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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Green Living in New Orleans

Air Date: Week of

Robert Lynn Green Sr. in front of his new house in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. (www.makeitrightnola.org)

The Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. Now, with the help of the Brad Pitt-backed organization Make It Right, some residents are trickling back into their old neighborhoods to live in newly built houses. Robert Greene shows host Jeff Young his new environmentally friendly house that was built right where his old house used to stand.



YOUNG: A few weeks after Katrina I walked through the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Dried mud cracked underfoot amid the wreckage of homes. One of those homes belonged to Robert Green Sr. Now, thanks to his tenacity and the generosity of a Hollywood star; Mr. Green has a new house on high stilts in the lower nine. He shows me the high ceilings.

GREENE: “HELLOOOoo… an echo. (Laughs). There’s an echo in the house, and a lot of people actually think that this is a two-storey house. But where we are standing in this house was underwater during Katrina. Even though we elevated off the ground.

Construction of Robert Greene’s new environmentally friendly and storm safe house. (www.makeitrightnola.org)

YOUNG: We are way high above the street here.

GREENE: yeah, we were under water. So that loft is actually an escape feature cause when we were here during Katrina and the house lifted off its foundations and floated two blocks up the street. We were actually stuck in the attic about this high. And we thought we were safe, and the water was going over our heads.

About 3,000 houses were washed away on that day. And on that day we lost our house, we lost our mother Joyce Green who was 73 years old. We lost my granddaughter Shenaye Green, who was 3 years old, but we also lost all of our neighbors. We lost Mr. Gaskin, we lost Ms. Broomfield, we lost the Legers, we lost the Fletchers. We lost so many families that day after a barge bust a hole in the levee wall and made this a spill way; it washed away this neighborhood.

YOUNG: This is part of actor Brad Pitt’s “Make it Right” project—a tract of affordable, storm-proof green houses. Mr. Green watched his being built while he toughed it out in a FEMA trailer.

GREENE: I lived in that FEMA trailer for three years.

YOUNG: But now you’re back and you’re in an amazing home.

GREENE: Uh-huh. And the idea of building these houses, to build a house that’s better, that’s stronger, that’s environmentally friendly, that uses as many recycled materials that uses materials that have low VOC levels. We also have solar panels so that we can get away from the use of fossil fuels. And it’s actually a LEED Platinum certified house.

YOUNG: Do you think houses like this are the future of the 9th ward? Or is this out of reach for so many people?

GREENE: I think it’s the future of the world to be perfectly honest, because one of the things that we have to do, we have to build better, build wiser, and build stronger. If every house built were built on that same premise, then in the long run we’re going to benefit environmentally, we won’t use as much fossil fuels, we won’t contaminate our own environment that we have to live in. So if we look at the benefits, they out-weigh the costs.

YOUNG: How is it to live in? I mean it’s really striking to look at, but does it feel like a home?

Robert Greene’s new house in New Orleans. (www.makeitrightnola.org)

GREENE: Oh it’s a joy and a pleasure to be back in the same location of the house that was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. It actually allowed us to bring life back to this neighborhood. So it's basically a wonderful house to live in.

YOUNG: This is one house that’s truly a Green home.



Visit the Make it Right project


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