Destroyed Town Shares Rebuilding Lessons

On the evening of May 4, 2007, an EF5 tornado leveled nearly the entire city of Greensburg,Kan. Only one building remained standing in the city after the storm.
Like small towns in Oklahoma, the community of 1,574 people came together after the tornado and decided to rebuild their town – better than it was before. Taking cue from their name, the people of Greensburg made a commitment to become a sustainable, environmentally-friendly model for the rest of the nation.
City leaders from Greensburg will discuss their “green” rebuilding efforts March 20-21 at the 8th annual Oklahoma Sustainability Conference in Edmond at the University of Central Oklahoma. City and state leaders, professors, business owners, agricultural producers and other individuals interested in learning about or sharing their experiences with sustainable and environmental issues are invited to take part in the statewide conference.
“We turned adversity into a force to propel us into the future,” said Daniel Wallach, executive director of Greensburg GreenTown. “Our green initiative has given us a strong, recognizable identity which is something small towns need to survive.”
In his televised address to congress on Feb. 24, President Obama recognized the city of Greensburg as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community, bringing jobs and businesses to a city where piles of bricks and rubble once lay.
Among the topics Greensburg city leaders will highlight at the Oklahoma Sustainability Conference include how the city decided to build all municipal buildings to LEED certification, meeting a variety of standards for sustainable construction.Greensburg will have the nation’s first LEED Platinum city hall, which will be built from reclaimed brick and recycled wood and will include solar panels, geothermal technology and a roof with vegetation growing on top. LED streetlights and the goal of powering the city on 100 percent renewable energy are also part of the city’s green plan.
“With the devastation that happened in Lone Grove fresh on the minds of Oklahomans, I hope Greensburg serves as an example of hope and renewal,” said Jeff Tate, Oklahoma Sustainability Conference coordinator. “Nearly two years after the storm, Greensburg proves that you don’t have to be a large city to do monumental things.”
The Oklahoma Sustainability Conference will be March 20-21 at the Nigh University Center at the University ofCentral Oklahoma in Edmond with registration beginning at 8:15 a.m. each day. Admission is $75 for both days or $42.50 for single day registration. The Oklahoma Sustainability Network Conference is presented by the Oklahoma Sustainability Network and hosted by Sustainable Edmond. For more information, visit

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