By Alexa Holliday and Sean Doty/Energy Corps

On Feb. 8, 2016, the Missoula City Council adopted the Missoula Zero Waste Resolution. The resolution announced the city’s goal to reach 90 percent waste reduction by the year 2050, and established a timeline to develop this plan within two years.

To that end, two Montana Energy Corps members were brought on board in October of 2016.

Sean Doty works with Chase Jones at the city of Missoula and Alexa Holliday works with Jeremy Drake at Home ReSource. This group, along with Katie Deuel from Home ReSource, comprise the Zero Waste Leadership Team, tasked with developing Missoula’s zero waste plan, now known as ZERObyFIFTY: Missoula’s Pathway to Zero Waste.

Gathering local public input was the first step in developing Missoula’s zero waste plan. To gather this information, the team hosted a series of community listening sessions that also served as an educational tool for attendees. The sessions were designed to capture the public’s comments, cares and recommendations.

During the sessions, the public voiced a strong opinion for improvement in programs, policies and infrastructure needed to reach the goal.

Education emerged as an essential component in reaching the zero waste goal. The Home ReSource Zero Waste Ambassadors Program (ZWAP!), launched in 2016, is already in place to address that community need.

Holliday teaches ZWAP, a program that encourages students to think more critically about materials – where they come from and where they go – while empowering them with the knowledge that their choices really do matter.

ZWAP! has two components: an hour presentation held in fifth-grade classrooms and a three-hour interactive field trip to Home ReSource.

When asked in a survey whether ZWAP! content was delivered effectively, teachers and chaperones have answered with a unanimous yes.

Another question asked what they liked best about the program. One teacher responded: “The students experiencing how materials can be reused, along with letting them see how easy it can be to less wasteful.”

Another teacher wrote, “Variety of learning and hands-on activities to keep the fifth-graders engaged.”

The program continues to evaluate input from educators to ensure an engaging and educational experience.

At the city, Doty worked with the Missoula Parks and Recreation Department developing a zero waste policy. On Feb. 14, 2017, the Parks and Recreation Board unanimously approved the policy for implementation.

The plan will impact vendor contracts, user contracts, increase awareness and education of waste reduction strategies, reduce the amount of waste created at Parks and Recreation events, increase recycling, and align efforts with the city of Missoula’s zero waste plan.

Sean Doty is the Energy Corps member serving the city of Missoula as the Zero Waste and Energy and Climate Educator. Alexa Holliday is the Zero Waste educator for Home ReSource. She is also responsible for drafting the ZeroByFifty: Missoula’s Pathway to Zero Waste plan for the city of Missoula.