City partners with nonprofits to move clean electricity, zero waste plans forward

Members of the public attend a zero waste demonstration at Home ReSource in this 2017 file photo. The City Council this week approved contracts with two nonprofits to move its goals around zero waste and 100% clean electricity forward. (Missoula Current file photo)

Citing goals around climate change, members of the Missoula City Council this week authorized the mayor to engage two local nonprofits to craft strategies aimed at clean electricity and zero waste.

Of the two contracts, the city approved a $30,000 partnership with Climate Smart Missoula to help implement the 100% Clean Electricity Initiative adopted last year by the city and county of Missoula.

Chase Jones, the city’s energy conservation and climate action coordinator, said the work will offer a better understanding of the financial tools needed to achieve renewable energy projects on a utility scale.

“With this contract, climate smart Missoula will conduct that analysis, create a report and present those findings to the city and the public to further enable those clean electricity, clean energy and energy efficiency projects,” Jones said.

As part of the contract, Climate Smart Missoula will also turn to the development community to explore the obstacles and opportunities around zero-energy building. Jones said the effort will result in a “green building summit” at some point in the future.

Members of the City Council described the nonprofit partnership as essential to moving Missoula’s plans around climate change forward. Many attended the conference held this week by Climate Smart Missoula where the climate crisis and the future played as a central theme.

“Anyone that was there will recognize how important initiatives like this are at the municipal level and statewide level,” said council member Amber Sherrill. “I appreciate that we’re moving forward on it and starting to take some action. It’s going to require that and we’re going to have to do it fast.”

Home ReSource will also partner in the project by taking up a second tract – the city’s goals around zero waste. That $35,000 agreement will see the organization establish a task force around creating the infrastructure needed to support zero waste across the community.

“This gets at the question of where materials go when they don’t go to the landfill,” said Jones. “We have to have these big pieces of infrastructure to receive and process these materials if they don’t go to the landfill.”

Jones said the contract with Home ReSource will also see the nonprofit reach out to the development community in search of ways to reduce building waste. The work should result in strategies and potential recommendations guiding the local industry, he said.

“Home ReSource, with the city, will conduct a deep dive into Missoula’s growth story,” Jones said. “We’ll learn from the building industry what tools can be improved and what’s missing all together to reduce the waste associated with that growth and development.”

Whether the recommendations result in new city policies or simply establish best practices isn’t yet known. The impacts on the building community will be closely watched, along with any recommendations that could add more costs to a project.

“There are a lot of contractors in town that want to participate in this without raising costs on housing,” said council member Gwen Jones. “We’re always balancing it. This will take it that next step – analyze it more thoroughly and see what we can be doing.”