Tuesday, April 29, 2008

TEENS HELP A TOWN GO GREEN

Tree Hugger interviewed Taylor Schmidt a 17-year-old member of the local Green Club in Greensburg Kansas, a town leveled by a tornado.

Taylor Schmitt: Well after at least 96% of the town was destroyed there has obviously been a massive need for rebuilding, and the town has come together as a big family, really, and it's been one joint effort to rebuild the town better than it was and more sustainable and green than it was. . .

TH: And what have people in Greensburg learned that's struck you particularly?

TS: Well we live in a very red, conservative state. It's the buckle of the Bible Belt. But we have become informed about green and see it as a universal concept. It's really a bipartisan issue, so I believe that parties shouldn't influence it. And green just makes sense to us, it's really simple switches. Simple ways you can build where it will last longer, save more energy, and use fewer resources. And there's been an incredible amount of folks helping us implement these ideas.

TH: How well do the other kids in Greensburg understand all of this?

TS: Kids have been the driving force for rebuilding. It's practically unprecedented. They've actually encouraged us to come into the process of rebuilding and haven't been shunning us like most people would. They've really embraced us; almost all of the youth have become involved in the rebuilding of Greensburg. We've been on committees with FEMA and there are around 20 students out of 100 involved on various committees and things like that.

And because of that involvement a green club has formed at Greensburg High School. Basically it's a group of kids that want to learn more about green, what it is, how simple it is, how we can implement it in our lives. And what affect it has on our lives, finances, and the city.

It's just so exciting; I don't think you can find a person in the whole high school who doesn't know about going green.

TH: How have the youth of Greensburg helped others in town understand the concept of going green?

TS: We've been reading about it so we can help those who don't understand it as much in older generations; and as we learn more about things we can do ranging from emailing assignments or encouraging some people that are rebuilding to use CFLs instead of incandescent light bulbs we're really making a difference. The school community has really been supportive as well. The school is even going to be rebuilt to LEED platinum standards. . . We've even gone with several of our teachers up to Chicago to the national green building convention and learned about how we can rebuild school and town with green roofs for water, and other practices ranging from all sorts of simple things like using efficient lighting and efficient water usage to installing wind turbines and solar and geothermal heating. Our school is actually going to be powered by its own large wind turbine. . .

I think of myself as a 17-year old watching our town learn about how we can thrive again and even grow back better than we were before. Some people think how terrible it must be, but I think it's a blessing to live in such exciting times.

TH: What have you come to believe makes the town of Greensburg so unique?

TS: We've realized that the spirit of working together is what makes Greensburg so unique. Before this happened we all (the youth) wanted to leave, but now we want to stay. It's given us a reason to understand we have a long term affect on our community and the world. . .