Green Re-Building Following Natural Disasters

Green Re-Building Following Natural Disasters

When tornadoes hit wind speeds of 318 miles per hour, very few natural or man-made structures can withstand such intense power. After the Midwest tornadoes tore through Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Wisconsin, they left a horrible path of destruction with broken glass, rusty nails and electrical power lines strewn everywhere. But another serious danger hovers in the air of these devastated areas: asbestos.

Asbestos was used for decades in roofing, plumbing and insulation due to its fire-retardant properties; when it is broken up, the fibres can become airborne. These fibres can cause mesothelioma. During Midwest clean-up efforts, government agencies will assist with the removal of environmental hazards: asbestos, hospital waste and toxic chemicals.

“Green Re-Construction”

Although many of these areas have been devastated, the communities have united showing their strength, energy and wisdom in rebuilding. Some have decided to rebuild their towns on the more sustainable “Green model.” A prime example is the city of Greensburg, Kansas, which was destroyed by an EF5 tornado on May 4, 2007.

After a mile-and-a-half wide tornado destroyed 95% of Greensburg, Kansas, the city developed the motto of “Greensburg: Better, Stronger, Greener!” Future municipal buildings over 4,000 square feet were required to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum designation. This eco-friendly thinking attracted new residents and businesses.

While some wonder if Midwestern farmers are likely to accept Green Environmentalism, Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixon said, “… green is just being good stewards of the resources we’ve been blessed with.” Green movements increase energy-efficiency, reduce pollution and generate less waste. Greensburg slashed utility bills by nearly 40% using recycled waste oil and wind power. It only makes sense for Midwestern towns to rebuild using green sustainable energy after natural disasters.

“Energy-Efficient Communities Attract Residents and Businesses”

Japan and Germany are examples of how more efficient communities can be successful. After World War II, both nations had severely damaged industrial infrastructures. These countries were rebuilt with the newest industrial technology. Over time, this led to lower input costs that allowed them to sell their products for lower prices than other nations that used older technology.

“Green Re-Building Improves Energy Costs”

With rising energy costs, homeowners will want to improve the efficiency of their homes. Whether repairing, retrofitting or completely rebuilding houses in the tornado-ravaged Midwest, green energy provides the opportunity for using non-asbestos construction materials, high-performance windows and geothermal heating\cooling systems. Green homes save significantly on utility bills.

Industries, which are energy-intensive, will be attracted to “Green Cities” that share their vision. Government and businesses will cooperate to create jobs so that Midwest towns can rebuild. Solar, wind and geothermal are more sustainable sources of energy.

In Joplin, Missouri, an estimated 75% of the city was destroyed. Rebuilding the town from the ground up with Green Energy would be more cost-effective than retrofitting older infrastructure in other cities. Joplin could resurrect itself as a 21st Century model of Eco-Friendly technology. People would be attracted to the town so they could work together to create a more sustainable future.

The Midwest tornadoes have created horrible devastation in many cities, but it has also created the opportunity for re-building using superior green technology. With Greensburg, Kansas as a model, these cities could attract new citizens and businesses dedicated to sustainability. Earth-friendly construction materials, more energy-efficient heating\cooling systems and recycling of heat will lead to a more healthy life for all.


Barbara O’Brien

Safe Sandboxes for Children

Kids love sandboxes, but many parents have become concerned about the quality and safety of the sand. With summer coming fast you may want to consider the type of sand you have in your child’s sandbox

Apparently, most types of play sand contain crystalline silica and asbestos tremolite. The silica is derived from quartz stone and is a known carcinogen. California’s Prop 65 requires the labeling of carcinogen’s in products for sale in that state.

OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) says this about crystalline silica, “Silica, Crystalline: Silicosis is a disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by overexposure to respirable crystalline silica. More than one million U.S. workers are exposed to crystalline silica, and each year more than 250 die from silicosis. There is no cure for the disease, but it is 100 percent preventable if employers, workers, and health professionals work together to reduce exposures.” Apparently, the small pieces of silica can be inhaled and trapped in lung tissue. To see the California label, and to learn more about silica, visit

Asbestos tremloite is a form of asbestos, and puts kids at risk of developing a lung cancer that is mostly caused by limited absestos exposure, and this risk can continue for decades. According to the Green Guide, and Philip Landrigan, M.D., director of the Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, children breathe proportionally more air than adults, and they play close to the ground, thus increasing their exposure significantly. Think about kids playing in sandboxes, they literally sit in it, are constantly pouring and creating dust (and c’mon, they’re kids–many times, they are eating it!), therefore ingesting and breathing in these carcinogens.

What are we to use for sand? 1). Look for river or beach sand, usually found at landscape and gardening stores. Fine-grain sand may be sold as #30 grit sand, but CHEC doesn’t like any fine sand that may give off easily ingested dust particles. Some parents use coarser sand that does not have much dust or use another filler, such as pea gravel. Be prepared: Neither is as much fun for the kids. Whatever sand is used, it should be changed at least once during the play season.

I found one company that sells safe sand. There are probably others that you can search for that you can compare prices for.