Sustainable Missoula: Celebrate Earth Day and the 3 legs of sustainability

A MUD member builds her own coffee table at the women-led Intro to Carpentry Tools class. The second annual offering of this series begins May 6.

Picture a three-legged stool, possibly one made from reclaimed wood and tools borrowed from the MUD tool library.

Now imagine taking a seat on that stool. If each leg bears equal weight, the stool will hold you. If the legs are out of whack, it may send you falling to the floor.

Sustainability is often seen as a three-legged stool. It will only hold us when planet, people and profit are all considered equally. It requires that we steward a dynamic relationship between the natural world, community and money.

Creating a community that is economically sustainable for the individuals and families who live there is necessary to accomplish lasting change in our environmental practices.

Our nonprofit leaders recognize this. It’s in the vision for Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource and it’s in ours at the Missoula Urban Demonstration (MUD) Project.

Each of these sustainability leaders describes “equitable communities,” or a “vibrant and sustainable local economy” that is tied to healthy ecosystems and reducing both our waste and our resource use.

Turns out, these dynamic approaches to building a resilient, sustainable Missoula work great together. Energy efficiency is not only efficient because it facilitates cleaner air and water, but because renewable energies like solar power alsosave money.

A well-insulated home is cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, andcosts less to be that way. Even Missoula’s efforts toward Zero Waste, with a commitment of reducing our community’s waste by 90 percent by 2050, start by giving value to what we have traditionally called trash.

Financial stability is key to accomplishing our goals of community and environmental health.

MUD has been supporting the economy leg of sustainability since our founding in 1981. MUD originated as a sustainable living center focused on teaching skills to support Missoulians facing food scarcity and economic hardship.

The MUD founders got it right: Families in our community deserve healthy and rich lives that can sustain them while respecting our environment.

MUD is still addressing Missoula’s most pressing economic sustainability challenges with our Tool Library services. Missoula’s affordable housing issues have become a daily conversation for many.

When a renter wonders how she will ever find a three-bedroom for her family that is safe, clean and feels like home, or a first-time homebuyer scrapes together enough to finally seal-the-deal on that fixer-upper, having the right tool can help.

Tool access empowers individuals on their way to personal financial sustainability. Fixing a leaky sink with a borrowed pipe wrench means saving money on a plumber, saving money on water, and creating a healthier space to live. Building a window planter for your apartment can create a sense of place that belongs to you and your family. MUD tools make it affordable.

MUD’s Tool Library offers over 2,000 tools as a resource for Missoulians. We offer services based on a sliding-scale fee structure with a self-reporting system that minimizes barriers to getting tools into hands. MUD’s Tool Library membership spans every age and every economic sector in Missoula. The last three years, the percentage of low-to-moderate income members we serve has increased annually.

Why do individuals stop by the Tool Library who could just go buy the tool they need? There are a lot of reasons, economic sustainability is only one factor.

Many of MUD’s more affluent members believe in resource sharing. Sharing a drill, a lawn mower, or a rototiller reduces the amount of energy and materials used to make them and reduces the amount of space needed to store them.

Through resource sharing services like the MUD Tool Library, it can be easy to see how an equitable community and environmental friendliness are critical to achieving sustainability.

Another factor that is just as vital to Missoula’s sustainability effort is, simply put, FUN! The MUD Project’s vision includes the celebration of sustainable living.

Whether we’re talking tools, yards or economics, there has got to be some fun if anyone is going to care. That’s why MUD hosts the Annual Earth Day Celebration.

Earth Day is an opportunity to highlight all the good work our community is making toward sustainability. Through tours, panels, games, movement and art, (oh yes, also food and drink), Earth Day is a space for our community to get excited about each other’s successes.

We hope you’ll join us at this year’s Earth Day Celebration on Sunday, April 22, where MUD and over 50 other community organizations and businesses will be celebrating Missoula and Zero Waste.

There is joy in figuring out how to live well together. Whichever part of sustainability is most attractive to you – the environment, the economics, the community, or the fun – that’s your gateway to the others. We at MUD hope to see you out in the sun this weekend!

Ellie Costello is the executive director of the MUD Project.This column is part of a 2018 weekly Missoula Current series, Sustainable Missoula, which highlights community sustainability efforts.

Upcoming Sustainability Events:

Through April 22: International Wildlife Film Festival

April 21: Teller Wildlife Refuge Work Day from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.

April 22: UM FLAT’s Earth Day Garden Workday & BBQ from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

April 22: MUD’s 12th Annual Earth Day Celebration from 12 – 4 p.m. Highlights include:

  • Zero Waste Panel introduced by Mayor John Engen;
  • Sustainable site tours of Home ReSource, Bayern Brewery, The Source Health Club, and MUD;
  • Sustainability Expo with myriad kids activities like a Recycled Robots station and repurposed mini golf;
  • Solar-Ease Pop-Up led by Climate Smart Missoula.

April 25: Garden City Harvest: Garden Planning Workshop from 6 – 8 p.m.

April 27: Arbor Day Tree Planting at the Montana Arboretum from 1 – 3 p.m.