What Ever Happened to Greensburg, Kansas?
A Midwest Town Continues Its Green Rebuilding
On May 4, 2007, an EF5 tornado cut a 1.7-mile path of destruction through Greensburg, Kansas. Winds reaching speeds of 205 miles per hour uprooted trees, demolished homes and leveled the town. Eleven people died and 95% of the buildings were destroyed beyond repair.
The town, whose population has dropped from 2,000 to 800 following the storm, responded with a first-of-its-kind commitment: to rebuild its businesses, schools and homes to meet the highest environmental standards. The motto on the town’s website captures the enthusiasm: “Greensburg: Better, Stronger, Greener!” Town officials passed a resolution that all future municipal buildings over 4,000 square feet would meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s prestigious LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum designation. And word of the commitment created a media frenzy, including a reality TV show about Greensburg on Planet Green with eco-celebrity host Leonardo DiCaprio that’s now in its second season. President Obama even gave Greensburg a specific mention during his address to Congress in February.
Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixon says all that outside attention has given the town an advantage with attracting corporate sponsors and new businesses. While the rest of rural America is being hit hard with the economic downturn, high unemployment and layoffs, Greensburg’s emphasis on green living has given the town a buffer.