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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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Friday
Jan042013

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.

Thursday
Jan032013

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.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec272012

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.

Friday
Dec212012

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.

Tuesday
Dec042012

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.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Nov142012

What do our guests think?

Since our Silo Eco-Home opened in May of 2010, we've had over 4,000 visitors from 48 states and 17 countries! We love hearing our guests' stories, which is why we have a guest book in our Bed & Breakfast for them to sign. Their creativity and energy are so inspiring, we couldn't help sharing them with you. Here are some of their comments:

We invite you to experience our Bed & Breakfast as well. Call us at (620) 723-2790 to set up a stay.  Our rates are $99 per night for one person or $109 per night for two people. Hope to see you in Greensburg soon!

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.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct232012

Program Book for Next Week's Conference

We are getting very excited about bringing folks together for next week's Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference in St. Louis. The planning team has finished up the program book which will be distributed to participants, and you can check it out here. There is still time to register - for either one or both days of the event. If you are interested in this topic, but unable to attend this year, rest assured that sessions will be filmed and made available online, thanks to the professionals at HEC-TV, one of the sponsors of our event.

This groundbreaking conference is being presented by the Saint University Center for Sustainability, Greensburg GreenTown, and GreenTown Joplin, and will be held on the SLU campus. The conference aims to help areas stricken by natural disasters rebuild strong, livable communities by identifying ways to effectively weave elements of sustainability into the disaster recovery process. Participants will learn about the important of collaboration among the parties who work together to help communities recover. This will also be a good opportunity for any city leaders who are planning for the future viability of their home towns. We will come at the topic from all angles: economic, psychological, meteorological, civic, educational, health & safety, and the like. Conference Chair David Webb was interviewed for television in St. Louis and gives a good overview of the goals of the event.

The line-up of speakers is noteworthy, as we are bringing together experts from the federal government (FEMA, National Renewable Energy Lab, and Department of Defense); leadership from communities that have employed sustainable practices in their rebuild, post-disaster (Greensburg, Joplin, and Valmeyer, Illinois); academia; the nonprofit community (including Architecture for Humanity, the American Institute of Architects); and industry (General Motors, Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, BTI, and others). There will also be folks from disaster communities talking about their personal experience and why they opted to "go green" after losing their homes. We invite you to check out the complete program roster of speakers for inspiration. Check out our conference FAQ section if you're interested in attending and have questions. We look forward to issuing a complete post-conference report in this space.

The program book was beautifully designed by GreenTown Project Manager Joah Bussert. He spent two years in Greensburg as an AmeriCorps staff person in our office, and continues to work for GreenTown from his home base in Denver.

 

Wednesday
Oct172012

GreenTown's Upcoming Events

These next few weeks are big ones for us here at Greensburg GreenTown! Coming up on October 29th and 30th is our Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference that we are co-hosting with St. Louis University’s Center for Sustainability and GreenTown Joplin. The conference will be in St. Louis at SLU and cover a plethora of topics, including Incentivizing Sustainable Recovery, An Artist’s View of His Hometown, Teaching Through the Lens of Sustainability, and many more.  The full itinerary is on display if you click on this link. I am excited to be in attendance and learn more about all the forces that came into play to make sustainable recovery in both Greensburg and Joplin happen and how to promote sustainable disaster recovery in the future. The conference is open to you too, and with the great variety of panels and expertise of speakers, I wouldn’t want to miss it! Click on this link to find out about registration. Registration for one day is available for those of you who want to attend the conference, but can't make it for both days. Hope to see you in St. Louis!

Another upcoming event for GreenTown is that in three weeks, our Indiegogo campaign for the Meadowlark Eco-Home will come to a close. We are so appreciative for the public support we’ve received for this project! While Indiegogo is not the only avenue we are pursuing to try to finish this innovative home, it is currently the only way for the general public to specifically support this project through GreenTown. Any small amount you can donate will be appreciated and will go towards completing the home. To recap the special aspects of this home, it is the first home in America to be constructed using a wood-block system by HIB, it is one of the few buildings in America to use Passive Design, and it will be free and open to the public to experience these features when completed! You can help complete this project by donating or by sharing our campaign with friends. Greensburg can become a model for the nation in yet another way with your help!

Meadowlark's Passive Design features visually represented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Oct032012

Deep Thanks for Sarah and Her Quiet Joy

There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy. ~Ralph H. Blum

Last month we bid adieu to Sarah Thyparambil, GreenTown AmeriCorps staff extraordinaire. Fortunately she's still in the neighborhood, having procured a position just a couple of hours from Greensburg at an architectural firm in Wichita.

Sarah's steady, quiet manner coupled with her enormous talent was the perfect addition to our organization - and to the community as a whole. She came to Kansas from Lincoln, Nebraska and spent a year gifting us with her time and dedication through the AmeriCorps State and National Program. She and Barbara Summers, whom we profiled at the end of the summer, began working for GreenTown last summer. Even though they didn't know each other when they started their AmeriCorps terms together, they quickly became a dynamic team and they have left quite a legacy. Sarah and Barbara are responsible for the beautiful, bountiful community garden project planted last April by the Kansas Heartland Girl Scouts at the Silo Eco-Home. They creatively concocted GreenTown's Recycle Christmas last year, and seamlessly worked side-by-side on many events and projects, including those commemorating the fifth anniversary of the tornado in May of this year.

Sarah writes beautifully and is the author of a good number of articles on this website. Plus, she is a wonderfully talented graphic designer and has made us look really good on paper and on our website. A case in point is the third edition of the GreenTown GreenTour Book, which she poured her energy into. She also has an uncanny ability to work gracefully and very skillfully under pressure.

We are grateful to the folks at Health Facilities Group in Wichita, who have recognized Sarah's talents and hired her as an Intern Architect; she started in her new position last week. HFG is the firm that designed the Kiowa County Memorial Hospital in Greensburg, which is the first LEED Platinum project of its kind in the nation. (This was their first LEED Project, and they have gone on to develop many more since then.) It's nice knowing that Sarah is just down the road a piece . . .

We are deeply grateful for Sarah's year of service and presence at GreenTown. Thank you, Sarah!

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