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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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A "Fresh" Look at American Agriculture


I've just returned from a local Joplin screening of the movie Fresh, which offers "new thinking about what we're eating". It is a very powerful film, difficult at times to watch, which provides very important information for anyone who eats food produced here in the U.S. I felt a roller coaster of emotions as the images unfolded, but in the end came away feeling inspired and determined to share what was learned with our readers.

The disturbing images and unsettling accounts of how animals and crops are raised under our current system are fortunately counterbalanced with hopeful images and messages. Fresh includes the wisdom of sustainable food guru Michael Pollan and several midwestern farmers and healthy food advocates. What struck me was how much difference each one of these people makes in the lives of so many others. There is Will Allen, who uses his 3-acre organic plot in Milwaukee not only as a source of food for neighborhood folks, but as a demonstration of what is possible in urban America. The son of sharecroppers, his passion for making healthy food accessible is thoroughly inspiring. Farmers Joel Salatin and Russ Kremer knock your socks off with their passion for raising healthy animals. And over a decade ago, rancher Diana Endicott organized Good Natured Family Farms, a cooperative of farmers and ranchers whose sustainably grown products are available in Kansas City area markets. (Diana generously donated to a GreenTown community supper several years ago.)

The folks behind Fresh invite you to organize showings in your own community. If you go to their website you can check if there is a screening scheduled for your neighborhood. If not, please consider hosting this important, eye-opening feature. Every American ought to know how their food is produced and the high cost of the current system to our health and environment. Michael Pollan observes that "how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world - and what is to become of it. To eat with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake might sound like a burden, but in practice few things in life can afford quite as much satisfaction." Fresh will most certainly raise your level of consciousness and hopefully invite you to do what you can in your corner of the world.


Fitting in a Little Garden[ing]

Our process of constructing a vertical pallet garden.

As you know, we here at Greensburg GreenTown have been busy taking care of our backyard vegetable and flower garden that the Girl Scouts helped us plant back in April.  We have plenty of space for our garden to spread and grow, but what if you want a garden and do not have the space?  We found a fun project from the website Design Sponge that lets you grow a garden even if you don't have a huge yard.  By reusing an old pallet you can create a vertical garden that fits in a relatively small area.  Though we do not have to worry about lack of space here, we decided to try it out because we have several old pallets lying around and this is a great way to reuse one.

To begin, we selected a sturdy wooden pallet to use as our frame for the garden.  We then took some black landscaping fabric and stapled it to the back and sides of the pallet.  It is important to make sure the landscaping fabric is securely fastened to keep the soil from falling out of the pallet's wood slats.  Next, we moved the pallet outside and filled it with soil.  We used a mix of the soil from Greensburg and potting soil.  We then took sedum plants and transplanted them into the gaps between the pallet's slats.  Once all of the plants were in we gave it a good watering and left the pallet horizontal on the ground for two weeks to let the roots establish themselves.  Finally, we lifted up the pallet and leaned it against the Silo Eco-Home, adding a little vertical green to the side of the building.

If you would like more detailed instructions, check out the article we followed: DIY Project: Recycled Pallet Vertical Garden

Or, look at this infographic put together by Bridgman.


Energy Efficiency Ideas for Businesses

by Travis Creswell

image credit: m.inmagine.com


Here is the first in a series of tips on how to get your business started on the road to saving money on your energy bills.

Part One - Make the commitment to reduce your energy costs.  The number one reason we see facilities continue to use more energy than they need to is that they've not committed to change. Many people are unaware of what's even possible related to energy efficiency and are throwing their hard-earned money away as a result.

A great first step is to form a company Green Team to identify where your operation is currently using energy, including waste streams such as cardboard, reusable chemical totes, and raw and semi-processed goods. The list of potential energy drains goes on and on.

Assess your facility's energy usage using a variety of no- or-low cost tools available from DOE, your state energy office,  and your local utility.

If neither of these approaches are feasible, it might be best to bring in an outside professional. The energy they help you save will more than pay for their fees.


Travis Creswell is a GreenTown Joplin committee member whose company, Ozark Energy Services, helps businesses assess the best ways to invest their energy conservation dollars. 


100+ Tips for Saving Water

plumbingcolumbia.comMany areas in the U.S. are facing the one-two punch of soaring temperatures and drought conditions. This combination is tough on humans, animals, and green growing things. In this column we pass along some tips for wise water usage to help you get the most out of this precious natural resource.

Lawn care in these conditions is quite challenging, and we Americans use a staggering amount of water to keep grass and garden alive. A great deal of the water that comes out of the hose is lost to evaporation and run off. To address this issue and help you save money on your water bill, GreenTown published an informative article last year researched by AmeriCorps intern Adam Andrews, entitled 10 Tips for Reducing Your Outdoor Water Usage.

There are a whole host of tips for indoor water usage as well. We found a comprehensive list (112 tips!) on the Water: Use It Wisely website. Tips for people of all ages and ability levels are listed here. According to this roster, people can save 25 gallons of water a month just by turning off the faucet while brushing their teeth. Here's another bathroom tip from that list: Keep a bucket in the shower to catch water as it warms up or runs. Use this water to flush toilets or water plants. Every little bit helps!


Organic Gardening 101


Cabbage, flowers, and broccoli from GreenTown's garden.








Those of you who keep up with our blog know that we at GreenTown have been cultivating a garden full of veggies, herbs, and flowers in our back yard. For those of you who are new to our blog, our garden was planted with the help of hundreds of Kansas Girl Scouts. The Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland opted to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the organization by coming to Greensburg the last weekend of April. To learn more about the Girl Scouts Go Greensburg event and the planting of our garden check out our previous blog post, Oh Beautiful. The girls were able to participate in many service projects and activities around town, including the planting of our demonstration garden. We tried to use a wide range of planting techniques including using found objects as planters, different types of raised beds, and planting directly in the ground. We have also employed organic practices in the planting and management of our garden.

You may have seen organic certified labels in your local grocery store, or have heard the term thrown around. But you may be wondering, what exactly does it mean to have an organic garden? In simple terms, organic gardeners only use animal or vegetable fertilizers rather than synthetics. It also means natural pest control devoid of industrial insecticides. In other words, it means using natural substances and beneficial insects to ward off pests instead of chemical products, such as Roundup or Raid. Organic gardening stresses increasing the natural health of the soil, choosing appropriate plants that are suited to your area, and working with nature to produce a healthy and productive garden.

Click to read more ...


Cooling Tips for Hot Summer Days

image credit: gregzweb.com

Here in the  Midwest, the so-called “dog days” of summer are upon us even earlier than usual. (Ever wonder about the origin of the term “dog days”? It seems that ancient people believed that the heat was the fault of Sirius, the dog star, being in close proximity to the sun.)

We have trolled the internet and our experience to come up with some cool tips for readers, to help you stay more comfortable this summer without breaking the bank!

Air conditioning maintenance

There are things you can do to help your A/C unit run more efficiently, and, therefore, affordably. Here’s a couple of tips from the Greener Ideal website:

One of the easiest ways to make your air conditioning unit operate more efficiently is to ensure it is clear from any excess brush, plants, or garbage that may have accumulated over the winter. If the air flow pathway is kept clear, air has an easier time getting in and the A/C unit doesn’t have to work as hard. This rule goes the same if you’re using a window unit and have clutter inside your house or apartment. Make some extra space around the air intake and your cooling unit will run much smoother.

And when the air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard, you consume less energy. Think green, and save on the amount of energy required to cool your house.

Keeping the outside of your A/C unit clear is great, but if you don’t keep your air filters clean it won’t do any good. Not only should you take out your air filters and give them a good cleaning every few weeks, but they should also be completely replaced at least once a season.

Click to read more ...


USGBC Reaches 20,000 LEED Certified Homes!

The LEED Platinum certified Prairie Pointe Townhomes. Photo courtesy of Greensburg Greentown.

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) announced yesterday that more than 20,000 homes across the U.S. have earned certification through the LEED for Homes program. For those who are unfamiliar, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a third party green building certification process created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1998. It was designed to provide a framework for architects, engineers, builders, and building owners to identify and implement sustainable practices into the construction and operation of new and renovated buildings. It is based on a system of points that when verified add up to one of four different levels of certification - Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The program covers all aspects of a project from site selection to water efficiency and material selection. LEED is made up of nine different rating systems, ranging from schools, healthcare, existing buildings, to homes. LEED for Homes was first introduced as a rating system in 2008.

In their press release, the USGBC stated that since 2008, “more than 20,000 residential units have certified with nearly 79,000 additional units in the pipeline”. According to a 2012 McGraw Hill Construction study, “Green homes are expected to grow to between 29% to 38% of the residential construction market by 2016, equating to $87-$114 billion”. LEED certified homes are made up of a wide variety of buildings, from multi- to single-family and from market rate to affordable housing. In fact, over half of all LEED certified homes can be considered in the affordable housing category.  

The Prairie Pointe Townhomes located on Main Street are currently the only LEED certified homes in Greensburg. The housing development is made up of rental housing units for people in the community who are living on a fixed income. It was the first LEED Platinum new construction affordable housing development in Kansas and the third in the nation. The project was completed in July 2008 and currently houses both families and elderly individuals.


The Big Well is Back in Business

One of the highlights last month in Greensburg was the grand re-opening of the Big Well. This iconic tourist attraction, whose gift shop was destroyed in the tornado, was the town's claim to fame prior to 2007, drawing as many as 40,000 visitors annually. Many people from around the country who come to see the new Greensburg have fond memories of the old well. The visitors center, which has been a long time in the making, is a labor of love and stands as a tribute to the past, present, and future.   


4 Urban Sustainability Projects You've Never Heard Of

In this edition of our Living Green Around the Globe blog series, we have some help from a guest writer. Ashley Halligan is a facility management software analyst, with whom we first became acquainted when she wrote the article Occupant Behavior: Five Keys to Meeting Environmental Performance Goals, which is discussed in our After LEED, Then What? blog article earlier this year. Check out Ashley's new article below on some hidden gems found in sustainable communities around the world.

Cities across the globe, some long known for their sustainability efforts and others far lesser known, are coming up with some innovative strategies to become global leaders in sustainability and high-performance facilities. New cities are being built from the ground up with a design focus on state-of-the-art environmental efficiency, while others are investing in full-fledged makeovers.

Whether addressing a trash crisis or upping the ante on efficient public transit systems, these changes are being led by everyone from government officials to frustrated residents and even guerrilla gardening groups. Here are four cities with unique sustainability efforts–and what these creative efforts entail.

Songdo, South Korea

Literally a brand spankin’ new city, Songdo is an aerotropolis built atop South Korean swampland 40 miles from Seoul and seven miles from Incheon International airport. As part of President Lee Myung-bak’s 38-billion dollar stimulus package encouraging green and low-carbon growth, Songdo is the first city in the world to have all of its facilities meet or exceed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) requirements.

Perhaps more impressive are the city’s contents, which includes the Northeast Asia Trade Tower (the tallest building in the country) and 40-percent open space, encompassing a 100-acre Central Park.

 Photo of Songdo, South Korea courtesy of welix.


Click to read more ...


New Sustainable Resources!

Ever wonder what LEED is all about and how it could be beneficial to you?  What about needing a good solid reason to start incorporating sustainable features in your own home?  We have added two new links to our Green Resource page under the headings Green Building Products & Construction Resources and Financial Programs, Grants and Incentives.  The articles bring you some great information on the benefits of LEED construction and a concept called "Green Mortgages" to help you see how sustainability can fit into your life.

Here are the direct links to both articles:

LEED Construction: Building a Brighter Future (link removed upon request)

Guide to Green Mortgages / Energy Efficient Mortgages

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