Sustainable IITD Blog

Making Difference: One Step At A Time

How a tornado transformed a town

It was all peace and tranquillity on a quiet Friday night in Greensburg, Kansas. There had been an initial tornado warning over the radio, but tornados were pretty common in the state of Kansas. Everybody thought that the storm would come and pass through without hurting much – giving a whole new meaning to a calm before the storm. And then it finally struck.

At 9:45 pm on Friday, May 4th, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas was obliterated by a 1.7 mile-wide EF5 tornado (the strongest tornado rating on the Fujita scale). The town was completely destroyed, save for a mere five percent of its infrastructure. And then it passed.


Greensburg after the tornado. Source:

Upon seeing the devastation in the tornado’s wake, Mayor Bob Dixson was not anguished. Instead, he saw a new vision for the small 700 people strong town – to set an example for the world in sustainable technology. Shoving all politically-motivated debates on climate change in Washington D.C. aside, he appealed to the residents of his hometown to rebuild, and to do so greener, stronger and even better. The residents had nothing to lose in working for this initiative – whatever they had, the tornado had taken. They readily agreed to work towards this new vision.

Seven years later, Greensburg is a shining example of a sustainable ‘green-town’. The people have shown their resilience, ingenuity and integrity with the diligent implementation of the town-council’s master plan. Greensburg’s achievements include all buildings having LEED Platinum (the highest environmental rating in the world), an active recycling chain, a strong business incubator sponsored by the government, green businesses, a new school and a new theatre, amongst others. All buildings have been engineered to provide zero emissions and increase energy savings to a huge extent.

The initiative has seen strong support from both the locals and the government. The focus on sustainability has renewed tourist interest to the town also. They have even received strong support from high-tech firms around the world, including Honda which set up a zero-emission electric car factory. And all this was started by a group of 700 residents who spent their nights in tents. But a committed group of people who had resolve and initiative to overcome and see a new vision.


Greensburg after the tornado. Source:

If you wish to know more about Greensburg, there are two interesting documentaries that you can get your hands on (we’ll see if we can share them also). The first is Greensburg, a documentary TV series created by Leonardo DiCaprio, which focuses on the rebuilding and city-planning process. The second is Earth 2100, which hinges on how towns like Greensburg are the communities of the future.

-By Faheem Shereef


Greensburg town hospital. Source:


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This entry was posted on November 7, 2014 by in Sustainability in Management Practices.


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