Friday, June 15, 2018


Guest Blog by Kevin O'Brien, MTCC AmeriCorps VISTA with Missoula Urban Demonstration (MUD) Project

Making time for reflection and debriefing is something that I struggle with. I’m not sure the reason why but I’m sure it has something to do with the ever present project or next thing to be done. Debriefing after an event can help to acknowledge what was just accomplished and provides opportunity to make things better in the future.

The Missoula Urban Demonstration (MUD) Project began under a different name, the down home project, in 1981 as a concerted effort for neighbors to help neighbors. One of the main goals was to address food insecurities and create a community network for resource sharing.

On April 22nd over 50 community organizations gathered at the Missoula Urban Demonstration (MUD) Project site to celebrate all things Earth. This celebration takes a lot of planning and hopes for sunny weather. Missoulians are a resilient bunch, but as with any location, the overall success of an outdoor event can be dependent on the weather. Late April in Missoula means that there is still a strong chance for snow in the forecast.
Thankfully this year we couldn’t have ordered better weather, which brought out a drove of folks to celebrate this year’s theme of Ending Plastic Pollution: Missoula and Zero Waste. As with many communities in Montana the small size of our population often limits our options for recycling. Missoula may be one of the larger cities in Montana but it isn’t without difficulty recycling and overall movement towards limiting waste creation.

One highlight was the Zero Waste Panel that was introduced by MissoulaMayor John Engen. The panelists provided insight into reuse, recycling, and composting options for residents and the city alike. The city of Missoula has a goal of producing Zero Waste by 2050, which will take a comprehensive effort and some legislation changes. The timing for this panel to happen was pivotal because of China’s recent essentially a ban on taking our recycling. China changed their policy to only accept recyclables with a 0.5 percent contamination content.

While this is a current obstacle that we are facing the panel was overwhelmingly positive. Missoula, and the world, have been forced to look at waste management procedures and come up with different solutions. The idea of opportunity over obstacle was present throughout the event with a focus on youth and family programming. Activities included a creative reuse art/robot making station that was guided by local reuse artists, an upcycled mini golf course built with materials scraps and otherwise “junk” material, a watershed

table that is infinitely variable that shows how water interacts with the landscape, along with a Leave No Trace education station. We also had multiple families take advantage of the bike valet system, which was awesome to see in action.  

Additionally the city of Missoula recently acquired an industrial scale composting facility, which prompted multiple startup businesses that will collect your compostables. Compostable items include any BPI Certified cutlery, flatware, cups, etc which were all used by the food vendors and collected through a user sorted Zero Waste Station. The Zero Waste Stations have three bins; compost, recycling and landfill with each having a sign above them with examples from the event stapled to each sign as to limit confusion.

While this event takes months of planning and involved the most organizations in MUD’s Earth Day history I’ll leave it to a long time member and friend of MUD to summarize, “This was the best Earth Day MUD has put on yet.” 

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