Sustainable Missoula: Address waste issues to build a sustainable future

A Home ReSource intern at the Missoula landfill.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Despite the wild inaccuracies of the story we Americans tell about the origins of this day, it is to me still a day to dive deeply into gratitude for all that I have. I am grateful for the amazing people I encounter every day. I am grateful to have access to local, healthy food. And I am grateful for the natural world that sustains us.  

In that gratitude is a recognition that these gifts don’t just come from nowhere and that our future ability to continue to enjoy and appreciate them is not a given.  Our current societal rates of consumption of materials place an unsustainably high demand on our natural and food systems, and on our community. And so I find myself with another important gratitude: I am deeply grateful for the many opportunities I have to shift that unsustainable trajectory in concrete, doable ways and build and support my community while I’m at it.

I work at Home ReSource, a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce waste and help build a more vibrant and sustainable local economy.  At Home ReSource, we have designed our Zero Waste Community Programs to tackle these both terribly local and inherently global issues. We have developed strategies that are doable, realistic and collectively have a tremendous impact on how we work with and value the everyday materials we all use that come from a finite planet.

We know that waste is not sexy – very few people shed tears over a toilet or broken cabinet set that gets tossed into the landfill – and it can be hard to make the connection between waste reduction and clear, cold rivers, healthy wildlife habitat and clean air that stays breathable more years than it does not. But let me tell you about why addressing waste issues has such a powerful impact on building a more sustainable future.

Waste is universal – it impacts all of us, and if we are smart about our solutions, those solutions are equally accessible to all.

Waste is a unifier – no one wants to waste; no one should have to make absurd choices that pit affordability and convenience against the environment.  Addressing waste brings us together as individuals and invites collaboration across sectors, socio-economic spectrums and race.

Waste is also a multiplier – every pound of waste in the landfill represents 71 pounds of waste “upstream” that went into extracting raw materials, manufacturing and transporting the finished products.  

Finally, waste is a mindset – is waste a noun or a verb?  Do we choose to waste or is waste inherent in an object? I say it is not. 

When we start to think about waste, we think about materials differently, and we realize that most of the things we use and consume have tremendous value.  When we start to value those things, we start to transform ourselves, our community and our economy in a powerful way.

Rosa Parks said that when we know what must be done, it diminishes fear. When we diminish fear, we replace it with hope, and hope inspires more action. Home ReSource’s Zero Waste Community Programs are empowering our community with skills and knowledge, building a cohort, creating infrastructure, building momentum, meeting demand, providing expertise, connecting people, inspiring action, and replacing fear and hopelessness with purpose and hope.  I am grateful to be a part of it.

Katie Deuel is executive director at Home ReSource.

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

Upcoming Sustainability Events

Friday, November 29. Dear Tomorrow project launch and letter-writing party. 9-11 a.m. at Goodworks Ventures, 129 W. Alder St. 

Wednesday, December 4. Wildlife Friendly Gardens and Bird Feeders Workshop.  Offered by MUD. Home Resource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St. 6 – 8pm. More info and tickets here.

Friday, December 6. Clark Fork Coalition Holiday Party. All are welcome to join for free food, fun, and friends. Clark Fork Coalition Offices, 140 S 4th W St. 5 – 9pm. 

Friday, December 6. Five Valleys Land Trust Holiday Party. All are welcome. 120 Hickory St., 5 p.m. 

Friday, December 6. Sunrise Movement Climate Strike. Details to follow.

Saturday, December 7. Fixit Clinic. Home ReSource invites you to give the gift of repair this holiday season. Why buy new when you can fix a cherished item that has seen better days? Home Resource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. More info here.

Thursday, December 12. Climate Smart Missoula’s Year End Celebration and Smarty Pants Awards. All are welcome to this annual celebration of local climate action! Details here.

Wednesday, December 18. Reuse & Upcycling of Ornament Workshop — workshop offered with MUD. Home Resource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St. 6 – 8pm. Info & Tickets here.