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Our trip to Greensburg, Kansas: Part I of II

Posted by Regina Farrell on May 06, 2010
Tags: carbon projects, wind energy, greensburg wind farm

We’re back from Greensburg! We called it the Green Dedication of the Greensburg Wind Farm. As you know, we don’t own the wind farm, but we do own the rights to almost all of the environmental benefits that will come from it. So, dedicating the “green” part of the wind farm felt appropriate.

Three of us NativeEnergy folks, Ariana Wammer, Joel Boucher, and me – Regina Farrell, arrived in Wichita late Thursday night. Joel made the two hour drive out to Greensburg early the next day to take pictures at the wind farm and around town – check out his collection.

Ariana and I caught up with our friend and client, Brian Allenby, general manager for Reverb, in Wichita to share a ride out to the main event. Reverb is one of the Charter Supporters for the wind farm. We’ve done business with Reverb since it’s inception in 2005. Brian is well versed in how to take advantage of carbon offsets for Reverb’s business: greening up concert venues for major acts like Dave Mathews Band, Jack Johnson, and John Mayer.

At midday Friday, we set out on the straight and flat journey through alfalfa, wheat, and cotton fields, interspersed every 10 miles with a small town whose origins most likely came from the water stops needed by the railroad when it first laid tracks about a hundred years ago. It was a picture perfect sunny afternoon that made you think about Superman’s early days at home with his mom and dad.

Once in Greensburg, we headed straight to the Green Bean Café to check in with Kari Kyle about our reception to take place there later that evening. We picked the Green Bean in part because it serves Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR – another Charter Supporter). Kari and her husband, Tim, moved to Greensburg (Tim’s home town) shortly after the tornado in 2007 to support the effort to rebuild Greensburg as the greenest town in America. The Green Bean Café is the only place in town where you can buy a cup of coffee, a sandwich, an ice cream cone or a breakfast burrito.

We caught up with Joel at the Green Bean, as well as two more of our clients and guests in Greensburg: Michael Dupee, vice president of corporate social responsibility for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Dave Hamburg, chief operating officer for Vital Choice, a sustainable seafood company. It was time to head down the block to the newly rebuilt and reopened City Hall for the dedication.

Mayor Bob Dixson, who stands close to seven feet tall with salt and pepper hair and a friendly Kansan accent, was returning from accepting the Thomas Edison Award in New York City just in time to put his things down and head to the podium waiting on City Hall steps. With an ease that gave you the sense that he does this often, the Mayor welcomed the audience gathered there – about 40 people who he described to me as the people you can typically count on to show up to “one of these dedication presentations” – and kicked off our green dedication.

Having lost my voice that day, I managed to squeak out a few words confirming the important work the wind farm’s charter supporters do: “They (our customers) are reducing their energy use. They figure out how to manufacture and package more efficiently. They help their suppliers become more efficient. And, for the greenhouse gas emissions that they cannot avoid, they buy carbon offsets.”

GMCR’s Michael Dupee gave praise to the people of Greensburg for their resiliency. Having committed to purchasing more than half of the carbon offsets anticipated from the wind farm, Michael said, “GMCR intentionally focuses on offsets that create new capacity and the Greensburg project has a special appeal because of the community aspect. The Greensburg community has had a tough time and they have transformed into the ‘greenest town in America.’ I think these are the best kind of offsets because they create an environmental benefit and create some real, serious social community.”

Steve Maller, Program Manager for John Deere Renewables, also spoke for a few minutes about what it takes to pull together a wind farm in a community like Greensburg. The dedication was capped off as the Mayor accepted a large framed poster recognizing the thousands of businesses and individuals from around the country who helped build the Greensburg Wind Farm.

We then strolled across the street and down a block to the Green Bean for a small reception accompanied by all of our guests. If there is one message that I hope comes across when we think about projects like The Greensburg Wind Farm, it is, “You cannot be a 21st century human being and not leave a carbon footprint. Leaving a footprint is unavoidable – so then leaving a smaller footprint becomes the goal. And, balancing out what you cannot eliminate by helping to build new renewable energy projects – that would not otherwise be built – becomes a powerful tool.  A new wind farm in a resurrected town is about as powerful a development as we can imagine."

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