On May 4, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas was shaken to its core. An EF-5 tornado with winds over 200 mph destroyed 95 percent of the town.
Jeff Blackburn, Pastor of the Greensburg Mennonite Church describes that night as the way the town died.
“In a way our town died that night but when the sun came up the next morning it’s almost as if we came back to life.”
Greensburg would rebuild and this time it would be different than before, it would become a sustainable city.
In December 2007, city council passed a bill that would allow Greensburg to achieve LEED platinum status.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was a program developed by the U.S. Building Council.
Businesses and homes pursuing LEED certification can earn points across areas that address sustainability issues -- like adding bike racks, resourcing and reusing materials.
The key was to build back using the same building materials as before just with the advanced technology of today.
Shortly after this initiative Greensburg saw significant changes in how much energy and how much water they used. Their total consumption of both water and energy dropped compared to years before.
But, as new buildings went up the overall population struggled to rise. Before the tornado the population was around 1500, but after it was reduced to about 800.
The long rebuilding process didn’t keep lifelong residents from returning home. Many state hometown pride as the reason to return despite the lack of homes and businesses.
Ten years later Greensburg has made some progress but still more work is to be done. But, the hope of the people and the willingness to stay continue to push Greensburg in the right direction.