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Sustainable Missoula: Local nonprofits team up for new weekly column

Katie Deuel, left, is the executive director of Home ReSource. Amy Cilimburg is the executive director of Climate Smart Missoula.

The start of a New Year brings a buzz of possibilities for how our community addresses the mighty challenges of today and tomorrow. How do we simultaneously sustain this place we love, respond to a changing world, and support community with deep connections to our neighbors near and far?

The authors of this column work in the arena of local sustainability, and are helping create this new weekly feature about all things local and sustainable.

Today, we hear the mantra “local is where the action is.” Tangible solutions to problems stemming from climate change, energy and waste systems, transportation and more are driven by ingenuity and creative problem solving at the community level.

Inspiration isn’t hard to find. Salt Lake City and Iowa City have crafted a path to 100 percent renewable energy. New York City just announced it will divest public pensions from fossil fuel investments. Other communities have also made zero-waste commitments, built oodles of bike lanes, set-up universal compost collection services and solar-powered charging stations for electric vehicles.

Missoulians also excel at charting our own path and our community is ripe for action. We’re small enough to tackle significant community-wide efforts, yet large enough that the difference adds up in meaningful ways.

But 2017 was a year of changes and extremes. Many feel helpless in the face of turbulent and unpredictable national politics, increasing polarization, widening socioeconomic gaps, and a radically and conspicuously changing climate.

Last year Missoula itself was a poster-child of a changing climate, with big snow followed by big drought and ensuing fires that left our region literally smothered by unhealthy wildfire smoke. It is spooky and unsettling, but also prompts action and innovation. We cherish the quality of life and rich community in our Northern Rockies mountain town and want to buffer our community from disruptive change while encouraging the thoughtful growth and progress needed to move into a changing future.

We represent two non-profit groups working to lead our region to a more sustainable future – Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource – and we, too, are daunted by the challenges that confront our communities. Yet we see from our positions working on issues of community-wide sustainability that we’re not alone. Partnerships flourish. Inspiration abounds. Our community cares about each other and about our shared future. We are regularly delighted and humbled by the work happening throughout our community to build a sustainable future for us all.

But what, truly, is sustainability? Overplayed in speech and title, sustainability is often under-resourced in action and seldom fully defined. We like this definition: Sustainability does not borrow from the future or the collective to pay the present or the few; sustainability nourishes the now while ensuring a tomorrow as vital with possibility and richness as any other moment.

Sustainability comes in many shapes and forms. Indeed, sustainability requires many shapes and forms. Like the beauty of a sunset over the Clark Fork River or a gaggle of giggling children, sustainability, in its many forms, inspires. It settles in us, and it grows.

We’re launching this weekly Sustainable Missoula column to grow the hope and knowledge that prompts conversation and action. Each week’s authors will share perspectives on non-profit, business or government efforts with sustainability at their core.

Topics will include climate, zero waste, energy, transportation, food, justice, housing, open space and natural areas, localism, and green business. You’ll hear from community leaders, AmeriCorps Energy Corps service members, City and County staff and more, each weaving projects and efforts together to strengthen our community.

Look for this Sustainable Missoula column every Friday. Comment, share and engage in the conversation. We’ll always include links to upcoming sustainability events so you can be inspired – and get involved.

Upcoming events:

Jan 12: Mountain Line Celebrates 40 years of bus service. Family friendly event at the Top Hat. 5 – 7 pm.

Feb. 1: Climate Smart Missoula’s “Monthly Meetup” at Imagine Nation Brewing. Green Building, Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation is the topic. 5 – 7 pm.

Feb. 7: Solar-Ease Workshop at the Missoula Federal Credit Union’s Brooks St Center. Myriad co-sponsors help make residential solar easy. 6 -8 pm.

Katie Deuel is the Executive Director of Home ReSource. Amy Cilimburg is the Executive Director of Climate Smart Missoula.