Earth Day! Earth week? Earth year? Earth!

How can we be better stewards? What can we do on our own? What can happen when collective voices, hands and hearts come together to make for a better community and world?

We think and act on these questions constantly, here at Free Cycles and MIST: Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation.

After a year of only curbside and emergency bike services, we are so excited to reopen the Free Cycles community bike shop very soon. We've missed the radical inclusive engagement of people repairing and building bicycles, together. And now we can start up again, it seems.

Pandemic programming quickly came into our daily vocabulary March 13, 2020, when we knew we had to close the doors for community safety. Yet we adapted, as did the world. Needed a free bike? Yes, we'll make it for you and put it out front for you to come take and ride away. Need parts? OK, we'll have that order prepared and sitting on the little green table for you.

Now it's time to grow again. Our upcoming season will be mostly outside. We've been deep organizing, cleaning and programming for a year. We've made property and building improvements that used to be dreams. In the name of permaculture, biomimicry and community health, we fix and grow, grow and fix, engage and reflect.

We're making shaded public work stations as we speak, portable tool cases and putting the finishing touches on an outdoor bicycle classroom geared towards youth. Following best practices dashed with our own good common sense, the outside working will be safe and (we hope) enjoyable.

There will be capacity limits and streamlined approaches to getting bikes, parts and help to the community at large. Events - potlucks, dances, poetry, music- will slowly emerge. And our keen eye for advocacy opportunity to improve circulation on a city-scale will continue as always. It's been very hard to advocate and participate when people are supposed to stay away from each other!

Change is upon us however, and citizens have a duty and responsibility to guide that change. The Front/Main conversion project. Creating a safer and more livable Hip Strip. Finalizing a new Long Range Transportation Plan. Empowering neighborhoods to slow the speeding and make peace with local streets. It's all there for the taking, and belonging.

When we are complacent, people die. Tragic yet seemingly true. Car crashes lead to 1 million people a year having their lives ended in this world, and Missoula is not immune. Highway 93, Stephens Avenue and the Russell Street Bridge- all places of recent heartbreak. We can do better and we will.

The car is an incredible invention. It takes us to see family, to play in the woods and to fill up on groceries and supplies. Mindless driving has consequences. Let's be mindful!

And let's continue the efforts for a walkable, bikeable and transit-friendly Missoula. The health of ourselves, our community and our Earth depends upon the efforts of each and every one of us. What a beautiful planet we inhabit together.

MIST and Free Cycles acknowledge that the community space in which we operate are a part of the aboriginal territories of the Salish, Kootenai, and Kalispel people. We are honored and grateful to serve community and Earth on this sacred soil.

Bob Giordano is the Executive Director of MIST, the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation. MIST includes the Free Cycles Community Bicycle Program. Reach Bob at mist@strans.org. Reach Free Cycles Missoula at 406.541.7284 or www.freecycles.org

This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every week by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Sustainability Happenings

Here we offer ideas about sustainable ways to stay involved in our community – some virtual and some (safely) outside. If you like these offerings, consider signing up for Climate Smart’s eNewsletter here. And sign up for Home ReSource’s eNews via their homepage here.

April is Earth Month. Lots of events and ideas to celebrate Earth Day, Week and Month. See Climate Smart’s calendar HERE.

April 1 – June. Spring Shift and Transit Scavenger Hunt! Mountain Line, Missoula in Motion and others are partnering to shift to sustainable transportation this spring, and beyond! Learn more and join HERE.

Now – May 15. International Wildlife Film Festival. So many good films. Virtual and outdoors. Check out 2040, Youth v Gov, and the Condor and the Eagle. More HERE.

Now – May 9. Our Other Mother. In honor of Mother’s Day, join Families for a Livable Climate to create a piece of art or a message (illustration, poem, story, photo or song) that shows our love for moms and #OurOtherMother – planet earth. All art is welcome! Details are HERE.

April 26. Solve Climate by 2030 zoom panel. 11am-12:30pm UM Climate Change Studies Program is hosting a Montana panel as part of the international “Solve Climate by 2030” education effort. Over 150 states and countries are hosting local panels highlighting local opportunities for climate action. Featuring Jen Robohm, Nick Silverman, Melody Hollar, and Gwen Lankford about the intersectionality of the climate response in Montana. Register HERE!

April 29. Montana Drive Electric Virtual Panel. Learn about how an electric vehicle can fit your daily transportation needs with improvements to infrastructure and driving range. Hear personal EV driver testimonials and hear from MT DEQ about their commitment to increase EV charging station infrastructure and EV deployment throughout the state. Learn from Mountain Line about the expansion of electric buses in their fleet. Details and link to RSVP HERE.

May 6 -7. Missoula Gives. A 24+ day of Giving to support myriad local non-profit organizations building a stronger more vibrant and equitable Missoula. We hope all who can will participate!

Now into May. Montana Legislature is STILL in session. To follow efforts for clean energy, climate, conservation and sustainability, consider connecting with (and getting the low down and action alerts from):

Ongoing. Virtual Fixit Clinics. Want to try fixing from home? Present your broken item to a global team of expert community repairers and get suggestions for things to try. After all items are presented, participants move to Zoom breakout rooms to implement the suggestions and, hopefully, fix the items.

Find more local activities and events at Missoulaevents.net and on Montana Environmental Information Center’s Conservation Calendar. And you too can help organize events – here’s the 2021 Calendar of Environmental Awareness Days – month by month break down of world day campaigns.