Monday, May 5, 2008
Since the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, communities are deciding to rebuild Green.
Out of tragedy they see opportunity.
updated 3:54 p.m. EDT, Fri May 2, 2008
GREENSBURG, Kansas (CNN) -- There are still piles of bricks and rubble on countless streets in Greensburg, Kansas, a year after a tornado demolished more than 90 percent of the town.
On May 4, 2007, a ferocious twister blasted Greensburg, Kansas, killing 11 people in the town of 1,400.
Yet what is happening in the city's rebuilding process may not only re-invent Greensburg but provide a model for "green" building everywhere.
Just a week after the deadly tornado hit May 4, 2007, a similar idea sparked in the mayor, a representative from the governor's office and a nonprofit expert from a nearby town.
The concept: If the whole town had to be rebuilt anyway, why not be bold and build it as a global example of conservation, energy efficiency and creativity?
Daniel Wallach, the nonprofit specialist, soon got the green light to help residents and businesses start over in a project known as Greensburg GreenTown.
"Kansas is known for being very conservative," Wallach said.
"My first order of business was to listen. What I heard were a lot of concerns about politicization and being associated with 'tree huggers.' I helped frame it with the people here in such a way they saw, this is their movement," he said.
Fifth-generation Greensburg resident Anita Hohl joined the staff of Greensburg GreenTown as a Web specialist.
"I was pretty green to begin with. I used to get teased about being a tree hugger. Now it's 'the thing!' This has really brought us so much closer together. What you can accomplish when just a few people are working toward the same goal is amazing," she said. Her farming grandparents instilled the virtue of being energy-efficient.
"My grandma always put her clothes on the line, did her own gardening and re-used everything," Hohl said.
Hohl and her husband, a daughter, a son, four cats, a dog and two birds are among the Greensburg residents in "FEMAville," a cluster of mobile homes set up as temporary housing. The family hopes to break ground soon for their new house and move in by Thanksgiving. Although they have made the best of the cramped quarters, she says, there are some challenges.
"It sort of feels like living in a cheap motel! But it's a lot better than it could be. It's nice to have a place to be," she said.
From the start, the GreenTown staff knew that getting the business community on board with the green plan was vital.
And in rural America, there is no business that's more of a bedrock than the John Deere dealership. In Greensburg, that dealership has been in the Estes family for four generations. Their facility was wiped out by the twister. "The building was a total loss. And we saved only 13 pieces of machinery out of 220 on the lot," Kelly Estes said. "The FEMA guy said he had never seen anything like it. Steel twisted into brick, and then the miles per hour needed to pick up combines that weigh 25,000 pounds and move them half a mile in the air," he said. Kelly and his brother Mike decided to rebuild in town to the highest green-building standard.
The U.S. Green Building Council establishes a rating system for efficient buildings called LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The Greensburg facility is aiming for LEED platinum, the most demanding standard.
There is one wind turbine on their new property, a 100-foot structure designed to generate 5 kilowatts of electricity. It is providing power for the construction site.
Although "green" may be viewed as trendy and new by some, Mike Estes knows that it is not for show.
"We're looking at saving money here; truthfully, we are. We're running a business. If we can't make this make sense, why would we do it?" he asked.
And he says the non-political approach of the city in encouraging energy efficiency has helped.
"I don't think it's red or blue to be green; I think green is green, and green makes sense. And green saves you green!" he said with a laugh.
Being a model for the world in energy efficiency is a major goal of Greensburg GreenTown.
But there is another even more urgent aim: keeping this rural town from disappearing. The lack of jobs in many small towns means that after teenagers graduate from high school, they have to leave to find other opportunities.
"The average age of people living in rural communities is in their 50s," Wallach said. "There are very few folks in the communities under that age, because there are just no jobs. Families have been split up for decades."
So in addition to the long-term goal of Greensburg's pre-tornado businesses from leaving, people hope to attract new green trade as well. The city wants to open a biodiesel facility as one of its first green newcomers.
Another long-term goal is to have 100 percent renewable energy. It is probable that the greatest contribution would come from large wind turbines.
"The timing of all this is, in some ways, almost spooky," Wallach said. "It's like the world was ready for this to happen, for a town to be completely re-imagined. The tragedy was terrible. But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity."
The New, Green New Orleans
New Orleans' longstanding practice of dumping wood, metal, plastic and other recyclables into landfills contradicts any notion of reusing resources to rebuild and sustain the city. "That's the opposite of sustainability. That's just crazy," says John Klingman, a professor of architecture at Tulane University and an expert in green construction. Sadly, buildings that are razed in Orleans Parish are simply carted off to a landfill. This practice deprives builders and citizens of any chance to reuse pieces of our city's architectural heritage — doorframes, doors, handmade bricks, elaborate millwork, slate roofing tiles and other building products. This is senseless, but there is a way to stop the insanity. TransLoad America, a company specializing in handling, recycling and disposing of waste, proposes building two waste-sorting and recycling facilities in New Orleans. These facilities are not landfills. Through a systematic series of sorting steps, TLA expects to recycle up to 70 percent of what it receives in construction and demolition debris. TLA's proposal has widespread support among local environmental groups, but promoters of existing and proposed landfills are trying to derail City Council approval of TLA's facilities. That would be a major setback to local recovery and recycling efforts.
To understand why TLA's facilities are needed, it's important to understand how its handling of construction and demolition debris differs from the current practice of hauling and landfilling. The first step is a simple one: immediately reusable resources, such as clean brick or undamaged wood, are culled from incoming debris. These materials are made available at no cost to environmental groups or residents to be used for rebuilding. After that, plastic, metal and glass are separated out and sent to recycling plants. Some of the wood is converted into energy pellets that can be used in power plants or made into logs that can be burned in wood stoves or fireplaces. Finally, the remaining nonprocessable materials are delivered by rail to a TLA landfill in St. Charles Parish.
TLA proposes two facilities — one on the Industrial Canal at Chef Menteur Highway exclusively for construction and demolition debris, and a second on the Michoud Canal in eastern New Orleans. The Michoud facility will handle construction and demolition debris as well as commercial solid waste from local businesses. Residue from commercial waste, after the recycling process, will be sealed in airtight, watertight bales and transported via train to a landfill in Alabama. No waste will stay in New Orleans.
Another advantage of TLA's process is its practice of transporting materials via rail. Trains produce less air pollution than diesel dump trucks, are more fuel efficient and are safer than truck transportation. Over the course of two years, a TLA facility in Newark, N.J., has saved more than 1.7 million gallons of diesel fuel by riding the rails. Trains also mean fewer trucks on the streets, which means less congestion and damage to local roads. TLA selected both its proposed New Orleans sites because of their proximity to existing rail lines.
If its facilities win City Council approval, TLA will make an initial investment of $20 million and employ 100 people between both plants. When TLA first began investigating the prospect of coming to New Orleans in 2006, in the wake of Katrina and at the onset of a massive recovery effort, company officials thought their proposals would be a good environmental fit. But, as often happens, politics also plays a role.
Even though the proposed facilities would be located in heavy industrial areas, TLA needs a "conditional use" permit from City Hall. That requires review by the City Planning Commission (which split 4-4, despite a favorable recommendation from its staff) and by the City Council. Eastern New Orleans has been traumatized by massive landfills, and citizens there are rightly anxious about any proposed waste-treatment plant. TLA has worked with city planners and community leaders to address concerns about the facilities. Now it's up to the City Council, which could consider TLA's applications this week. We urge the council to approve both proposals.
New Orleans should be a model of sustainability, yet we have no waste-disposal facilities that recycle.
TLA's supporters include Dr. Earthea Nance, director of infrastructure and environmental planning in the city's Office of Recovery Management, and Wynecta Fisher, director of the Mayor's Office of Environmental Affairs. State Rep. Cedric Richmond, whose district comprises much of eastern New Orleans, also supports TLA's proposal. Other endorsements come from experts like Beverly Wright, executive director of Dillard University's Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, and Bo Fudickar, technology industry director for the state's Department of Economic Development.
Some worry that eastern New Orleans is becoming the city's dump. TLA's plants will have the opposite effect — they will make eastern New Orleans a vital part of the new, green New Orleans. The City Council should grant TLA's conditional use permits as soon as possible.
Brad Pitt + Global Green USA Seeking Partners for New Orleans Green Community
This is fantastic news--we have a little quid pro quo that could change the future of a company forever. Seriously. Pitt + Global Green USA have partnered to build a sustainable community in New Orleans. They are seeking cornerstone partners, each with category exclusivity, to help create a prototype for affordable, green housing. Housing will be energy-efficient with environmentally conscious and weather-resistant materials. Here's how the deal works:
Potential Partner Company Provides:
* $1-2 million in year one, with right of first refusal in years two-four
* Support for green initiatives through employee education
* Support for green initiatives through consumer awareness program, sales of iconic products, etc.
Potential Partner Company Receives:
* Inclusion in Global Green USA stories with media outlets such as "The Oprah Winfrey Show," People Magazine, "The Today Show," "Dateline NBC," VH1, etc.
* Earn consumer trust and brand loyalty through commitment to Go Global Green
* Affiliation with celebrity spokesperson Brad Pitt
The deadline to act on this is January 31, 2007. That's about it as far available information, but I think this could be a great opportunity to get your company going on an explosively green track. Will it be profitable? Hard to say, but there looks to be substantial upside. Via PRNewswire via 'razzi.
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