After a town was destroyed by a tornado in 2007, officials knew they wanted to rebuild something better.
Debbie Boyle, who owns Last Tangle—a hair salon in Greensburg, Kansas—hasn’t forgotten the storm that destroyed their hometown. She says most people who come into the salon have their stories from that day.
“So, then you get to talking about it again, and I don’t know, sometimes it’s like you don’t want to talk about it,” she said.
Greensburg, Kansas is a town of less than 1,000 people and located a couple of hours away from Wichita, surrounded by miles of farmland. On May 4, 2007, an EF-5 tornado tore through the town, killing 12 people and destroying 95 percent of the town.
Stacy Barnes was living away from her hometown as a recent college graduate on that night in 2007. Today, she serves in one of the most powerful seats in town: city administrator.
“I remember pulling up to what was my parents’ house or what was left and saying out loud, ‘This is it? This can’t be it?’ Just because there was nothing left,” Barnes recalled.
Beneath that rubble, the city leaders at the time saw a clean slate to rebuild.
“The idea came very early to build in a sustainable manner, using green features in a lot of buildings,” Barnes said.
What’s risen is one of the greenest communities in America. Many of the town’s buildings were made with recycled materials,