The report from America’s greenest city

KoolAid & HeidiIt's difficult to travel through the state of Nebraska without spotting the phrase "Go Big Red" somewhere along the way; but today, "Go Big Green" seems much more appropriate because Hastings, Nebraska, has gone green in a major way!

As noted on this very blog yesterday, Hastings beat out hundreds of other cities to earn the title of the "Greenest City in America" per Yahoo!’s "Be a Better Planet" promotion.

If you haven’t heard of Hastings, it is located right in the middle of the United States, is the birthplace of Kool-Aid, and also just happens to be home to every relative I have going back several generations. Initially, I was shocked to hear (overhear in the hallway actually) that Hastings was going to be victorious. But really there is nothing surprising about their big win at all. This is exactly the kind of community making exactly the kind of effort that Yahoo! hoped for when issuing our "Greenest City in America" challenge. Not to mention that people who live close to the earth may just care the most about it.

Hastings’ charge was led by the unflappable Mayor Matt Rossen and his staff. They saw an opportunity to highlight and extend an effort Hastings was already making and they aggressively set out to engage the entire community. They got the word out in a major way and via all available means: emailing the local businesses (who in turn encouraged their entire workforces to participate), leveraging local media, making numerous phone calls, even going door-to-door. With so much effort going into the "Greenest City" challenge, you might think Mayor Rossen has a lot of time on his hands. He doesn’t. For his service as mayor he receives $9,600 a year, so mayor is just one of two jobs he holds in this town.

Another Hastings resident who made time for the challenge was Jane Staley, who despite coming off a series of difficult surgeries, managed to find the strength to answer twenty-nine environmental questions on Yahoo! Answers. Hastings mayor receives $250K checkJane was (and is) motivated by her desire to ensure we leave a world where “our grandkids and their grandkids can see rainforests and polar bears in their natural environments.”

Jane was one of over 2,000 Hastings residents who joined us Monday night for the "Greenest City" celebration (those 2,000 celebrators comprise nearly 10% of the entire Hastings population). It was a night of music, food (served on corn-based biodegradable plates), dignitaries, and the afore mentioned Kool-Aid (green for the occasion). It was also a night where a small team of Yahoos learned first-hand just how much this distinction meant to the town. From the marquees celebrating the victory all over town to the keys to the city we were honored to receive, it was clear this town couldn’t be prouder or more appreciative of the "Greenest City" title.

Chuck Conrad, Hastings resident and loyal Yahoo! user for 10 years, told me he had a good feeling that Hastings might win and noted that it was the topic of conversation the past few weeks. As for what this means to Hastings, he said, "We were 'fly-over' country before. We knew what we had here, but now hopefully other people know now, too."

Here’s what we know Chuck: Hastings is officially the "Greenest City in America" and as such, will be receiving a quarter of a million dollars to continue greening their city. (Yeah, we initially offered up hybrid taxis but there's not much need for taxis in this town).

To everybody in Hastings and all of the Yahoo! users who participated in the challenge, we thank you and we share your passion for protecting our planet.

Stay green!

Heidi Burgett
Yahoo! Evangelist