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‘Sunstainable’ Missoula: Our electrifying fall – and energy future

Kelli Littleton’s model Electrify House, built at Home Resource’s Spon Con, on the 3rd floor of the Missoula Public Library.

Is this not one of the most colorful Autumns ever in Missoula? September was simply stunning.

Fall is all about change. Wildfire smoke dissipates and blue skies predominate. Green chlorophyll dissolves, leaving a kaleidoscope of colors – orange, rust, yellow and red. This all has us at Climate Smart electrified!

Okay, that’s a bit cheesy but stay with us as we consider the changing seasons, the reorienting of our workflow, switching of energy systems, and shifts in advocacy.

Our hot and smoky summer had us focused on resiliency efforts. We worked doggedly with myriad partners to help our community be Wildfire Smoke Ready, blitzing Missoula with information and distributing hundreds of free air filtration systems to those in need. Alongside Missoula County and the City, we fostered new partnerships with All Nations Health Center, the Missoula Food Bank & Community Center, and many more, enhancing our collective ability to “weather the weather.”

And as the weather changed and the skies cleared, we shifted our focus from resiliency to mitigation — reducing our contribution to this climate emergency. A couple weeks ago, at Missoula’s third annual Climate & Clean Energy Expo, people came out to explore and discuss climate solutions. Our community is full of climate champions who are just as invested in this work as we are.

The city, county and a bevy of nonprofits and businesses are stepping up to the challenge of mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis. From creating a community climate venn diagram to peering under the hoods of electric cars and test-riding electric bikes, to talking compost, zero waste, policy advocacy and more with our exhibitors, the Expo showcased so many ways our community is acting on climate.

There are more ways than ever to get involved and be part of the movement, and bringing our community together (safely) and seeing such enthusiasm and engagement gives us fuel to keep taking the next steps.

At the Expo, the Climate Smart team was also proud to launch our newest project, Electrify Missoula, a partnership between Climate Smart, Missoula County, and the City of Missoula that aims to speed up the transition to a healthier, more affordable, clean energy future through the electrification of building systems and technologies that typically run off of methane gas, like space heating and cooling and domestic cooking.

In Missoula, our methane-gas reliant building sector is a major contributor to our community’s carbon footprint and also can be a threat to residents’ health and safety. The double-whammy of the health and climate implications of burning gas in our buildings is getting more attention, as new research emerges and places like California enact restrictions on gas infrastructure.

Our Electrify Missoula campaign is aimed at tackling this challenge, providing residents with the information and resources (technical info, financing options, etc.) needed to help decrease the most common barriers to making the switch to all-electric systems.

Part of our collaborative, Building(s) for the Future program, is a campaign that takes all of us, driven by both larger policy change and individual purchasing decisions. It will take, builders, architects, homeowners and renters, vendors and contractors, and policymakers at all levels.

Electrify Missoula is one of the ways in which this community makes good on its climate action promises. You can be a part of this campaign too. For more on Electrify Missoula and how to get involved, visit www.electrifymissoula.org. You can also find our “Electrify House” model on the 3rd floor of the Missoula Public Library. The model, built with help from MMW Architects at this year’s Spontaneous Construction event hosted by Home Resource, showcases various ways to go electric in your home.

Along with our Electrify campaign, we’ve another fall offering, which matches the skies outside: our new Podcast: Clear the Air (via our website or Spotify). Somehow, we convinced local experts, community members, and leaders to chat with us about the urgency and intensity of their climate-oriented work and got it all on tape! We hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed creating it. Episode one is even about buildings. It’s electrifying. (Sorry, we couldn’t help it!)

Fall signifies change. And as we contemplate the changes we see in Missoula (some beautiful, some challenging) we cannot ignore the global changes. This fall has us accelerating our work locally. Yet – there’s always a yet – we cannot get where we need to go without real system changes for our country and world.

Right now, there’s an opportunity for significant climate legislation to pass Congress. If you’re struggling to follow all the ins and outs of the budget reconciliation process these days, you’re not alone! It’s confusing, and we also find ourselves frustrated by media coverage that too often focuses more on the political horse-race and arbitrary dollar amounts than the real substance of what’s being debated. How can we put a price on a livable future?

But cynicism is not the answer. We can, and must, join together to raise our voices and ensure our elected leaders hear loud and clear that climate action is essential.

Are you a skier who is worried about less snow in the winter? Are you a business owner who is impacted by hotter summers causing hoot owl restrictions on our rivers? Are you a parent, teacher, or caregiver who had to keep children inside when it was smoky? Are you a renter who pays high energy bills in an inefficient apartment? Are you just a Missoulian who is concerned about rising housing costs and wants our community to be accessible, vibrant and healthy as it grows?

Take a few minutes today to tell our Senators how the climate crisis impacts you and ask them to support the climate provisions in the budget reconciliation bill. The climate policies and programs currently being considered would be a massive step towards slowing climate-warming emissions and investing in solutions that bolster our community’s ongoing efforts (including, yes, electrifying our buildings!).

Call Senator Tester (202-224-2644) and Senator Daines (202-224-2651) and ask them to support climate solutions in this reconciliation bill and the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Head here for more information and links to add your voice.

As the seasons shift and offer opportunities for reflection and perspective, we hope you’ll join us in pondering anew how to ACT, ADVOCATE, and ASSIST others as we build a climate-safe community.

We really are electrified by what we can do, together!

Kelli Littleton is Program Director and Mason Dow is Program Associate at Climate Smart Missoula.

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

Sustainability Happenings

Here we offer ideas about sustainable ways to stay involved in our community. If you like these offerings, consider signing up for Climate Smart’s eNewsletter here. And sign up for the Home ReSource eNews via their homepage here.

October 9. The Work that Reconnects Workshop, 3:00 – 9:00 pm. Join Families for a Livable Climate in a half-day, outdoor gathering to engage in a widespread set of practices which can enliven our depleted spirits in this time of climate change, rekindle our awareness of how we are interconnected, and remember why it is worthwhile to step up and take any action. More here.

October 12. Climate Change and Your Child’s Health: What every Montana parent should know,12:00 – 1:00 PM. What are the threats to Montana’s children from climate change and how can we keep them safe? Join Families for a Livable Climate and Montana Health Professionals for Healthy Climate for a special event with Dr. Lori Byron and Dr. Robert Byron. More here.

October 14. Climate Parent Social, and Action Meetup. Imagine Nation Brewing, 5 -6:30 PM. Mask up and join other parents and caregivers who take action on climate change at Imagine Nation Brewing. Hear about upcoming actions and connect in community. Please RSVP so we can keep our numbers safe for social distancing.

October 28. Climate Conversation with Al Gore and Max Baucus. Via Zoom, 7- 8pm. Hosted by the Max Baucus Institute at the U of Montana’s Blewett School of Law: A Climate Conversation featuring former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and former U.S. Senator and Ambassador Max Baucus. Register for this Zoom event here.


October 31. Solar Dedication Service at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Bonner.
11am. The public is welcome to join a special service dedicating the new solar array which will cover 100% of the church’s annual electricity usage. Tours and informational discussion will follow the dedication ceremony. Outside ceremony for COVID-19 safety. Contact Eric Huseth for more information.

Trees for Missoula has many fall volunteer Tree Planting opportunities this fall.

Missoula’s Farmers Markets. Eat local now through the end of October! The original Farmers Market at the north end of Higgins runs every Saturday 9am-12:30 – information here. The Clark Fork Market is now located at 101 Carousel Drive near Dragon Hollow, runs every Saturday 9am -1pm – information is here.

Materials donations to Home Resource keep the wheels of reuse spinning in our community; and remember that everything you need to know about what to do with your unwanted stuff is at www.zerobyfiftymissoula.com.

Find more local activities and events at Missoulaevents.net and on Montana Environmental Information Center’s Conservation Calendar. And you too can help organize events – here’s the 2021 Calendar of Environmental Awareness Days – month by month breakdown of world day campaigns.