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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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Entries by Catherine Hart (191)


Meeting of the Mayors to Talk "Green"

Joplin Mayor Mike Seibert, Joplin homeowner Hugh Shields, Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixson

On Monday, May 12, Greensburg, Kansas Mayor Bob Dixson traveled to Joplin to meet with Mayor Mike Seibert to talk "green". The purpose of this visit was to invite Joplin media to accompany the mayors as they toured two of the city's most sustainable projects. Mayor Dixson was given an overview of Joplin's recovery progress, 3 years post-tornado, and shared what Greensburg has learned in the 7 years since an EF-5 destroyed nearly 95% of the town, and the decision was made to build back as a model green community.

The first stop was the home of Hugh and Ramona Shields. The couple lost their home in the tornado three years ago and decided to build back using a SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) wall system. The southern wall of their home features a bank of large windows, and the angle of the roof overhang ensures that they take full advantage of winter sun; this same angle blocks the summer sun. The past two winters they have not used any fossil fuel! They have instead relied on a very small load of wood to use in their stove, and heat is retained in the thermal mass provided by their internal concrete safe room (which doubles as their closet) and concrete floors. They estimate that their energy bills average out to about $1 a day - the figure promised by their energy efficiency consultant. Their home was completely paid for by their insurance coverage.

Next the mayors visited Advanced Orthotics and Prosthetics, a Joplin business that was destroyed in the tornado. Owners Frank and Valarie Ikerd had the dream of building back as environmentally conscious as possible. They chose the TF Forming System ICF (Insulating Concrete Forms) for their wall, which has been rated to withstand 200 m.p.h. winds and offers superior energy efficiency as well. Frank has just started seeing patients this month and the Ikerds are eager to see how well they are doing in energy savings when they get their first bill. Additionally, a memorial to the tornado is in the works, in the form of a floor in the reception area fashioned from trees collected from friends who experienced loss during the storm. A myriad of other features, including smart technology and dual-flush toilets, round out the sustainable package found in their building. They hope to inspire other businesses to follow their lead.

Mayors Seibert and Dixson shared post-tornado experiences with each other and found a lot of common ground. They discussed the importance of community, of taking time when making rebuilding decisions, and the challenges and opportunities associated with leading their respective cities through the next phases of growth. 

Green Town Joplin worked closely with Amy Jordan Wooden, a Kansas City-based PR consultant who was hired to coordinate the event on behalf of Communities on Climate. They have a goal to raise awareness about climate change and encourage local communities to do more to meet its associated challenges. Highlighting some of Joplin's success stories - undertaken independently post-tornado by local residents - is very newsworthy and the tour was well-received by local media. Thanks to the following outlets for covering Monday's story:

Joplin Globe

Fox TV channel 14

KY-3 Springfield


KZRG Radio



Conference Debriefing - Part One


Lisa LaDue speaks to Personal & Community Resilience

The second annual Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference is behind us, and we are pleased to report on its success. The keynote speakers were inspiring; the breakout sessions, informative; the attendees, eager to learn. We accomplished what we set out to do - namely, strengthen a national network of folks working in the disaster recovery field who will continue to share information and offer support to each other long after the conference is over. GreenTown's collaboration with the Center for Sustainability at Saint Louis University made for great synergy in this endeavor.

In coming weeks we will post photos, PowerPoints and videos of the sessions. If you were unable to attend you will still be able to take advantage of the depth of knowledge and experience offered by our presenters.

We are grateful to have had the conference covered by blogger Diane MacEachern, based in Washington, D.C. Diane wrote this fine article for Big Green Purse and we think she captured the spirit of the event quite well.

GreenTown's role in establishing a national Sustainable Disaster Recovery Network is two-pronged. As  facilitator/networker/convener we bring together folks who are working toward common goals and we help them vision what's possible in communities, post-disaster. And as information gatherer and sharer, we provide current, comprehensible, unbiased resources to individuals and communities in need. We are in the process of formalizing the infrastructure of this Network and will keep you posted here and on our Facebook page.


The Latest on the Conference


We're a month away from the 2nd Annual Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference. We are pleased to be able to offer such a rich program featuring experts from around the country, including representatives from several communities recovering from major disasters. REGISTER HERE.

Folks representing Joplin; Greensburg; Breezy Point, New York; Fort Collins, Colorado; West Liberty, Kentucky; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma will make presentations. Each area, of course, is in a different stage of recovery and speakers will share both the pitfalls and successes of their respective community's comeback stories. The conference will be rounded out with experts from government, the private sector, the green building industry, and recovery organizations. Here's the FULL PROGRAM.

Who should attend? The conference will be of special interest to local, state, and federal leadership involved in disaster planning and recovery; emergency management personnel; nonprofit organization staff; instructors and students; people working in all fields related to sustainability and resilience; and folks who want to be inspired by what's happening throughout the country as communities come back from disastrous events. In addition to being able to learn from dynamic speakers, attendees will benefit from ample networking opportunities.

Here's the text of the press release we sent out today with all the pertinent information you need. We hope you can join us in St. Louis November 14-15!




Mark Your Calendar - November 14-15!


We're gearing up for the second annual Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference on Thursday and Friday, November 14-15. GreenTown is working alongside the Saint Louis University Center for Sustainability to bring you an excellent lineup of speakers for the event, which will once again be held on the SLU campus in St. Louis. This year there will be two tracks - planning and recovery - and we aim to attract planning professionals, disaster recovery personnel, folks from disaster areas, and students to all come together to share experiences and learn from each other.

You can register here - the fee is a very reasonable $200. Students may attend for $40. The fees include all meals and breaks for the two-day event.

If you are a vendor who would like to exhibit at the event - please check out the benefits of sponsorship from $500 - $5,000+. This is a great opportunity to meet with a national audience, including people who are in positions of decision-making about products and services.

We are confirming speakers daily - so far our featured speakers include:

  • Lisa LaDue, Assistant Director of Field Education, School of Social Work, Colorado State University - Personal and Community Resilience
  • David Greenwell, City Councilman, Ward 5, Oklahoma City; Steve Eggleston, Region VII Disaster Coordinator, U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and Eliza Hotchkiss, Project Lead, U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) - The Role of Government in Sustainable Disaster Recovery
  • Ashley Fallon, Program Coordinator, Breezy Point Green Committee, New York - Hurricane Sandy and Breezy Point
  • Tim Conley, Morgan County Judge Executive and Bobby Clark, Director of Business Development, Midwest Clean Energy, representing West Liberty, Kentucky - Rebuilding West Liberty, Kentucky
  • Andrew Murray and PGAV colleagues - a planning, architecture and design firm, St. Louis - Planning and Financing Recovery Projects
  • John Pyron, Director, Missouri Disaster Case Management Program, Lutheran Family & Children's Services of Missouri and Monica McFee, Community Liaison, Long Term Recovery Committee, United Way of Greater St. Louis - Long-Term Recovery
  • Rob Williams, Central & Eastern U.S. Earthquake Program Coordinator, U.S. Geological Survey and Phyllis Steckel, Consultant, Earthquake Insight - Earthquake Hazards in the Central U.S.: What Keeps Geologists Awake at Night
  • Heriberto Urby and Jack Rozdilsky, Assistant Professors, Western Illinois University Department of Emergency Management - The Importance of Introducing Innovative Concepts Early in the Recovery Process
  • David Webb, Program Manager for the Saint Louis University Center for Sustainability - Introduction to Sustainability and Sustainable Disaster Recovery
  • Daniel Wallach, Joah Bussert, and Jason Culbertson, Greensburg GreenTown - Introducing the Sustainable Disaster Recovery Handbook

We will continue to post updates both here and on the conference Facebook page - be sure to "like" the page, and check "get notifications" to keep informed. We hope you will join us. If last year's event is any indication of how this year will turn out, it will be a rich learning experience.


Green Town - The Book!

FREE with a minimum $50 individual or business membership! Details below.

We are happy to share the news that Green Town USA is now available! Author Thomas J. Fox did extensive interviewing of folks who were integral to Greensburg's green recovery, and has done a masterful job of telling the story of the genesis of the Green Initiative. I wept as I read the opening chapters and relived how Greensburg took the tragedy of May 4, 2007 and transformed the town into the inspiring beacon hope on the Kansas plains that it is today.

Now, six years later, Greensburg is ready to teach the rest of us how to do it. Green Town USA provides a roadmap that will help us use the experiences of Greensburg to transform our own communities. We don't have to wait for tragedy to begin this process of change. from the Foreward by Alex Wilson

GreenTown's executive director and co-founder, Daniel Wallach, offers his dream for the future of Greensburg, GreenTown, and the world in the book's Introduction:

My dream now . . . is to see communities around the country (and the world) come together to tackle challenges with a zest and a loving commitment to future generations, to preserve this astoundingly beautiful planet and the very systems that make life possible. I hope that reading this excellent book helps move you in that direction and most of all gives you a sense of optimism and awareness of the power of your vision and impact that you can, and will, have.

There's never been a better time to join us in making our dream a reality. We'll send you a copy of Green Town USA with every membership of $50 (or more!). We are inviting both individuals and businesses to consider partnering with us to spread the inspiring message of what is possible. Together we are making a big difference!

Non-members can purchase Green Town USA at your local independent bookseller or online.


GreenTown to Present in Moore at REBUILD Expo

Greensburg GreenTown and GreenTown Joplin were asked by the City of Oklahoma City Office of Sustainability to help with the REBUILD Expo on Saturday, August 3 in Moore. We've assisted with putting together the agenda and offering suggestions for the event, which is free and open to the public. If you know folks in Oklahoma who might benefit from the Expo, please share the program info with them.   

A delegation of four from Joplin will staff an informational table and will make presentations: Willy Crane, a green building expert and home energy rater; Frank Schaffer, a builder whose family lost their home in the Joplin tornado and who has rebuilt a house that is a durable model of energy efficiency; Andrew Whitehead, Chair of GreenTown's advisory group; and Catherine Hart, General Manager of GreenTown Joplin and Co-Founder of Greensburg GreenTown.

Expo organizers have assembled two dozen exhibitors who will be on hand with free informational materials for homeowners. (The expo is educational in nature rather than being a commercial venue.) In addition, there will be consultants on hand (architects, green building consultants, energy efficiency experts, etc.)  to meet with folks one-on-one to answer questions about their individual rebuilding needs. GreenTown is also preparing new handouts on the topics of: How to Find a Green Builder, Low- and No-Cost Sustainable Building Strategies, and Incentives.

The Expo will run from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Presentations will get underway at 11 a.m. and will include information about improving a home's durability and energy efficiency, water quality concerns, how to select a  homebuilder and an architect, insurance issues, personal stories of recovery from Greensburg, Kansas and Joplin, Missouri, and other pertinent topics. The agenda lists speakers and their time slots.  

Program content has been to tailored assist people who are rebuilding in areas affected by the May storms, but the Expo is open to anyone who is considering building a home and wants to learn how to do so with energy efficiency and durability in mind.    

GreenTown looks forward to doing whatever we can to assist with the recovery of the good folks of Moore, Oklahoma City, and the other Oklahoma communities affected by tornadoes last spring.  


Saturday, August 3 - Expo - 9:00 am-3:30 pm - Presentations - 11:00-3:30 pm

Westmoore High School, 12613 S Western Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK

City of Oklahoma City Office of Sustainability
Jennifer Gooden, Director, (405) 297-3686
T.O. Bowman, Program Coordinator, (405) 297-3168

Greensburg GreenTown
Daniel Wallach, Executive Director, (620) 388-5558
Catherine Hart, General Manager GreenTown Joplin, (620) 549-3752


"Fueled by Mother Nature"

Editor's Note: We at GreenTown were pleased to find the following article online last Friday. Author Kevin Richberg does a great job of capturing Greensburg's post-tornado vision and inspiring folks to come visit.

GREENsburg: A Town Reborn by Kevin Richberg - for the Huffington Post

Mother Nature is unquestionably one of travel and tourism's biggest draws. The power produced by the distribution of energy around the Earth causes travelers to venture thousands of miles to witness her wonders, bask in her comfort, and escape her harsh realities. Majestic waterfalls, stunning auroras, pristine beaches, swarming animals, devastating blizzards, or gigantic superstorms, they're all under the influence of her churning energies. Mother Nature is one of our closest companions and occasionally the worst of our enemies.

On May 4th, 2007 an enormous area of low barometric pressure stalled out over the midwestern Great Plains states abutting against an area of high moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting meteorological supercells spawned 123 separate tornadoes in just 56 hours. One in particular, an EF5 tornado 1.7 miles in width, annihilated the small Kansas town of Greensburg leaving a mere 5 percent of structures intact and taking 11 lives.

It only took Mother Nature a few minutes to utterly destroy what over a thousand residents spent lifetimes building and nurturing, and it would take years for those individuals to rebuild their lives, homes, and businesses. But this was not a routine rebuilding effort, quite the contrary. It would become one of the most radical transformations any city had ever attempted.

The citizens of Greensburg came together, deciding that their rebuilding efforts would focus on harnessing the same power Mother Nature used to destroy their town, this time, to ensure its survival. They set out with a motto; "Stronger, Better, Greener!" Their town was to be a model of energy efficiency, sustainable living, and ingenuity based on the natural energies of the Kansas plains.

Their plans weren't brought about by government mandate or corporate greed; they were the organic efforts of townspeople who saw a future based in renewable energies. Mother Nature would be an integral partner in their second chance.

Greensburg had been founded in the 1880s based partially on an enormous hole in the ground. The Big Well, as it's still known, was dug without the aid of machines (the world's largest hand dug well at a depth of 109 feet) in order to secure water for the advancing railroad lines penetrating into the west. Almost immediately after its decommission the Big Well was opened as a historical attraction in 1937, and by the time the May 4th tornado reached it, the well was a national landmark. Being completely underground it was the one thing in Greensburg the tornado could not touch!

Tourists had been traveling to see the Big Well for decades before the tornado; it was Greensburg's major claim to fame. But during the "Green" rebirth of Greensburg the residents decided to widen their vision of what could attract tourism to their small piece of flat Kansas. Putting all their efforts into creating the "Greenest" town in America (in name and in function) would give them a unique perspective to share with their visitors. Their story would become a tourist draw in and of itself, the ability to illustrate the power of Mother Nature to destroy, the ingenuity of the American spirit to adapt, and the resulting model for a sustainable future to be exported -- all fueled by Mother Nature.

Today Greensburg has more LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified structures per capita than any town in the world, and a visit to Greensburg is now far more than just a Big Well (which is an amazing structure in its own right). The public face of Greensburg's transformation is GreenTown, an organization helping to export the ideas that utterly transformed a community to the rest of the world. And since seeing is believing, they encourage each and every visitor to walk the GreenTour, a map and booklet of where all of Greensburg's innovations are located and descriptions of how they work.

With Mother Nature back in a warm embrace with the people of Greensburg, she would now be able to work her magic to draw in visitors and travelers from around the world. Greensburg shows us a glimpse of what's possible for a future more in tune with the earth's ability to provide for us, and more responsible to upcoming generations.

Visit Greensburg and see how it was done!

From Kevin's bio on the Huffington Post: Kevin is a freelance travel writer who recently transitioned from a career in molecular marine biology to pursuing his passion of “project” oriented world travel. Recent projects have included a 30 day, 12,500 km road trip through India and going on 30 dates in 30 days in 30 American cities. His travels have taken him to 89 countries on six continents and even included two trips to the bottom of the abyssal ocean. His current ongoing travel project involves visiting 30 places around the world having been invited by everyday locals who mail him postcards (www.30postcards.com).


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.


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!


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.