Sustainable Missoula: Montana Energy Corps members do the hard work of sustainability

Missoula Energy Corps members at the Clark Fork River Cleanup this April.

Sustainability requires a lot of legwork. Lofty goals and well-intentioned ideals are a great place to start; dedication and effort are what it takes to achieve them.

Missoula’s government agencies, businesses and nonprofits have looked to the Montana Energy Corps program to support their vision of a sustainable community.

Energy Corps, housed as a state AmeriCorps program, is an initiative of the Butte-based National Center for Appropriate Technology. Energy Corps (EC) “targets communities statewide that have energy assistance needs and untapped opportunities for organization.”

Currently, seven EC members are hosted across all sectors of Missoula. Their key missions include community energy planning, hands-on energy assistance, and energy education and outreach. Missoula’s EC members assess greenhouse gas emissions, educate youth, weatherize buildings and support legislative solutions to today’s problems.

Here’s what EC members have been working on at their host sites:

Missoula County: Eliot Thompson is serving as a sustainability educator. Eliot supports the county’s Sustainability and Community Resiliency efforts, which include greenhouse gas emission assessments and regulatory support for solar energy systems. He has worked on developing a county resiliency and climate action plan that focuses on county operations and facilities. Eliot highlighted the county’s energy efficiency efforts in an articleabout the recent LEED Silver certification of the renovated Missoula County Courthouse.

The city of Missoula: Britt Holewinski acts as a Zero Waste educator and planner. She supports the city’s Energy and Climate Action efforts, which include emissions inventories, solar energy, climate action planning, and Zero Waste. She has focused her efforts on Missoula’s Climate Action Plan and progressing toward associated waste and greenhouse gas reduction targets. Britt has also been instrumental in the development of the city of Missoula’s  ZERO by FIFTY plan, to be completed and brought to City Council in summer 2018.

Home ReSource:Katie Anderson serves as a Zero Waste educator and planner. This spring, she coordinated and led the 5th grade Zero Waste Ambassadors Program (ZWAP!) for over 600 young Missoulians. She has worked with Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) to develop a ZERO by FIFTYZero Waste plan, which will be publicly presented on June 26th. Katie is also coordinating the Creative Reuse Division at the Western Montana Fair this August.

Clark Fork Coalition: Erika Berglund joined Energy Corps this spring. At her host site, she coordinates and supports youth education programs, including Creeks in the Classroom and Riparian Rx. She explains: “These in-depth programs focus on providing students with foundational knowledge, hands-on skills, and place-based experiences in order to help them develop an environmental stewardship ethic and shared value for the natural world. This summer I will be working with two youth homes in Missoula with our ‘adopt-a-stream’ program where we provide opportunities for kids to connect with the river and care for it through service projects.”

National Wildlife Federation: Claire Grisham serves as a sustainability and habitat educator. This school year, Claire offered teachers curriculum support for sustainability through the Eco-Schools USA program. Claire supports the Garden for Wildlife program to encourage people to incorporate habitat elements into their gardens. In 2015, the city and NWF partnered on the Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiative to become a certified wildlife-friendly community. Missoula may cross this finish line this summer.

Climate Smart Missoula: Max Longo acts as an energy and climate educator. His primary focus is “developing a pilot weatherization program aimed at enhancing manufactured homes energy efficiency, health and safety.” Max has been instrumental in coordinating a Manufactured Home Resource Fair, supporting Solar Smart programs, hosting a “design charrette”, supporting the Energy Smart Challenge, and re-skirting manufactured homes in Missoula.

University of Montana and St. Patrick Hospital: Paul Edlund serves as a sustainability educator for two host sites. Paul is charged with changing “the management systems of each institution to have a positive impact on the environment and negate negative environmental impacts.” Last fall, Paul gathered information on waste disposal at UM, sometimes rifling through trash receptacles at 5 a.m. Meanwhile, he supported the development of the UM 2018 Sustainability Report. Paul has also organized sustainability presentations at UM. He is working with the hospital to assess waste streams and staff behaviors to create a targeted educational campaign to improve waste diversion.

Every day spent documenting Dumpster discards, weatherizing windows, educating enthusiastic students, or writing weighty plans is another day closer to a Sustainable Missoula. With 23 service members spread across the state, Energy Corps is moving Montana in the same direction. From Missoula to Havre, from West Glacier to Red Lodge, service members are accompanying Montana communities as they journey towards sustainability.

Katie Anderson is serving as a Zero Waste Educator and Planner at Home ReSource through the Montana Energy Corps program.

Upcoming Sustainability Events:

June 23: Chicken Care for the Small Flock Workshop hosted by Missoula Urban Demonstration Project (MUD), Moon-Randolph Homestead, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. $5 for MUD members and $10 for non-members.

June 26: MCPS ZERO by FIFTY Zero Waste Plan presentation to MCPS Board of Trustees, boardroom, MCPS Business Building, 915 South Ave. W., 6-8 p.m.

June 28: Free film screening: “Reinventing Power: America’s Renewable Energy Boom,” The Public House, 7-9 p.m.

July 11: A Closer Look at Western Montana, large meeting room, Missoula Public Library, 7-8:30 p.m.