Sustainable Missoula: “Smarty Pants” awards honor Missoulians for climate action
Thursday evening, we at Climate Smart Missoula hosted our annual year end celebration, gathering with fellow Missoulians to reflect on 2021 climate successes, build momentum for 2022, and share a bit of holiday cheer.
We were thrilled to be able to do this event in person (safely, outdoors) again, and it’s a testament to the spirit of our community that so many braved the snowy, chilly weather to join us!
The highlight of this annual event, and the real reason we gather, is to celebrate our community’s collective climate efforts and honor those who inspire us, by going above and beyond. This year we presented five “Smarty Pants” Awards to Karen Knudsen, Shane Morrissey, Caitlin Piserchia, Bryan von Lossberg & Dave Strohmaier, and Dave Morris.
Karen Knudsen - Doctorate of Dedication
To be dedicated is “to commit to a particular course of thought or action,” says Webster's dictionary. And this thoroughly describes our colleague and the vice-chair of Climate Smart’s Board of Directors, Karen Knudsen.
Karen has been the executive director at the Clark Fork Coalition since 2007. Over the decades, the Coalition has accomplished so much for our river – from getting rid of the dam to protecting water quality – from the headwaters to downstream of Smurfit-Stone.
And Missoulians now own our water system, and are reducing its carbon footprint, thanks in part to Karen and the Clark Fork Coalition. Karen recognized early that water and the health of rivers is a climate issue, and we need to collaboratively find local solutions.
She and her staff hosted the first extensive community climate conversation in 2011; that “Climate Wise” process was the precursor to the climate efforts that launched Climate Smart and has driven our work.
Karen was instrumental in helping to launch Climate Smart and has stayed involved to help us become our own nonprofit. She is always available to advise and mentor. She is brave, wise, and willing to tackle the biggest of issues.
We know that the most talented “Doctors” are curious and smart at diagnosing not just the problem but the solution, so we are proud to one-up that Master’s degree Karen currently holds with this Doctorate of Dedication.
Shane Morrissey - High Performance Energy Star
Anybody who knows Shane, knows he’s not only a high performing climate-minded professional but he is an incredibly high performing human! Not one to tout his accomplishments, we’re taking that opportunity.
Shane has been an active member of the Consolidated Planning Board, drawing on his years of experience in the architecture industry to advise on sustainable development practices in Missoula. As a Senior Associate Architect at MMW, Shane is a professional that practices what he preaches consistently advocating for energy efficiency measures on his many projects.
He puts an incredible amount of time and effort into integrating sustainable practices throughout everything he does. He is a committed member of Climate Smart’s collaborative Building(s) for the Future Task Force and even carves out time between project management (and running ultra marathons.) to advise us on key Footprint Fund projects and to throw his weight behind critical climate-aligned building code and policy developments.
Shane is simply a high performing human and community member and we’re excited to present him this first ever High Performance Energy Star Award
Caitlin Piserchia - Masters in the Fine Art of Community Building (and phone banking)
Anyone who knows Caitlin knows she is passionate and dedicated to the climate cause in all she does. And she started young! She was one of the student leaders of the campus divestment movement, speaking out with immense composure and climate awareness.
Caitlin has carried that passion into her current work as an organizer with the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club. In this role, Caitlin has been an active member of our Missoula “ad hoc” climate and clean energy group that initially convened to draft and successfully push for adoption of Missoula’s 100% clean electricity commitment.
Through this group, Caitlin has been instrumental in bringing an equity focus to Missoula’s 100% efforts. She has offered resources and facilitated conversations that helped jumpstart the process of creating a Climate Advisory Board within local government that will bring an equity and justice lens to Missoula’s mitigation and resiliency efforts.
When it comes to working for climate equity and a just transition, Caitlin doesn’t just talk the talk - though she does that too, with a willingness to have hard but necessary conversations. But she walks the walk, participating in community organizing work and building relationships. On top of that, she has had the unenviable job of tracking the ins and outs of federal climate legislation and helping Montanans voice their support to our Senators for the Build Back Better bill in particular.
When it finally gets across the finish line, Caitlin will have played her part in making it happen with countless (virtual) phone banks and outreach to help folks take action. This kind of organizing work is often thankless and behind the scenes, so we are thrilled to recognize Caitlin with this Masters in the Fine art of Community Building (and phone banking!) for all she does for Missoula and beyond.
Bryan von Lossberg & Dave Strohmaier - Doctorate of Dedication
We don't whimsically give out Doctorate degrees, but this year we are compelled to give a second and shared Doctorate of Dedication Smarty Pants award to two elected officials who have been dedicated to figuring out how our community can reach our 100% Clean Electricity goal, and have put their time, energy and smarts into this ongoing, painstaking effort. And so much more.
Dave Strohmaier and Bryan von Lossberg are receiving this Doctorate for their efforts. They each offer unique gifts and talents.
As a County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier has led Missoula County’s efforts to keep our climate and energy commitments front and center. With Josh Slotnick and Juanita Vero, they have not just called this a “Climate Emergency, '' but have put in place policies to reduce our County’s carbon pollution.
Cryptocurrency businesses must use new clean energy because of Dave’s leadership! He has publicly weighed in on many controversial climate decisions locally and at the state and federal levels. His background in wildland fire ecology and management brings a unique perspective to our local climate resiliency efforts, and he is an active member of the Climate Ready Missoula Implementation Team.
Dave has single-handedly made the Big Sky Rail Authority a thing—working wisely with rural counties across Montana, and when these energy-saving trains quietly rumble through Missoula, carrying happy passengers of all stripes, it will be because of Dave’s vision (and love of trains).
Most importantly to this Doctorate of Dedication award, however, is his commitment to lead the County’s efforts to not just pass 100% clean electricity resolution, but to do the hard work and negotiations to get there. He’s been a steadfast, strategic, and tireless leader.
Bryan von Lossberg is the second awardee in this shared Doctorate of Dedication. Bryan just completed eight years on Missoula’s City Council, the last four as Council Chair. Before and during his time on council, Bryan has been a clean energy champion. From his time as the executive director of AERO, he has worked to understand the mundane intricacies of energy policy and regulations.
He was set up for this work from his time building rockets (ask him about the Jet Propulsion lab next time you see him!). Bryan led our Solarize efforts a few years back - many of those rooftop solar panels you see in Missoula are because of Bryan.
For his City Council tenure, Bryan may best be remembered for his time and tenacity in the condemnation and municipalization of our water system, yet he’ll also be remembered for climate and energy actions. With his council colleagues, we’ve an extra $100,000 capacity for city efforts in this year’s budget.
Council efforts are often misunderstood, underpaid, and with lots of “no good deed goes unpunished” work, yet Bryan has always remained professional and dedicated.
Together with Dave, Bryan’s been doing the hard work of trying to find a path to meet our 100% goal. He may have left council, but we know he is not done with doing what he can to move clean energy forward and be part of climate solutions.
Both Bryan and Dave now have Doctorates to accompany their Master’s degrees. We’re guessing many honorary doctorates will follow. We’re proud to say this Smarty Pants Doctorate was the first!
Dave Morris - Catalyst for Change
Each year we offer just one Catalyst for Change award – given to someone who has increased the rate of positive change. Catalyzing the people and the efforts that make good change happen is what Dave Morris does.
Dave is a true educator at heart, instructing and guiding outdoor programs and always weaving in complex environmental, ecological, energy and climate issues. For the Wild Rockies Field Institute, he has led their Cycle the Rockies course many times—starting in eastern Montana, they bicycle across the state, visiting Montana’s energy-producing facilities and engaging in honest conversations about climate and energy.
No doubt, through his willingness to help others engage in dialogue, he has catalyzed deep change in both his students’ understandings and in those he seeks out, from the ``the other side” if you will.
Dave has catalyzed our work at Climate Smart. A couple years ago, he came upon a pretty creative New York based carbon offset program that raises funds for low-income home energy saving efforts. He gave them some money to offset his own travel (and guilt) and then came to us and said: “We could do this. Climate Smart should offer this. I will help.”
We now have an official carbon offset Footprint Fund designed to help our low-income neighbors save energy and money. Finally, ahead of COP26, Dave spent two months on a zero-carbon, solo, bicycle Climate Courage Tour. He travelled 3535 miles finding the people or groups working on climate, catalyzing conversations and action.
We are grateful for you, Dave, and honored to give you our Catalyst for Change award.
All six of these individuals are thoughtful, community-minded, indefatigable and in it for the long -haul. We are so grateful to them and to all who are helping build a livable future.
We also honor our community partners who donated to the evening festivities, including our gracious hosts at the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center and our friends at KettleHouse Brewing, Western Cider, the Good Food Store, Mountain Line, Black Coffee Roasting Company, Upcycled, Patagonia, Home ReSource, Shakespeare and Company, The Runner’s Edge, and Missoula In Motion.
Thank You Everyone! Onward to 2022….
Amy, Abby and Kelli make up the staff of Climate Smart Missoula.
Here we offer ideas about sustainable ways to stay involved in our community. For more, consider signing up for Climate Smart’s eNewsletter here. And sign up for the Home ReSource eNews via their homepage here.
Missoula’s WINTER Farmers Market continues in Southgate Mall, Saturdays 9am to 2pm. Until April 23. Also on Wednesdays 4:30- 7pm until Dec 22.
December 18 (Sat). Missoula annual Christmas Bird Count. To help with the field count or feeder watch, contact Larry of Five Valleys Audubon. 406-540-3064
December 19. Indigenous Holiday Market. 1-4pm, Missoula Public Library. Buy local this holiday season and support indigenous artists!
Dec 21. Happy Winter Solstice!
February 12. Running Up for Air – Mt Sentinel. Runner’s Edge is sponsoring Montana’s participation in this 12, 6, and 3 hour event. And your participation supports Climate Smart’s effort for clean air. Learn more about this series here and sign up with Runner’s Edge here.
Materials donations to Home Resource keep the wheels of reuse spinning in our community; and remember that everything you need to know about what to do with your unwanted stuff is at www.zerobyfiftymissoula.com.
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 breakdown of world day campaigns.