown's Green Building Products: Week 9

One of the most important aspects of the Silo Eco-Home is making sure that our guests feel at home in our bed and breakfast suite. The past weeks, the products I have highlighted contribute to the functionality and aesthetics of our home, but this week our featured products all specifically enhance our guests’ experiences in the Silo’s B&B.

Our organic mattress come from Savvy Rest. Why an organic mattress? This is beneficial because the long-term effects of chemicals found in conventional mattresses could have negative health impacts. Since you might spend around eight hours breathing off-gassing chemicals from your mattress every night, natural latex is a healthful alternative. The latex is encased with organic wool quilted between layers of organic cotton. Of course, the mattress also ensures quality comfort in addition to its health benefits. Read this if you'd like to learn more about natural latex.

Our Bed & Breakfast Suite

Another important aspect of our B&B is that guests have the option to use our kitchen. Our refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher were donated by Sears. They have earned ENERGY STAR certification, which is the EPA’s designation that the product uses 30% less energy than its uncertified counterparts. Our washer and dryer were also donated by Sears and have also received ENERGY STAR certification.

EO Products provides GreenTown’s B&B guests with luxurious shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and lotion. Not only does EO use clean ingredients for their bath products, they also use Post-Consumer Resin (PCR), a 100% recycled product which reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. In order to learn about the positive effects of using EO shampoo, read this.

Finally, many of our furnishings came from the Schmidt/Magliery family, including rugs, dressers, and our iron. The Silo's beautiful kitchen cabinets were handcrafted by the late Kenny Schmidt for his parents' home when he was a teenager, and were reclaimed from the Schmidt homestead and carefully fitted for use our home.

Our quilt is mentioned in this previous entry. Our guests love our B&B thanks to these great products! More coming your way next week.


A Couple of Nice Stories from AOL Travel

It was a pleasure to see today that AOL Travel published two pieces on Greensburg by writer Diane Lambdin Meyer. The article After Devastating Tornado, Kansas Town Re-emerges "Like No Other Place in America" gives readers a brief history of the recovery and displays a series of before-and-after images. Coming up on 6 years post-tornado, it still stops you in your tracks to view images from the May 4, 2007 event.

The other post, Greensburg, Kansas: Five Places to Go, highlights GreenTown's Silo Eco-Home and Green Visitors Center, the 547 Arts Center, the Kiowa County Historical Museum and Soda Fountain (located inside the Kiowa County Commons building on Main Street), the Big Well Museum, and (the now defunct) "FEMAville". Greensburg is an intriguing place to visit, and the description "like no other place in America" is quite apt. Thanks to AOL Travel for the coverage and Diane for the glowing review of the community.

image credit: Diane Lambdin Meyer



GreenTown's Green Building Products: Week 8

The past few weeks I’ve been discussing the different aspects of our eco demonstration home, the Silo Eco-Home, that make it sustainable. This week, we are taking a look at the green features of our office located on the second floor of the home. Because we wanted our second floor to be our offices, we have an open floor plan, whereas it may be divided into rooms if it were a private home. The open floor plan allows us to maximize our natural light and have an open space for large gatherings, both of which are useful features. To help make our office functional, we received donations from Herman Miller, HNTB Corporation, Office Depot, Vizio, and Stallard Technologies.

The office gets into the spirit of the Christmas season.

Our luxurious office chairs come from Herman Miller. The company representative told us they first served on the set of The Social Network (the movie about Facebook) before moving to Greensburg. The Herman Miller Aeron chairs are extremely comfortable and are also backed by a lifetime warranty. Herman Miller greatly values sustainability. One of their achievements is that they cut their waste from 41,000,000 pounds in 1993 to 3,200,000 in 2008, with plans to become waste-free in 2020! Our desks and some of our computers were generously donated by Office Depot. Office Depot incorporates environmental sustainability into its business operations by buying green, being green, and selling green. Other office products that we received as donations were refurbished computers from Stallard Technologies and flat screen LCD televisions from Vizio. Stallard Technologies (Overland Park, KS) business espouses sustainability by reusing technology and refurbishing it, while providing consumers with lower prices than new technology. Vizio is committed to using greener methods to produce and ship their products. Their commitment shows; they won Energy Star’s greenest designation in 2012. You can read about their sustainable practices here. Our printer was graciously donated by the HNTB Corporation, which is an engineering firm.

There will be more green products next week when I talk about aspects of our B&B suite that make it a sustainable lodging experience!


GreenTown's Green Building Products: Week 7

The Silo Eco-Home demonstrates a number of sustainable products that can help any home save energy. Greensburg GreenTown’s Silo Eco-Home gets much of its illumination from daylight. The Silo’s round shape and open design make it rarely necessary to turn on lights. But sometimes, and at night, we must supplement our copious daylighting with additions from Accent Lighting and LED Lighting Solutions.

Our lighting fixtures were donated by Accent Lighting (Wichita, Kansas). These fixtures add greatly to the Silo Home’s ambience. Accent offers a great variety of lighting fixtures that can help brighten any home. Our lighting fixtures provide the latest in sustainable lighting technology: LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs provided by LED Lighting Solutions. LED lights use 90% less energy than a standard bulb, and do not contain the mercury that you find in CFLs (compact fluorescent lights). One LED bulb is expected to have the lifespan of 50 incandescent (regular) bulbs or 8 CFLs. LEDs also help keep energy costs down in the summer because they emit less heat than normal bulbs.  Thankfully, LEDs come in many varieties, so there is no need to sacrifice the aesthetics of your home for sustainability and energy savings! With the project management from Professional Engineering Consultants (PEC) in Wichita, Kansas, the City of Greensburg elected in early 2009 to replace the streetlights lost in the tornado with 303 LED fixtures, substantially saving the community funds for both energy and maintenance. Greensburg is said to be the first municipality in the country to rely exclusively on LED streetlights.

Our LED streetlights by night.

Greensburg’s wind farm provides more than enough electricity for the entire town - local electricity is created using 100% renewable wind energy!

Thanks for reading about our green products. Next week I'll be talking about some of the donations to the Silo Eco-Home's office!


GreenTown's Green Building Products: Week 6

Over the past few weeks I’ve discussed many of the functional sustainable aspects of our Silo Eco-Home, but most of the items that truly make a house homey are decorative. There’s no reason why comfortable home decoration cannot be sustainable! This week, sustainable aesthetics are the focus with featured donations coming from Andover Paint Co., Justin Brouillette, Dustin Sypher at the Tallgrass Forge, Ed Schoenberger, the Mennonite Community Ladies, and Rocky Preble.

Andover Paint Co. donated the Silo Home’s paint. It is low-VOC (volatile organic compound), which allows for improved air quality in our home. Justin Brouillette designed and built our display table upstairs. Its feet are an old carjack and the surface is a piece of bowling lane. Talk about innovative repurposing! It makes for an interesting design feature and demonstrates the possibilities for objects that can no longer be used for their original purpose. Antiques are also a great way to be sustainable and we have many in our house, most of which were purchased locally. Antiques allow us to get further use out of objects that have already been produced rather than unnecessarily destroying natural resources. One of our antiques is a cute green lamp created and donated by Greensburg's Ed Schoenberger.

Old farm implements have also found a second life in the Silo Eco-Home in our masterfully crafted railings by Dustin Sypher at the Tallgrass Forge (Coldwater, Kansas). They are perfect for the aesthetics of the Silo Home due to its location in an agrarian region of Kansas and Greensburg’s dedication to sustainability. Ladies from the local Mennonite community also have an incredible skill on display in our eco-home: quilting! Quilting is the American frontier’s original act of sustainability by using scraps to create artistic, geometric designs. Their beautiful quilt is on display in our Bed & Breakfast suite.

Our railings designed by Dustin Sypher at the Tallgrass Forge in Coldwater, KansasGreeting you at the top of the stairs is an attention-grabbing photograph taken by Greensburg’s own Rocky Preble. Rocky photographed a car being dropped in the Silo Eco-Home in order to demonstrate its strength. Here’s a video of the event:

These decorative items truly make the Silo Eco-Home a home, but they also contribute to its sustainability. I’ll be back with more of the Silo’s sustainable products next week!


GreenTown's Green Building Products: Week 5

The Silo Eco-Home’s individual furnishing contributions add to the overall sustainability of the home. Without contributions from Daltile, DAP, Tremco, EnviroGlas, Keystone Construction, and Timbron International the Silo Home would not be as eco-friendly as it is.

The ceramic tile in the Silo’s kitchen and bathroom came from Daltile. Every year, their sustainable manufacturing practices prevent 200 million pounds of waste from winding up in landfills. They do this by utilizing the by-products of tile manufacturing created by their companies and others. Additionally, Daltile’s product is already made from 97% post-consumer (recycled) product. They recycle waste that cannot otherwise be reused.

Another useful product made from recycled material in the Silo Eco-Home are our countertops from EnviroGlas. EnviroGlas uses recycled porcelain (primarily from sinks and toilets) to make beautiful, sustainable countertops. They now specialize solely in Terazzo flooring, which not only is made from post-consumer product, but also is extremely low-maintenance. Keystone Construction (Benton, Kansas) generously cut and installed the EnviroGlas for our countertops.

Our kitchen with EnviroGlas countertops and Daltile tiling.DAP provided the low-VOC caulking materials for the Silo Eco-Home. Caulking adds another layer of protection against unwanted energy loss or gain. DAP's sister company, Tremco Commercial Sealants and Waterproofing, has not only generously supported GreenTown over the years, but they have taken a special interest in the entire community's comeback. They have supported the school, the hospital, and the courthouse, and company representatives were regular visitors to town during the recovery phase, offering assistance and friendship. They developed a slideshow about Greensburg, Building a New Tomorrow, that highlights the town's steps in recovery.

Our interior mouldings are made out of recycled polystyrene (Styrofoam) and are made by Timbron International. Styrofoam is a difficult substance to dispose of due to its toxicity, so Timbron gives the used product a new purpose by making it into nontoxic mouldings.

The aesthetic beauty of these products is complemented by how they are helping us reduce our environmental impact. Stay tuned for more green products next week!


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!

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