Trip to Greensburg, Kansas: Part 2

Kelsey O'Boyle is a New Dream Development Intern whose service-learning leanings led her to an unforgettable Spring Break this year.

Read Part 1 of her trip.

Part 2: Greensburg and Green Technology

Our volunteer group explored the small town every day after volunteering, making discoveries about the Green movement while forging personal connections with the hopeful residents.

Greensburg is the first city in Kansas to build a LEED platinum building, one of the most incredible buildings I have ever set foot in. The 5.4.7. Art Center is located in the center of Greensburg. Its shining glass exterior and towering wind turbines stand out against uninterrupted Kansas sky. Stacey Barnes, the Director of the Center that displays local art, gave us a tour of the building’s sustainable features. The roof has 8 solar panels, three wind turbines and sits atop three geothermal wells that heat and cool the building. The tempered glass that surrounds the building protects the wood behind it from sun damage and therefore cools the building while the four inch thick concrete floors absorb sunlight to help naturally heat the building in the winter. Like many buildings in Greensburg, the Art Center has skylights that facilitate natural light usage and light sensors that dim or shut off when the natural light is bright enough. It also has a partial “green roof” covered in plants that reduces UV rays absorbed by the roof and a rainwater collection system used to water the grass. This building completely blew our minds.

turbineOn our last day in Greensburg, we planned a quick stop at Greensburg’s John Deere Dealership to buy t-shirts and hats (we were amused by the tractors, not something we ever see in DC). Little did we know that this particular John Deere dealership was also a LEED platinum building. The store manager gave us an incredible tour, showing us everything from wind turbines and skylights, to their rainwater collection and tractor oil recycling systems- nothing we ever expected to find at a John Deere dealership in rural Kansas. But then again, this was not the typical, rural Midwest. This was Greensburg.

Even more than the solar panels, wind turbines, LEED platinum buildings and homes, and fancy machinery –the people of Greensburg changed our lives. Their hope for the future – the future of Greensburg, of America, and of the “Green” revolution that will change the prospects of America - was truly inspiring. Everyone from Matt--the Director of the South Central Kansas Tornado Recovery organization, who lives and breathes for Greensburg and did everything he could to help us learn and understand the town’s story-- to the 87 year old Cretia Barnes, who told us her own account of that fateful day in May 2007 and made every one of us cry. From M.T. Liggett--an eccentric artist who granted us more knowledge and inspiration in the few hours we spent with him than our entire year of studies at GW-- to Jess and Craig, our AmeriCorps volunteers who showed us what the life of youth in Greensburg was really like.

President Obama, in his first address to the nation, described Greensburg as “a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community --
how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay.” There is no better role model for America right now than Greensburg, Kansas. Its progress, people and power of hope have the incredible ability to inspire; this is how green energy should be used to brighten America’s future. Hidden in a small town in rural Kansas lives the incredible souls who are the perfect role models for America’s brighter, greener tomorrow, the role models for how America can and will be if it follows in Greensburg’s big, green footsteps.

Tags: Building, Education, Green technology, Kansas, Student, Trip, Volunteer

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