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Green Efforts: Intro

In the next few articles, I will attempt to address the efforts being made by various cities, towns, and maybe even villages, in the quest to ‘go green’.

With these articles I hope to show what is currently being done worldwide to create a positive impact on the environment as well as discuss areas that need improvement in the green spectrum.

Not all of these cities would make the top ten “Green Cities List”, nor can all of their Eco-friendly actions be considered intentional. Instead, these cities display varied levels of environmental awareness, and will contrast in size and location. By showing a wider range of locations, perhaps we can make a more accurate conclusion as to what works best, whether in a rural town or urban metropolis, to create a sustainable environment.

You may think of it as an electronic road trip, or globe trot depending on where you compute from. Our first stop is not  a city but a town with enough will and endurance to match that of a metropolis ten times its size. We begin then, in Greensburg, Kansas. Even its name indicates an odd twist of fate. It is a town that claims to have risen, phoenix-like, from ruins of bricks and debris to become the first town reconstructed from scratch with purely green intentions. This green heavy weight from the Middle West of the U.S. began life in 1886. For generations its economy was fueled by the agricultural, oil, and gas industries. All of this changed, however, when in 2007 a tornado struck, destroying over 90 percent of the town in its wake.

In the midst of their shock, the town ultimately chose fight over flight, beginning a series of meetings that invited the attendance and ideas of all informed residents. In resulting discussions, residents decided to view the disaster as a unique opportunity that allowed for the resurrection of the town that otherwise may have perished with the death of small town America. Now, it is instead headed towards the forefront of contemporary living.

Downtown – When completed, the town’s core will be an oasis to residents and visitors alike. At the moment, Greensburg’s downtown is already brimming with green businesses. The streets even have their own water harvesting system, which comes in the form of rain gardens. These pockets of green are plentiful along Main Street, catching rainwater and runoff from the pavement. The plants, all the while, are nourished by irrigation.

LEED Certification – Dotted throughout the rural landscape are the town’s 13 crown jewels of green architecture. These buildings have all recieved LEED certification of silver, gold, and even platinum rankings. They include banks, schools, hospitals, and even the City Hall. Altogether, these buildings save the town $200,000 on energy costs each year.

In years to come, Greensburg intends to promote more pedestrian and cycling activity. With plans for narrowed roads, specifically in their downtown, leaving room for easy walking space (maybe even a few outdoor cafes). Also to appear are a collection of bike lanes and trails. But these trails will be more than fitness routes, they’ll be accessible arteries that link residents to points of interest as well as amenities within the town, like schools and hospitals. And, for those who don’t own a bike, their plan suggests the option to “borrow” a public bike. These public bikes will be stationed at their own rack, and will be made free for public use.  And because of their pink coloring they’ll be hard to miss.

Room To Improve
Because Greensburg’s reinvention comes as an answer to reconstruct a town broken by disaster, all changes are obviously a work in progress. Anything not currently implemented is likely to be applied in the future, if not already set in motion. So for the time being, we’ll assume that little is missing from the grand scheme.

What other towns and cities can learn from Greensburg
Greensburg is a great model for community efficiency anywhere, but is most beneficial as a model to rural areas and small towns, proving you don’t have to be a huge metropolis with a multimillion-dollar budget to apply state of the art green designs and practice.

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