Posts Tagged ‘eco-tourism’

Greensburg puts a new face on what it means to be “green”

In Agribusiness, Agricultural Entrepreneurship, Innovation on October 22, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Time was, the green movement got its share of sneers and giggles from the mainstream farm movement. As time went on, more rural communities in many areas of the country began to embrace the green, “conservative” and environmentally-sensitive values which took root under their forefathers.

It’s not surprising then that a town in Kansas is building LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings. What is absolutely amazing, though (in case you hadn’t heard), is that these homes, schools, offices, dealerships and, yes, art galleries are being built in the wake of a tornado that destroyed the entire town. Many of us would have walked away from the rubble of Greensburg, KS, insurance checks in hands and taken up residence someplace else. And some did. But not these inspiring people.

This week I met dozens of people, from the Greensburg city manager and the mayor, the superintendent, business owners, retired citizens and young families. The common thread that binds them together is their connection to their town, that is to say, each other. Almost all of them spoke to us about the strength of the connections they’ve made since May 4, 2007, when the tornado tore through the town. They were also extremely thankful to USDA, FEMA, New York Says Thank You, Kansas Small Business Development Center, USDA Rural Development and many others who have helped them rebuild.

But make no mistake, this is a town filled with determined people who are willing to invest in a vision for the future, not just bricks and mortar.

I think what struck me most profoundly about Greensburg was their ability and willingness to think two steps ahead. Why build something that will last 50 years when you can build it to last 150? Why not pay a little more today for something that is going to save you so much more in the long run?

Some of our new friends shared with us that they are the fourth, fifth, even sixth generation of their family to live in Greensburg and Kiowa County. The parallels between what is going on there today and how things used to be were readily apparent. After all, they’re putting green, or living, roofs on many of the buildings, not unlike the sod houses of the pioneers. They’re using alternative heating methods, including solar energy and geothermal wells. If you were on the prairie in the old days, there was no coal or wood, so you would have to use the alternative fuel source of the day–dried buffalo chips.

Determination and innovation are working hand in hand with community development in Greensburg, too. At every turn, they seem to be thinking ahead, including building a state-of-the-art eight-man football stadium and extra gym space to host regional and state games and tournaments.

And one business, the John Deere dealership, not only built a LEED Platinum building (the highest rating achievable) but also developed a second business selling wind turbines as a result of the disaster, creating additional economic development in the process.

There are a lot of great things happening here. It gives a lifelong Kansan a sense of pride.

Steve Hewitt, the city manager, put it best when he said that Greensburg wants to be a model, a proving ground for many of the technologies and styles being employed to make the town greener. That way, when travelers and city planners come to visit, they can at least take an idea or two back with them. You can’t expect every town to be Greensburg, but the town will certainly inspire greener ways in many people for years to come.