Let us put "JOY" in your travel!
In central Kansas, the land lays broad and flat. The landscape is dotted by small towns, often home to just a few hundred people. If there’s a wind, it blows unimpeded. At times, the wind can become violent, even turning deadly in the form of tornadoes.
On the evening of May 4, 2007, a massive tornado outbreak struck the states of Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Over three days, dozens of tornados were reported, the worst of which struck the small town of Greensburg, Kansas, located in southwestern Kansas just north of the Oklahoma border. The EF5 tornado (the severest classification) leveled 95% of this town and killed 11 people. After the storm passed, survivors emerged to find a terrible scene of destruction.
Rather than simply rebuild as before, the citizens of Greensburg decided to view this calamity as an opportunity to reinvent itself as a model “green” community, utilizing sustainable building practices and incorporating green concepts in all facets of day-to-day life. Greensburg provides a fascinating example of resilience and rebirth in the midst of a staunchly traditional landscape.
Visitors will first notice the series of wind turbines as they drive the flat Kansas plains towards Greensburg. This is the Greensburg Wind Farm, which harnesses the wind that destroyed the town in 2007 to now provide renewable energy to power its rebirth. In an area where towns can sometimes feel old and worn, there’s a fresh vibrant vibe to Greensburg. Virtually all of the buildings are new, and many are strikingly modern in their look.
A natural place to start your tour of this eco-town is GreenTown’s Silo Eco-Home and GreenVisitorsCenter. GreenTown is a non-profit established after the tornado to provide information and support to the town as it rebuilt itself
as a model green community. Today, GreenTown also serves as Greensburg’s GreenVisitorsCenter. Start by picking up a copy of its Green Tour Book. Here, you’ll find a comprehensive guide to the many public and commercial building rebuilt after the tornado. It’s a fascinating collection of methods by which both new and existing structures can incorporate a variety of sustainable features into their design and operation. Among the “firsts” you’ll see in Greensburg are: 100% LED street lighting, the first new construction LEED Platinum certified city hall in the US, the greenest Best Western hotel in the US, and the General Motors dealership where the Chevy Volt electric car was first unveiled at the dealership’s grand reopening. There is also a revitalized retail corridor in downtown Greensburg, which includes a business incubator funded by the US Department of Agriculture, Frito-Lay SunChips corporation, and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
In addition to self-guided tours based upon the Green Tour Book, GreenTown’s staff also conducts guided tours lasting one to two hours. Guided tours must be scheduled in advance.
To experience green living first hand, GreenTown also offers visitors the opportunity to spend the night in the guest suite of its Silo Eco-Home. The silo form was selected for the building to honor the durability of the town’s cylindrical grain elevator. In the aftermath of the tornado, citizens realized that among all the destruction, the only structure unscathed was the grain elevator. This new building, which is the first of GreenTown’s Chain of Eco-Homes, was built with six-inch concrete walls. Inside, eco-friendly features include resource-conserving fixtures, reclaimed and recycled cabinets and countertops, and energy efficient appliances. The guest suite also features an organic latex bed and all-natural bedding.
For a reservation at the Silo’s guest suite or to schedule a guided tour, call us at 1-800-875-4569 or email us at Rebecca@joytours.com. You’ll find inspiration in a town that chose rebirth and reinvention!
About the Author
Teresa Matsui Sanders is a travel industry veteran and creator of DogWonderful, a website specializing in highlighting great dog friendly hotels. Mostly she specializes in obeying her dogs. Follow her on Twitter @DogWonderful