Town Leveled by Tornado Puts Green into Greensburg

A year ago yesterday, May 4, a maximum strength tornado with winds raging at 300 mph demolished the town of Greensburg, Kansas, killing 11. Organizations like Environmental Defense soon sought, somewhat dubiously, to make the name Greensburg a posterboard example, with Hurricane Katrina, for the increasingly frequent and violent storms expected to result from global warming. Maybe more credibly, the residents and friends of Greensburg now are seeking to make the town's name synonymous with green, environmentally conscious design.

Residents of the town, 95 percent destroyed last year, are trying to make each new private and public building as energy-efficient, conserving, and environment-friendly as possible by drawing on renewable energy, conserving energy, and recycling wastes. Solar panels and geothermal pumps are among the technologies being deployed, and the intention is for new buildings to conform to the U.S. Green Building Council's platinum rating.

Meanwhile, 14 Kansas State architecture students have offered their support by designing a group of green "cubes"--a system for capturing and recycling water, for example--and delivering them to the town May 4.

Speaking at the town's high school graduation ceremony yesterday, President Bush hailed the town for envisioning "a future where new jobs flourish, where every public building meets the highest environmental standards, and where the beauty of rural America meets the great possibilities of new technology."

No doubt, planning a green future is paying off for Greensburg, and probably not just in reduced utility and home heating bills. Its efforts have been publicized on the leading U.S. television networks and in Britain's Guardian. In June, Discovery's new green channel will feature Greensburg in a series produced by Leonardio DiCaprio.

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