Has all this 90-degree-plus weather made you a little cranky lately? A little quicker to anger? Maybe you worry about your crops, or the fish in your favorite stream, if we face another drought. Personally, I can get sucked into feelings of hopelessness just thinking about the monumental tasks of reducing our carbon footprint and creating a more sustainable society.
Since I finished researching and writing our new Climate and Mental Health page (which you should really check out!), I’ve been thinking a lot about how climate change affects our state of mind. Did you know that extreme heat, increased wildfire smoke, drought, and even the threat of climate change itself can all be major stressors? That the repercussions of extreme weather events and the alteration of our most cherished landscapes can lead to anxiety, chronic stress, depression, substance abuse, increased levels of domestic violence, and even suicide? Heat and wildfire smoke actually affect brain chemistry, with the former increasing stress hormones and the latter causing brain inflammation.
Luckily for my own emotional well-being, I’ve also been learning how we can use the challenges we face in positive ways. Climate change can be a catalyst for improvements in the mental and emotional health of our entire community, including the well-being of Missoulians who are most at risk. Heat and wildfire smoke take a much larger toll on homebound senior citizens, on those who live in substandard housing or are homeless, on those who live in neighborhoods with few trees, and on refugees who have been forced to flee their homes due to drought, sea level rise, or other changes. People with existing mental health problems and other disabilities are at greater risk, too.
The time to start is now. Because if you think the weather is uncomfortable this week, consider this: if current carbon emissions trends continue, by 2100 summers in Missoula will resemble summers in Yucaipa, California – a city near the Mexican border where the average summer temperature is currently 92 degrees. Missoula’s average summer temps hover around 80 degrees, but that’s quickly changing. (You can see the future summertime trajectories of 1,001 U.S. cities, all based on the latest climate science, on this neat interactive map.)
Improving the mental and emotional health of all Missoulians is a worthy goal. So is reducing our carbon footprint so we don’t become as hot and dry as southern California. Isn’t it great that the twin ideals of better health and a more sustainable, equitable Missoula go hand in hand? I’m starting to feel a little less cranky already.
What about you? How are our changing summers affecting your emotional health? Are you a health professional who's seeing impacts on your patients? What concerns you most about climate change and mental health? Let's keep the conversation going! Comment on this post, or send your thoughts and experiences to email@example.com. I'd love to share a wider range of views in an upcoming blog post.
(If you missed the link at the top, don’t forget to check out our new Climate and Mental Health page for more information on what you can do to make Missoula a healthier and more resilient place. You can also check out our overall strategies for a Healthy Community.)
Terri Nichols is a graduate student in the University of Montana's Environmental Studies program. She's working as Climate Smart Missoula's Summer Smart Intern this year thanks to a Brainerd Conservation Fellowship.
Based on my several sunburn patches and the delightful smell of sunscreen on all my clothes, it appears that summer is FINALLY here! Now that the warmer weather seems to be sticking around, it’s getting easier to wrap our heads around things like wildfire smoke, shade, and trees. You may have even seen us on the river trail during the last couple weeks working on the construction of our first shade shelter, part of our Summer Smart initiative.
This past week, our Monthly Meetup was all about urban trees, wildland forests, and why they are so important to the climate conversation. Our urban and wildland forestry bucket encompasses quite a range of goals and strategies around the how’s and why’s of strengthening and managing urban, wildland forests and open lands. Urban forests are an important part of smart growth and climate mitigation, providing value, beauty, and physical and mental health benefits to the community. Smart management of wildland forests is vital for mitigating the effects of fire, wildlife stressors, and maintaining a safe wildland-urban interface (WUI). Clearly the nexus of climate change and trees is strong. Our conversation on Thursday was a great chance to talk with local experts and interested individuals about what work needs to be done, should be done, and what Climate Smart Missoula’s role should be.
As we learned from our friend Karen Sippy, executive director of Trees For Missoula, the value of healthy urban forests is much more than you might think (see the value of one tree in the image at right). Trees help scrub air pollution, store carbon, keep our homes and communities cooler, and even reduce storm water runoff, in addition to adding monetary value to your property. Quite the list of benefits!
Thanks to Missoula's Urban Tree Census that will be updated next year, we know there are about 30,000 trees within city limits, and that’s just on public/city-owned lands. 27,000 of these trees have been inventoried by certified arborists and valued at $91 million. Unfortunately, we also know that most of the trees making up our urban forests are nearing the end of their life span. More about that from a recent Missoula Current article.
The City of Missoula adopted an Urban Forest Master Plan in April 2015 with the goal of developing a healthy, vibrant and sustainable urban forest we can continue to enjoy. Because climate change brings with it more regular heat events and increased risk of disease and pest infestation, it will be important to think carefully about the trees we plant for the future and how we care for them. We know disease spread is best prevented by strategic variety in trees to create disconnected systems. Check out the City’s list of Approved Street Trees to see what trees are best suited for Missoula’s boulevards and public spaces. And Climate Smart has information about the best trees and shrubs for homeowners. Also see our 2016 Tree Canopy Assessment for the Missoula community.
And remember, during the typical arid summers of western Montana, it's critical to water your shade trees. They need a deep drink once a week or so to stay healthy. Pruning matters too. Find more tips at Trees for Missoula.
Some important questions we discussed:
How do we better incorporate trees into planning and new developments?
The most effective way to ensure trees are included in the planning and development process is to have strong policies for developers, particularly when it comes to required landscape features. Our current growth policy supports this! Presently Missoula is developing new "Design Standards" to guide our future, and this provides a perfect opportunity to weigh in and bring urban trees and green infrastructure forward as priority. Head HERE and comment.
Trees are clearly important to have on your property for a lot of reasons, but what about the problems shade creates for rooftop solar potential?
Having trees on your property is important for our overall tree canopy health as well as improving the comfort and value of your home. Sometimes this means rooftop solar does not fit on a home. This is a big reason we at Climate Smart support changing state legislation to allow for community solar projects. See our advocacy page for more info.
How can we make it so people who need trees can get them? Are there options or programs in place for new home buyers or low income families to plant [the right] trees?
Trees have many social, mental, and physical health benefits but they can also be expensive. We're presently working to develop programs to help with this, as there is nothing substantial happening today. The Missoula City-County Health Department has been working on some interactive Health Maps that could help in identify what areas need trees the most. Have ideas? Let us know!
What about native plants? Why are there non-native trees on the Boulevard & Parks Street Trees list?
Unfortunately, if we only stuck to native trees in our boulevards, we would end up with something of a monoculture, which is not ideal for disease and pest prevention. The list of Approved Street Trees was created to include trees that can survive and be more easily maintained in public spaces. However planting and caring for native trees is much easier in your own yard!
Clearly, urban forestry is an important piece to building a healthy and resilient community. Just as with our urban forests, it's vital that we also take a mindful approach to managing wildland forests. 60 minutes recently did a segment about this issue. Missoula and surrounding communities all have examples of development taking place in the WUI putting homes at a greater risk from wildfires. With more frequent, longer, and hotter fires every year, the idea of “living with fire” is more important than ever. Especially for homes in the WUI, it is important to understand best practices for keeping your home (and the firefighters who protect it) safe. We have great resources on our Active Fires website.
Is it just me, or has it been an especially busy spring? Just in the last few weeks, we’ve had Earth Week, the People’s Climate March and Rally, the Missoula in Motion Commuter Challenge (still going!), and Missoula Gives – whew! So much good stuff happening. These great events remind me how grateful I am to live in a community that’s so connected to nature and passionate about sustainability and climate resilience. Thanks, Missoula, for being so awesome!
That feeling of gratitude continued on Saturday when I headed down to the first farmers market of the season, and judging by the crowds, I wasn’t the only one excited about the market opening! When I moved to Missoula a few years ago, I couldn’t believe how active the local food scene was here, and the plethora of ways to connect with our local food system is still one of my favorite things about being a Missoulian. Last Thursday, at our May Climate Smart Monthly Meetup, we delved a little deeper into the climate connections with our local food and agriculture bucket, focusing this time on two different parts of the food system: the problem of wasted food, and thinking about soil as a climate solution.
When most of us think about the nexus between climate change and food, we often think first of agriculture – how climate change impacts threaten our agricultural economy, perhaps (see a recent Montana Farmers’ Union 2016 Report on Climate Change impact to Agricultural Economy in MT), or maybe how a warmer climate has already begun to shift plant hardiness zones. But another part of the food system – waste – has become a hot topic in terms of its climate implications. In the US, about 40% of food is wasted. 40%! Emitting potent and highly polluting methane gas, wasted food is responsible for over 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – almost as much as the road transportation sector. In Missoula, some grocery stores and nonprofits are combating this problem by collaborating to divert perfectly edible food that’s past sell-by dates to people in need. But a lot of food – both pre- and post-consumer – still ends up in our landfill. In fact, wasted food and construction and demolition debris constitute HALF of our landfill! Clearly, we can do better at avoiding wasted food in the first place, but there’s also need for better access to composting facilities for food scraps and spoiled food, to stop wasting a valuable resource that could be cycled back into our local food system. This was one of the messages that emerged from recent community listening sessions as part of the process of developing a Zero Waste Plan for our city. Our friend Jeremy from Home Resource, who is assisting the City with this process, shared a little more about the Zero Waste Plan process, and we’re excited to see how wasted food factors in to the plan. (Until then, check out some of the ideas that came out of last year’s “Fate of the Plate” summit.)
Related to the topic of composting, of course, is the point of composting in the first place: building soil quality. Soil and its potential to mitigate climate change has been another hot topic in the media lately – or at least a certain kind of media! When I was in grad school, I had the opportunity to go to Paris for the COP 21 climate change conference, and soil was getting a lot of attention there. The French government had launched a program they called “4 pour 1000,” based on scientific evidence that an average increase in soil carbon storage of merely 0.4 percent globally would be enough to stabilize annual global CO2 emissions. That’s pretty huge. (Want a primer on the soil-climate connection? Check out this short 4 minute video.) So what might that kind of carbon storage look like on a local level? Well, the first step to improving soil quality of agricultural lands is making sure that land is protected, especially as our city grows. A recent report by a UM grad student documented a 228% increase in Missoula County ag land that’s been developed over the last 50 years, alongside a population increase of 70%. Here in Missoula, the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition has been working on solutions that balance protection of agricultural land in Missoula County with development pressure. CFAC also supports local farmers – especially beginning farmers – with the tools they need to maintain their land for agricultural use. Bonnie, CFAC’s director, says there has been more interest lately among farmers in soil-building practices, but it can be hard, given that there aren’t many direct incentives for the types of smaller farms that are the majority in Western Montana. However, it’s also true that many local farmers already use sustainable practices that build soil quality and sequester carbon – such as cover cropping, applying compost, crop rotation, and pasture management strategies. We’d love to see the conversation about soil continue here – it’s truly a case of a climate solution that’s right under our feet! If soil quality is something you’d like to learn more about, you’re in luck: the Moon-Randolph Homestead is hosting a workshop on that topic next week!
Everybody eats, so we all have a role to play in building a vibrant local food system built on healthy soil that closes the loop from field to fork to compost bin - whether it’s by supporting local farmers, advocating for ag land preservation, growing (and composting!) your own food, reducing wasted food, or all of the above! Such a food system not only bolsters our resilience to climate impacts, by making us more self-reliant and less vulnerable to disruptions of global food chains, but it also shrinks our carbon footprint while offering all kinds of environmental, economic and health benefits. Those are the kinds of climate solutions we like to see!
Here are a few resources if you’re interested in digging deeper into the world of local food, agriculture, and climate change:
Here in Missoula, this winter sure seemed long, wet and cold – good news for mountain snowpack. But as a new homeowner, this winter was rough on my budget. There’s nothing like getting a $200 energy bill in the mail to get you thinking seriously about saving energy! When we moved in to our house last fall, we had tried a few basic tricks to reduce energy use: replacing old incandescent light bulbs with LEDs; installing programmable thermostats so our heat was only on when we needed it; putting on storm windows to reduce heat loss. Even so, this winter was a wakeup call. I know I’m not alone: many of us want to shrink our carbon footprint - and our bills! But we don't always know how to take the next step.
At our April Monthly Meetup last Thursday, the conversation was all about energy efficiency and conservation – and the particular challenges and opportunities around energy use in our community. To put things in context, we were excited to share the results of our first community-wide greenhouse gas emissions inventory, hot off the press last week! The inventory is a complete account of all the emissions sources within the Missoula urban development boundary – and gives us a baseline from which to measure progress towards long- and short-term climate mitigation goals. (Check out the full report here and an article about it in the Missoula Current here!)
As the pie chart shows, residential energy use makes up nearly a quarter of our community’s emissions. Not only is this a big slice of the pie, but it’s an area where everyone can get involved. Our individual efforts make a real impact when they are part of a collective movement. That’s why we’re challenging Missoula to be Energy Smart and reduce our use 10% by 2018!
We hope you’ll take us up on our Energy Smart challenge and commit to doing your part to save energy! Here at Climate Smart, we don’t have a silver bullet for how best to track and reduce our energy use, but we’re not going to let perfection get in the way of progress. We’re ready to help Missoula start saving energy - here’s what you can do TODAY to join us:
I’ll leave you with a few of the great energy-saving ideas that came out of our meetup - this is the kind of creative thinking we love to see. Have more ideas? Want to help make these happen? Let us know!
Thanks to everyone who joined us for another great gathering last week! Mark your calendars for the next Monthly Meetup on local food and agriculture – Thursday, May 4th, 5-7pm at Imagine Nation!
Quick survey: which of the following reasons would be most likely to persuade you to make a change, large or small, in your life: a) it would save you money; b) it’s the right thing to do; or c) it will improve your health?
If you chose C, you’re in good company. Health is a big motivator for many people – and health professionals are some of the most trusted messengers. Combine this with the fact that research has demonstrated the effectiveness of emphasizing positive benefits in motivating people to act, and you get some interesting insights into how to communicate about climate change, especially with those who may not yet be completely convinced of its seriousness.
Climate communication and health was the topic of our March monthly meetup last week – and it was a popular one! The community room at Imagine Nation was packed with folks who came to learn, meet others, and contribute to a great conversation about, well, how to have conversations about climate change.
Many thanks to Beth Schenk, nurse scientist and Sustainability Director at St. Patrick Hospital, who facilitated the discussion. Beth started out by sharing some interesting statistics on perceptions about health and climate change among Americans. A recent groundbreaking study by Yale and George Mason Universities identified “6 Americas”: six different attitudes toward climate change that fall along a spectrum, from “Alarmed” on one end to “Dismissive” on the other. It’s a totally fascinating study – I highly recommend checking it out.
One surprising insight from this study: the “Alarmed” segment was the only group in which the majority of participants could list a specific health impact of climate change. In other words, those who are aware of the health challenges posed by climate change are alarmed.
In our current era of political polarization, it’s tempting to look at the above spectrum and wonder how we could ever bridge the gap. And yet, evidence suggests that changing the conversation around climate change can help move folks further along this spectrum. By emphasizing the co-benefits – those activities, processes, policies, and impacts – of taking action to mitigate climate change, especially in terms of both personal and community health, we can find messages that resonate with all 6 Americas.
Wondering what I mean? At our meetup, we came up with some great examples of co-benefits – things that reduce our carbon footprint, while improving health – and then brainstormed some messages that could help convey the value of these efforts. Take a look:
I hope these examples give you some inspiration for new ways to frame the climate conversation. While we cannot avoid talking about the urgent and serious negative implications of climate change, it is also critical to discuss climate solutions in a way that offers hope and inspires action.
Optimism: Maintaining our Mental Health and Hope
We ended the evening with a powerful discussion about hope and optimism when it comes to working on climate change. I know personally there are some days when I feel overwhelmed and sad – I’d guess that you do too. And that’s only natural. Solastalgia is a word coined in 2003 by philosopher Glenn Albrecht, to describe the feeling of distress we feel when we see the natural world around us changing. Solastalgia is a normal response to the reality of climate change. So how do we maintain optimism?
This question reminded me of an essay I read a few years ago by the environmental writer David Orr, in which he described the difference between optimism and hope. Orr says, “Optimism leans back, putting its feet up, and wears a confident look, knowing that the deck is stacked. Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up. Hopeful people are actively engaged in defying or changing the odds.”
So what is the secret? What are some characteristics of these hopeful people? We noticed that they:
So, what would help US to be more hopeful? Here are just a few ideas that folks shared:
A Few Resources
Some suggested reading and viewing ideas that came up in our conversation:
Inspiration can come in many different forms, small and large, ranging widely in complexity. We at Climate Smart are constantly looking for new and different forms of inspiration to keep us going. For me, last week’s inspiration started with a delicious cappuccino and a trip to Exploration Works!, and ended with a spot on impression of Baloo the bear. What does this have to do with Climate Smart? Stay with me…..
My fellow Energy Corps members (and myself) were invited to attend the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) of Montana’s annual summit in Helena last week. We visited three LEED certified building, learned from seven brilliant presenters, and celebrated the successes in green building with this year’s Sustainability Awards. Though the official theme was “Partnership is the New Leadership”, a new theme quickly emerged for me: finding inspiration in the fearless ambition of kids and young people.
We toured Exploration Works as one of the three LEED certified buildings and within moments, we were touching EVERYTHING. Seriously, how do enter a science museum and not immediately turn into a child? We made fast friends with our fellow patrons (the toddlers) at the water pump station, built towering structures with magnetic blocks, and vaguely listened to the list of sustainable materials used in construction. All of that plus the caffeine left my brain buzzing with excitement for the rest of the afternoon. I felt like a kid again.
Throughout the conference, we continually came back to the idea of improving school buildings and providing students with creative opportunities to learn from and engage with green building and energy issues. Our keynote speaker and master of the Baloo impression, Lee Smit, shared stories of his work building an incredible student-led sustainability program for Douglas County School District that grew from 11 students to over 7,000 students in six years. Simply by empowering students of all ages to lead this program, schools starting seeing drastic changes in energy use and behavior from students and staff across the board. Compared to energy efficiency and conservation programs that are typically simplistic and unexciting, the numbers were staggering.
The Sustainability Award winners recognized by USGBC highlighted projects that display the type of bold and innovative thinking that happens when people embrace that fearless ambition found in students like Claire Valases. Claire is an 8th grade student at Sacajawea Middle School in Bozeman who was recognized with the Community Champion Award for her efforts to fund the installation of solar panels as part of the new construction taking place at her middle school. She has already raised over $25,000 and has no intention of backing down. I have no doubt she will continue to do amazing things in the future! (Check out Claire’s incredible efforts here and donate to the cause!)
This may sound strange, but I have many childhood memories about waste. I remember picking up trash at campsites and on walks along the beach; my dad methodically separating recyclables in the bins under the kitchen sink; my grandma rinsing out plastic ziplock bags to be reused until they fell apart; my mom bringing her reusable grocery bags to the store before it was cool. We didn’t have a lot of money, so things were used and reused. Leftovers were a hot commodity. The underlying message was: nothing goes to waste. When I moved to Montana a few years ago, it was the first place I’d ever lived where there my recycling wasn’t automatically picked up along with my trash each week. Paying extra for recycling?! That seemed crazy – no wonder it wasn’t common.
It’s true, we’ve got our work cut out for us here. Montanans make more waste than the national average, at 7 lbs per person, per day, compared with 4.3 lbs. Another dubious distinction: Missoula’s recycling rate of 22% is well below the national average of 35%. I often talk to people who share my frustration about the lack of recycling options here in Missoula. But I’ve also come to learn that the problems with waste are much bigger than what happens to stuff when we dispose of it, either in the landfill or the recycling bin.
Every pound of waste we recycle or throw away represents a shocking 71 pounds of waste that was created upstream (through raw materials extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and everything that happens before stuff gets to us)
Ultimately, we can’t recycle our way to Zero Waste – there’s a reason Reduce and Reuse are the first two Rs! Zero Waste is a lofty aim, but Missoula is making progress. In fact, one big goal within Climate Smart Missoula’s Zero Waste Bucket has already been checked off the list: in February 2016, our city council passed a Zero Waste Resolution, which committed our community to creating a Zero Waste Plan, a blueprint for reaching the ultimate goal of a 90% reduction in waste by 2050.
The process of creating that plan is now underway, and to make it a real, practical guide and not just shelf art, we need your input and ideas! Do you think there should be an incentive for developers to hire a deconstruction crew instead of demolition? Would you like to see a municipal composting program for food scraps? Tell us! Here’s how to get involved:
Moving toward zero waste is about recognizing the impact our stuff has across its life cycle – where it comes from, how we use it, and what happens to it when we're done using it. When we Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, we come closer to living within the natural limits of our planet, creating a healthier, wealthier, and more responsible community for generations to come. -Abby
Last week, I ventured deep into Eastern Montana to Ashland where the rolling hills are seemingly endless and the sky is bigger than ever. Every year, Americorps and its many programs recognizes MLK day as a national day of service and, in that spirit, our Energy Corps program organized a light weatherization project in Ashland and the surrounding Cheyenne reservation lands.
I had the opportunity to put together and present a short lesson on home energy efficiency and conservation with the help of other Energy Corps members. The tips and tricks we discussed were meant to be simple changes with noticeable impacts. It is easy to glance at your energy bill once a month, but it’s a whole other step to think critically about what is causing those energy spikes and how. Beginning to think about energy use in this way can often spark a continued commitment to creating a more sustainable lifestyle. (Find out how you can start saving in your home!)
Following the presentation, we spent two days visiting homes and installing basic materials meant to make the home more comfortable during the cold winter months. We were able to offer window plastic and metal door weatherstripping to minimize cold drafts, insulation blankets for water heaters, LED light bulbs, outlet gaskets, and water conservation fixtures. Though these offerings felt pretty minimal compared to what the homes really needed, it gave us the opportunity to learn about the families and history that make up these communities.
I met a woman whose home burnt down in the Ash Creek Fire during the summer of 2012. We were sent to weatherize the FEMA trailer she now shares with her husband and five grandchildren. She shared with us the pain of losing the first real home her grandchildren had after spending five years in foster care and the frustration with inadequacy of their now permanent living situation. What she really needed was insulation in the walls of the trailer, a new door that fit the frame, or in an ideal world… a new home. Even through all of this, she was bursting with pride and joy when she told us her oldest grandson was just accepted to MSU where he hopes to study social work. A truly remarkable and resilient family.
We had close to 40 community members attend our energy efficiency and conservation lesson on Tuesday morning, and as a team, we were able to weatherize 28 homes. Our efforts only scratched the surface of what that community really needs, but it reminded me all we have to be grateful for. Today, I am grateful I had the opportunity to share my knowledge with people who can use and benefit from it. I am grateful for the families who welcomed us into their homes and shared their stories. I am also grateful I got to enjoy sunny, 45 degree weather and pet LOTS of puppies last week.
After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the sudden arrival of the new year often sneaks up on me. The fully decorated Christmas tree still standing in my living room seems like a painful reminder of unfinished business. There never seems to be quite enough time! Are we ever really ready for a new year to begin?
Ready or not, 2017 is here. And we at Climate Smart Missoula are ready to dive back in and keep working towards the big picture we know is achievable when we all work together: a low-carbon, healthy, resilient community. We had a great group of folks join us to kick off our first Monthly Meetup of the year last night at INBC, focused on education and outreach and our community emissions inventory. These two things are connected pretty closely – and both are at the heart of why Climate Smart Missoula exists.
Educating our community about the nexus between climate change and lots of important issues (like water, energy, local food and more) is a big part of our work. We’ve got a website and facebook page with resources which we’re updating constantly, but we need your help coming up with more creative ways to do education and outreach. Send your fun and artistic ideas our way!
Last night we also shared some very preliminary insights from our forthcoming first-ever community emissions inventory: basically a carbon footprint for Missoula which breaks down where our emissions come from. Spoiler alert: transportation and home energy use are big. (We’re working on the full report – stay tuned...) Armed with data from our inventory, we can work strategically to shrink our community’s carbon footprint in ways that have a big impact. So, you might be wondering…what might that look like?
At our Meetup, our friends from Missoula in Motion joined us to share what they’re doing to promote sustainable transportation. MiM is one of the movers and shakers behind great community events like Walk and Roll Week, Sunday Streets, and Commuter Challenges. Their Way to Go Club is another way to encourage Missoulians to choose an alternative mode of transportation than driving alone in our cars. (This program is making some big changes soon that will make it even more accessible – learn more here!) In fact, our city’s new Long Range Transportation Plan will include an ambitious “mode split” goal of increasing the number of sustainable trips. Check out more information about the planning process here.
On the home energy side, we’ve got some big ideas – and we’d love your feedback! Our goal is to reduce residential energy use by 10%. That’s no small potatoes, but together we can do it, and we’re working on a program that’s designed to help you find ways to save energy. The idea is a community energy-saving challenge, where households sign up and commit to cutting their utility bills as much as possible, then compete with one another to earn rewards along the way and see who can make the biggest dent. There would also be an option to join a group (like your workplace, church, neighborhood, or favorite brewery) and compete against other groups for prizes. So…what do you think? Are you in? What incentives would entice you to participate, beyond saving money on your power bills? Let us know!
There’s so much more on the radar for 2017. Stay tuned, and keep in touch!
Anyone who has spent a winter in Missoula knows it can be a dark season in the valley - and with recent world events, that darkness has felt to me even heavier than usual. But yesterday, on the shortest day of the year, the sun decided to show its face in Missoula in what seemed like the first time in weeks. It was an auspicious sign, as many of our friends and partners (MontPIRG, 350 Missoula, AERO, MREA, Hellgate S.A.V.E., MCV Ed Fund, the Sierra Club, and more) came down to our Solar Solstice Rally to celebrate and show support for the future of solar energy in our state and city. We were also joined by two great local solar installers, SBS Solar and Jordan Solar. We kept warm with cameraderie and cocoa (thanks Liquid Planet!) - a joyful way to ring in the winter solstice!
As we look forward to 2017, there's no denying there are challenges ahead. But the bright future of solar energy is one thing that gives us hope when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint and building a cleaner and healthier community. The solar industry is growing and the cost of solar energy is now cheaper than ever. Another reason we love solar is that it's something everyone can get behind. In fact, the vast majority of voters on both sides of the aisle support using more renewable energy like solar and wind. In such a polarized political climate, that's something worth celebrating!
Still, the future of solar isn't a sure thing - it's up to all of us to make our voices heard! Not everyone can put solar panels on their roof, so we also need state policies that increase access to renewable energy, like expanded net metering and PACE legislation, to name just a couple that we will be supporting in the upcoming legislative session. Check out our infographic and Solar Smart webpage to learn how you can get active in making solar energy our future. And, we hope you'll join us in the community room at Imagine Nation Brewing on January 5th for our first monthly meetup of 2017!
We wish you all a holiday season filled with light and love!
-Abby (and Amy and Hailey)