Four Years Later, New Orleans' Green Makeover
After Hurricane Katrina flattened New Orleans exactly four years ago, on Aug. 29, 2005, the city emerged as an inadvertent symbol of global warming, the first American victim of climate change. More than 200,000 homes were destroyed during the Category 5 hurricane. But in the years since, the Crescent City has quietly embraced a new and unexpected role as a laboratory for green building. Sustainable-development groups like the international nonprofit Global Green as well as earth-friendly celebrities like Brad Pitt descended on New Orleans, determined not just to build the city back but to build it back green. "It's going to come back," says Matt Petersen, the president of Global Green USA. "But we want to build it better than it was before."
No organization is doing more to green New Orleans than Global Green USA, the American arm of the international environmental organization that was founded by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. That begins with the Holy Cross project, an entire sustainable village being built in the city's flood-damaged Lower Ninth Ward with the help of Home Depot's corporate foundation. Eventually the village will include five sustainable homes along with an 18-unit green apartment building and a community center. Three homes have been completed so far, including one that is serving as a de facto visitors center. The point of the project is not just to create greener homes for New Orleans' returning residents but also to provide training for the local building community in green standards. "That's one of the ways to make this kind of building more common and more affordable," says Petersen.