In a few weeks, a few Missoula County Public Schools will get an early Christmas gift that allows kids to help reduce Missoula’s garbage.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, MMW Architects chooses a volunteer project each year, and this year it’s designing school waste stations and an awning for the Missoula Urban Demonstration building, said MMW architect and Home ReSources board member Sarah Ayers.

So Home ReSources is cooperating with MMW to design the ultimate school Zero Waste station that may eventually find its way into other facilities like county offices, the University of Montana and event venues.

Stations will be installed in two schools, probably Hellgate and Sentinel high schools, but other schools are still in the running, Ayers said.

Although a Zero Waste station can be as simple as a collection of 5-gallon buckets with signs, Jeremy Drake, Home ReSources community engagement manager, said the stations could get more complex depending on the need. In schools, students need to recycle a lot of paper and soda cans so those may be the emphasis.

“One of the things that came out of our Zero By Fifty planning process was the idea that continuity is essential,” Drake said.

In other words, if the stations are to be installed across town, signs, colors and configuration of the stations need to be consistent so people know what to do.

Drake said that the magic number of containers is probably three: one container each for recyclable items, compostable materials and trash to be taken to the landfill.

Chase Bjornson of Logjam Productions told the group about the large signs he’s put up at Zero Waste stations at Logjam venues that use both colored text and pictures to help people recycle or compost correctly.

“People still throw things in the wrong bins, but you can’t do much about that,” Bjornson said.

Chase Bjornson of Logjam Productions (left) works with his team to design school zero-waste stations Thursday night. (Laura Lundquist/Missoula Current)
Chase Bjornson of Logjam Productions (left) works with his team to design school zero-waste stations Thursday night. (Laura Lundquist/Missoula Current)

More than likely, the containers will be 23-gallon “Slim Jims,” but size is also a factor to consider. Designers need to think about who will be emptying the containers, how often and how they fit into the building. Plus, designers can emphasize the need to put less in the landfill by making the landfill container smaller than the other two.

With those thoughts in mind Thursday night, architects, teachers and sustainability advocates in the Home ReSources community room broke into teams to come up with the best design. MMW will take those ideas and design a station that will be built on Dec. 4 using previously used material from Home ReSources.

The hope is that all future stations to be constructed using materials donated by Home ReSources, Drake said.

“Having a cool reused-looking zero-waste station that you can see all around the community, that potentially has Zero By Fifty branding integrated into it, would be an excellent way to get the message across that we can make these things out of reusable materials,” Drake said.