Sustainable Missoula: Roots Fest, Western Montana Fair go green

Greening the Roots Fest over the years (Photos: Climate Smart Missoula)

One of my favorite parts about going to the Western Montana Fair as a kid was the food options: buttery and cheesy, sweet and gooey, the types of things I would only eat once a year during the fair week. As I got older, these foods were remembered and enjoyed nostalgically; the first time I rode the Kamikaze with vikings stuffed in my pockets, or the time I almost won a round of bingo with a corn stick in my hand. 

So when I began my internship under Jeremy Drake, Community Engagement Manager at Home ReSouce, I was excited to hear that one of the projects I’d be working on this summer was assisting the fair in its commitment to the city of Missoula’s ZERO by FIFTY Zero Waste Plan. Part of this entailed setting up composting and recycling at the fair for the first time, which we knew would be difficult given how many people visit from all over western Montana.

Together with fair staff, we set up Zero Waste Stations (a collection of three bins to separate the landfill, compost, and recycling streams) strategically throughout the food areas, some of which also had volunteers to help fair goers sort their waste. The first year is always a learning experience, and while we discovered some changes we’ll make for next year (like more volunteers, better bin placement, and the importance of signage), our biggest takeaway was the effort of fairgoers to sort everything properly.

We’re immensely grateful to all of our partners in this effort, including volunteers, Missoula Compost Collection, food vendors, fair attendees and staff. We made big strides and can’t wait to improve for next year, as well as support other Missoula events trying to clean their waste streams.

Volunteers hard at work sorting recyclables at the Western Montana Fair (Home ReSource)

And guess what, folks? We have another of these such events and opportunities coming right up this weekend. This Friday kicks off our city’s big, annual summer music event: the River City Roots Festival. Each year the Roots Fest brings our community together, sharing the magic of Missoula’s music and art scene with locals and visitors alike, as well as showcasing our community’s continual commitment to sustainability.

The last five years, Climate Smart Missoula and the city of Missoula have led the charge on the festival’s “green scene,” working hard to make Missoula’s best party as climate-smart and friendly as possible. Two summers ago, the Roots Fest successfully eliminated single-use plastic straws, and last year we expanded the ZERO by FIFTY Waste Stations to include compost bins in addition to recycling services, similar to what the Western Montana Fair unveiled this year. 

We’re thrilled to continue turning wasted food into compost and reducing what ends up at our local landfill, and we’re even more thrilled that every food truck at the festival has agreed to be a Zero Waste Vendor! This means that no vendors will use plastic straws, plastic bags, single-use glass, or Styrofoam food service ware. All containers, drinks, and utensils will be recyclable or compostable. If you stop by a vendor, thank them for their actions to go green.

 If you get confused, Green Team volunteers will be acting as Zero Waste Ambassadors at as many zero waste stations as possible, just like we had at the fair. You’ll recognize them in their green Roots Fest shirts and holding their nifty trash pickers – be sure to give them a high five! 

And there’s so much more. The festival will provide stainless steel cups and reusable Roots Fest cups that will be available for purchase over the weekend (pro tip: you can even bring back your Roots cup from years past to quench your local brews thirst!), and there will be water trucks to refill your reusable water bottle. The Roots Fest team is also committed to neutralizing the energy consumption of the festival with the purchase of carbon credits, which we do annually. That is why the “Carbon Neutral” banner is proudly and prominently displayed on stage.

Finally, we believe biking to Roots demands VIP treatment! Missoula In Motion and Green Team volunteers will offer a bicycle valet parking service. If you bike to the festival, simply ride up to the secured area located on the Higgins end of the Art Show and let our volunteers do the rest. If you choose to use your own bike parking arrangements, please only lock up to designated bike racks to avoid chaining up to trees. By riding and parking your bike responsibly, you help reduce carbon emissions, improve traffic flow, and protect our urban forests. 

Our community has made some amazing zero waste strides, especially with our summer events, and we’re honored to be along for the (bike) ride. Interested in joining the fun? We still need volunteers for our Green Team, especially Friday and Saturday night! You can sign up for shifts here. All shifts are only two hours, and volunteers get a free T-shirt, drink, Roots cup, and the priceless fuzzy feeling of knowing you helped your community. Even if you can’t volunteer, stop at Climate Smart’s table and say hi! 

From the fairgrounds just starting to make serious sustainable moves, to downtown Missoula continuing them, we’ve loved this climate-smart summer. We’re grateful for all our partners that have prioritized sustainable decisions and are dedicated to the healthy, green future of our community. Big special thanks to Mountain Line, Missoula Compost Collection, and the City of Missoula. 

See you at Roots Fest!

Anna Weinberg is the Energy Corps-AmeriCorps member serving with Climate Smart Missoula and Clara Moisey is a Zero Waste Intern with Home ReSource. This column is part of a 2019 weekly Missoula Current series, Sustainable Missoula, which highlights community sustainability efforts.

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

Upcoming Sustainability Events:

August 23-24. Help “green” the annual downtown River City Roots Festival. Volunteers needed for two-hour shifts both days – head HERE to sign up or HERE to learn more.

August 24. Home Resource’s Fixit Clinic. Coaches on hand to help with clothes mending, small engine repair, electrical testing & repair – see more details HERE. At the Home ReSource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St, 11am – 3pm.

September 7. Free Cycles Climate Ride. Community cycling event to raise awareness about climate change and benefit Free Cycles’ programs. Different ride lengths available starting at 9am. 

September 12. Climate Smart Missoula’s Monthly Meetup. 5-6:30pm at Imagine Nation Brewing Community Room. This month’s topic: Green Building and Energy Efficiency.

September 14. Spontaneous Construction – Home ReSource’s fabulous annual creative reuse art event. You can still register your team. Or just plan to come by for the festivities. Details here.

September 15. Sunday Streets. Noon – 4 pm up and down Higgins St. We close the street to cars, and welcome bikes, walkers, scooters and all. This is the start of Walk & Roll Week brought to us by Missoula In Motion. More here.

September 20-27. Global Climate Strike! People of all ages all across the globe are striking on Friday, Sept 20, and planning is underway for a rally and festivities here in Missoula on that day. Then there are multiple events throughout the week, including a youth-led teach-in. Find out about local events and actions here.  

 September 28. Missoula’s second annual Clean Energy Expo. 10 am-3 pm, Caras Park. Join Climate Smart Missoula, The Montana Renewable Energy Association and many others to learn about and celebrate climate solutions and clean energy. Learn more here and contact Abby at Climate Smart if you’d like to co-sponsor or volunteer. 

View more climate and energy events via Climate Smart Missoula’s Calendar.

There are many more conservation events for 2019 HERE.