Sustainable Missoula: Channel climate momentum at Saturday’s Clean Energy Expo

Kids at the 2018 Expo play “Giant Jenga”. This year’s Expo will include kids’ games, building model solar cars and more. (Courtesy photo)

On Friday, Sept. 20, over four million people around the world took part in the global climate strike, stepping out of classrooms, workplaces and homes to join the largest youth-led demonstration in history.

Think about that: The focus of the largest youth-led day of action in history was on the climate emergency. Momentum is building.

Here in Missoula, hundreds attended rallies and heard impassioned pleas from our kids for visionary and urgent action to address the climate crisis. For adults to help them build a livable future. 

If this request for a “livable future” has left you wondering “How? What can I do?” you’re in good company. 

We don’t have all the answers, and we know that what’s needed is a broad transformation of our society and economy. Our kids – and the science – are clear that we must accelerate this transformation on every level. The goals and decisions we make as individuals and as a community are key ingredients in the recipe for greater systemic change. 

The good news is that many of the tools we need are already available. In the world of renewable energy alone, technologies like solar and wind are cheaper than ever and have incredible potential to power our electricity grid and our increasingly electrified forms of transportation. Battery storage is exploding as prices continue to  drop dramatically. Storage will – and already is – changing our energy landscape. Renewable energy is gaining momentum here in Montana and across the U.S. 

This Saturday offers a great opportunity to be part of that momentum by coming together to learn, share ideas and take action at our second annual Missoula Clean Energy Expo, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Caras Park. 

Like last year, the Expo will feature local solar installers and plenty of information about how to use renewable energy tools we have available today. But we know the path to a livable future is about more than just renewable energy: It involves how we get around and reducing our consumption and waste, too.

We’re excited to have over 20 local organizations and businesses working on clean energy, sustainable transportation and zero waste at this year’s Expo, from groups like Pedal Missoula who will bring a “spin-art bicycle,” to MEIC, our nonprofit friends coming from Helena to share renewable energy knowledge, to composting businesses and more.

Plus, there will be fun activities to keep kids moving, from model solar car building to interactive games. 

The lineup on the main stage includes short, interactive presentations to help you get the lay of the land on local clean energy topics:

  • 11 a.m.: Our “Solar-Ease” mini-workshop explains the process of getting solar on your home or business, including financing options, as well as an update on state policy around rooftop solar. 
  • Noon: Hear from local leaders and Expo partners about the climate commitments our local government has made, including the goal of 100 percent Clean Electricity by 2030: Why these local commitments matter, what the path forward looks like, and how we can support this effort. County Commissioner Josh Slotnick and City Council alderwoman Gwen Jones will share their perspectives. 
  • 12:30 p.m.: Don’t miss our very own version of clean energy Mythbusters! We’ve received word that we will be joined by some special visitors from another planet who are curious about how we do things here on Earth, so we’ve prepared a panel of experts who can set these aliens straight … and enlighten us about the present and future of clean energy at the same time. (Climate change is serious stuff, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun talking about solutions!)
  • 1:30 p.m.: We’ll be ready to repeat our Solar-Ease presentation for those who missed the morning session or have more questions. Rooftop solar is becoming more accessible than ever, but that doesn’t mean our work is done. We still need to raise our collective voices to call for more renewables. 

Lastly, and definitely not least: If you’ve checked the weather forecast, don’t fear! We’ll be prepared with plenty of hot beverages to keep you warm and cozy while wandering the tent. A winter storm in September may seem crazy (there’s a reason it’s sometimes called “global weirding”), but this is still a great time of year to go solar – and to come out and build community. 

The Expo offers the opportunity to talk to over 25 local businesses and nonprofits, including solar installers and organizations that work on sustainable transportation and zero waste. (Courtesy photo)

Clean energy is one of many pieces to the big puzzle of climate solutions. One of the biggest pieces, however, is not a technology: It’s us. We have real power when we can channel the energy of climate strikes and demonstrations into sustained, accelerated action.

As big and urgent as the climate crisis is, the future has not been written, and the momentum to change course is gaining steam because of people all over the world in every community that care and are taking action. Together, we can seize the power of this historic moment to stand for bold action and put climate solutions in practice right here in Missoula and Montana.

So come on down to Caras Park this Saturday, bring your friends, enjoy a cup of hot soup and share your ideas, questions and dreams of a livable future for Missoula. 

Abby Huseth is the Outreach Director at Climate Smart Missoula, and Andrew Valainis is the Executive Director of the Montana Renewable Energy Association.

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

Upcoming Sustainability Events

Saturday, September 28. Missoula’s second annual Clean Energy Expo. Caras Park. Join Climate Smart Missoula, The Montana Renewable Energy Association + partners to learn about and celebrate climate solutions and clean energy. Free and family-friendly with exhibits and presentations. 10 am – 3 pm. More at missoulaclimate.org 

Thursday, October 3. River News and Brews: Living with Beaver. Hosted by the Clark Fork Coalition. 6-7pm at Great Burn Brewing. Details here

Friday, October 4. First Friday. Check out Home ReSource’s “SponCon” creations at the new Merc. 5-8pm. Details here

Thursday, October 10. Climate Smart Missoula’s Monthly Meetup. This month’s topic: Urban Forestry. All are welcome to join this informal discussion. Imagine Nation Brewing Co., 5 – 6:30pm. 

Saturday, October 19. Pumpkin Run — This Run Wild Missoula 5k will benefit UM’s Revolving Energy Loan Fund which funds energy & resource conservation projects on the UM campus. Registration is $15.