Starting in 2019, The Western Montana Fair joined Missoula’s Zero by FIFTY initiative, to reduce 90% of the material the Fairgrounds sends to the landfill. In 2021, the Fair had around 80,000 visitors producing 38 tons of trash, 2 tons of recyclable materials, of which 2-300 pounds were aluminum cans.

Since 2018, The Fairgrounds has reduced its waste by 38 percent. That is an improvement, but there still is a long way to go! Creating green initiatives is a step in the right direction, but now is the time to implement them. Here are the ways the Fair is working toward the Zero by Fifty goal and how you can help.

A staple of the Western Montana Fair is the food; funnel cake, Tater-Pigs, Lemondairy, Vikings, you name it.  Before everyone can enjoy these tasty creations, vendors must meet the following sustainability standards such as: no Styrofoam, no plastic bags, no single-use glass, plastic bottles, or containers, and no plastic straws.

All vendors must only offer BPI-certified compostable plates, bowls, cups, utensils, and napkins. Food vendors are also urged to provide incentives for "bring your own" straws and utensils, reduce foodservice packaging in general, offer portion size options to reduce food waste, and utilize food recovery programs such as the Missoula Food Bank Food Circleprogram.

This year, all vendors also offer a commemorative 2022 Western Montana Fair aluminum water bottle that can be reused or recycled. This was done with Philipsburg, MT-based company, Montana Silver Springs. Aluminum’s infinitely recyclable ability is the perfect choice for The Fair’s Zero Waste goals.

The Fairgrounds will have many reciprocals with signage to explain where waste should be disposed of. Republic Service will provide compost, recycling, and trash services for the Fair. Recycling Works will provide glass recycling for the Fair’s bars (who are also required to provide beverages in recyclable containers).

The Western Montana Fair also partnered with Missoula City Community Planning, Development & Innovation department to provide Zero Waste Stations in the 4-H barns. Under the leadership of 4-H team leaders, 4-H members are tasked to monitor these stations to make sure items are properly sorted. This will help alleviate the workload for the rest of the Fair staff who will be taking care of the reciprocals throughout the rest of the fairgrounds.

How can YOU help with the Fair’s sustainability efforts?

You can help the Fair’s sustainability efforts before arriving to the Fairgrounds. Instead of driving to the fair, consider walking, biking, or traveling via bus. Not only are you choosing an eco-friendly way to commute, but you will also save money on parking fees!  Mountain Line is a Zero-fare bus service that has three routes stopping at the South Avenue entrance of the Fairgrounds. Bike to the Fair Day is Friday, August 12. Ride to the Fair and the first 250 bikers receive one $2 meal voucher redeemable at any participating Fair food booth. Missoula in Motion will offer free bike valet from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Free Cycles will offer free bike tune up lessons.

Show off your upcycling skills by participating in the Fair’s Creative Reuse division. You can bring new life or function to old or unwanted materials and have a chance to win cash prizes! Enter your creation by July 29th at MissoulaFairgrounds.com

The Green Team is the most important component of the Zero Waste initiative. Green team members will help pick up litter, sort recyclable and compostable materials, as well as educate fairgoers on how to properly dispose of materials. You can join the Green Team and help ensure Fair attendees leave the Fair feeling empowered and knowledgeable about zero waste practices!

Green Team members are also eligible for regular volunteer perks. For every 6 hours of volunteering, members can either receive $20 in food bucks, an all-day Carnival ride pass or a general admission ticket to an arena event. You can sign up to volunteer at the Western Montana Fair at MissoulaFairgrounds.com/guidelines/volunteer.

From supporting local agriculture, to upcycling items into works of art, to fixing the unfixable, sustainability has been a long-standing fair tradition. There are many steps in place to reach Zero by Fifty, but it takes a community effort to reach these goals. Reducing your waste, properly disposing of waste, and respecting the green space at the Fairgrounds are steps everyone can take to make the Western Montana Fair a greener event.

Sustainability Happenings

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

It’s Farmer’s Market Season! Support local food & farmers. Missoula Farmers Market at the XXXXs is celebrating its 50th season – markets run Saturday mornings through October, plus Tuesday evenings starting July – September. The Clark Fork River Market runs through October.

Sign up to be a volunteer Zero Waste Cafeteria Coach with MCPS.

July 7 — Volunteer work day on conservation land near Frenchtown (16 miles west of Missoula). Hosted by 5 Valleys Land Trust. 4-7 pm. RSVP by email. by July 5.

July 8-10 — Summer stewardship project in the Great Burn WSA — at Clearwater Crossingnext trip is July 22

July 9 — Fixit Clinic — don’t toss it, fix it!.  11 am to 3 pm at Missoula Public Library (Families First lab).  Get help fixing toys.   Info/Register here. Free. More clinics on 9/10, 11/12. 

July 9-16 — Wildfire Smoke Ready Week. check back for more details.

July 8-11: Statewide climate coalition actions at NorthWestern Energy in Butte. Save the date and contact Abby for more information.

July 13, 5 pm: Jeannette Rankin Peace Center’s annual Peace Party, at Paddleheads Stadium. 

Don’t forget – 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.