In 2007, the two-mile wide town of Greensburg, Kansas was struck by a 1.75 miles wide EF-5 tornado. The result was complete devastation.

Despite the terrible loss and tragedy that surrounded them, the people of Greensburg were immediately dedicated to rebuilding. But this time, they were committed to creating a greener, more sustainable community.

Implementing an innovative, community-based sustainable master plan, Greensburg leaders built a collaborative team between governments and citizens of the cities and counties affected by the tornado. With this comprehensive plan and the integrated level of coordination, the Greensburg Model® (as it is now known) has been praised by FEMA as the "model of green recovery for future disaster responses."

The result has been a variety of sustainable development initiatives that have helped create the infrastructure for long-term environmentally sound growth and have attracted national and international attention. For example, Greensburg now has the most LEED-platinum buildings per capita in the world and an on-site wind farm that produces more energy than any other of its kind.

The Greensburg community is also highly focused on grassroots development. A group called Public Square acts as the voice of citizens to make sure decisions are made from the ground up rather than the top down. Greensburg Greentown, a private non-profit group, provides education and support for citizens in sustainable rebuilding. Citizen groups, such as Project 2020 and Kiowa County United, tackle pressing issues such as re-populating the community and attracting businesses.

To date, the city has seen over 500 homes built, while over 60 businesses have reopened or are in the process of doing so. Through innovative reconstruction programs and multi-sector financing, returning residents have found they have access to some of the most affordable and energy efficient homes in America.

As Greensburg continues to rebuild, the community continues to embrace environmentally, financially and culturally sustainable practices. The citizens have proven that they can endure the most devastating circumstances and, in the end, they found a way to turn an undeniable tragedy into an opportunity for growth. As a winner of the Siemens Sustainable Community Award in the small community category, Greensburg embodies the resiliency of the American spirit.

(Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center)

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Greensburg, Kansas: Thriving in the wake of disaster
Turning tragedy into an opportunity for growth, the Greensburg, Kansas community is rebuilding with an emphasis on sustainability.