Rebuilding Green

Authors: Green For All

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PHOTO: Eric Thayer / Reuters

PHOTO: Charlie Riedel / AP

One month ago, tornadoes swept across the US South, taking hundreds of lives and devastating communities. Last week, the people of Joplin, Missouri experienced a similar tragedy; violent storms killed roughly 150 residents and destroyed at least 8,000 homes.

For those who lost a loved one or their house, the grieving process is just beginning. The emotions are still raw. There are many dark days ahead.

Thankfully, these communities are resilient. For example, in Joplin, residents have already started to rebuild, as documented in this Huffington Post piece. But, as affected areas begin to put their pieces back together, it's important for people to ask themselves how they can rebuild in a way that will make their area stronger and better.

One answer: green construction. It's been done before. In fact, an example that is getting a lot of attention is the story of Greensburg, Kansas.

The residents of Greensburg know the pain and agony facing those devastated by the recent tornadoes; four years ago, a storm, which stretched two miles wide, destroyed 90 percent of the buildings in the town. The community had to start over, and decided that instead of just rebuilding, they wanted to reinvent themselves by going green. Steven Hewitt, the former City Administrator, told his story to CNN. CBS News also featured the town.

And, as this US Department of Energy video shows, the town's municipal buildings are now LEED Platinum structures. The arts center generates power through solar panels and wind turbines. And, many buildings are now constructed with recycled materials.

City Administrator Hewitt says that going green is the smartest thing they've ever done, leading to robust economic development, new jobs and increased tourism. Greensburg has demonstrated that going green can do more than just rebuild physical infrastructure; it can also help repair the emotional damage caused by tragedy.

And, at a time when so many are living in despair because of the recent storms, what could be more important than hope?

PHOTO: Charlie Riedel / AP

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