As September winds down, Missoulians are reveling in the colorful days of fall. Our deciduous leaves turn red or golden and the larch on the hillsides begin to brighten, first light green then yellow. Who doesn't love the trees that have grown around us? Why not add another seedling to the mix? Or two?
Fall is an excellent time to buy and plant a local native tree or fruit tree. Roots have time to establish in these favorable conditions, allowing for a stronger tree through the stresses of the following summer. Climate Smart has tips of which species make sense and what to consider when planting around your home. We're making it easy to get digging.
Of course many of us live where we cannot plant our own private trees. Luckily there's an opportunity to volunteer to plant community trees during the next 8 days. It’s an awesome opportunity to help grow our urban forest – from now through October 5 (most days) you can work with Trees for Missoula and help plant trees that have been growing in these crazy gravel beds at our wastewater treatment plant. It’s time to give them a real home along 3rd street. We’ve got all the details here. Hope you can join the fun.
Trees and shrubs in the Missoula area help us adapt to climate change, providing oodles of benefits:
They lower surface and air temperatures by providing shade as well as through evapotranspiration. Did you know that shaded surfaces may be 20–45°F cooler than the peak temperatures of unshaded areas?
Trees and shrubs also filter pollutants from the atmosphere, reduce energy bills, increase property value, and provide habitat for birds and critters to co-exist with us in our city in the forest. Planting trees, shrubs or even vines to the west and south are typically most effective for cooling a home or business, especially if they shade windows and part of the building’s roof.
Like apples or pears or apricots? Consider a fruit tree (please be Bear Aware if you live in black bear zones - you may need an electric fence).
Think how happy Missoulians will be 20 years from now as the soak up some shade, press some fresh cider, and enjoy another stunning autumn day, brought to them by you! A way to pay it forward?
P.S. After penning this blog, we found this from local writer Ari Levaux. We must have been channeling him! Climate Change Affects Trees, Growing Season.
P.S.S. This is a good week, given these warm temperatures, to water your trees so they head into winter healthy and happy.
At our Climate Smart Missoula monthly meetups, we love teasing out the connections between climate change and a wide variety of issues that affect our community. Sometimes, those connections may not be obvious until we dig below the surface – like in the case of local food and agriculture.
Not so this month. What’s the first image that comes to mind when you think of climate change solutions? A wind turbine? A solar panel? You’re probably not alone – developing renewable energy is a key focus of climate change mitigation strategies, and for good reason. Burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) for energy contributes by far the biggest share of greenhouse gas emissions here in the U.S., so we know that shifting to clean, renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro power is the way of the future. Thankfully, that future is closer every day.
One of the goals laid out in our community climate action plan is to move Missoula towards renewable energy. There’s a lot more we can do – but we’re well on our way. Last night, a few good folks were on hand to share a little more about what renewable energy looks like here in Missoula.
Local Control over Energy
Most of us don’t get to choose where our energy comes from. Our utility – here in the Missoula area, either Northwestern Energy or the Missoula Electric Co-op – buys power from a mixture of power sources, some renewable and others fossil fuel-based, and that mixture of electrons turns your lights on when you flip the switch. But there are some exciting new ways Missoulians can have more control over their energy. One is through community solar, a shared arrangement that allows community members to invest in part of a larger solar installation in exchange for clean energy. As a democratically-run cooperative, Mark Hayden, the general manager for the Missoula Electric Co-op (MEC), explained that MEC installed a 50 kilowatt community solar array in December 2015 in response to co-op members’ desire for more renewable energy. For $700, members essentially purchase one of the panels, guaranteeing them that panel’s energy output for 25 years. There was such demand that it sold out in just a couple months, so MEC has built a second community solar array, this time on the roof of Frenchtown High School. And you may be asking - what about those who can’t afford $700? In collaboration with a local bank and the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program they help make the benefits of the community solar project accessible to low-income members. Pretty cool stuff!
Solarize Missoula is another program that’s moving renewable energy forward in our community, by making the process of rooftop solar installation streamlined and easy for homeowners. Bryan von Lossberg, a key Solarize organizer, explained that through the program four local solar installers put up over 42 new rooftop systems on homes around Missoula last winter – supporting our local economy while shrinking our community carbon footprint. We’re pretty proud that we got to work with great partners like the Montana Renewable Energy Association and the Missoula Federal Credit Union to get Solarize off the ground last year – and it was such a resounding success that we’re doing it again! Keep on the lookout for more information soon and contact us if you would like to be on the list for Solarize Round 2.
The Big Picture
We’re thrilled to see more solar going up around town, and we love to see projects that save money and are good for the planet. But we know that there’s lots more progress to be made. Here at Climate Smart, we’ll continue to advocate for laws and regulations at the local and state level that are friendly towards renewable energy development, and support efforts that make renewable energy more accessible for all.
But it’s important to remember that the cheapest (and most climate smart) energy is the energy we don’t consume! Anything we can do to be more energy-efficient (like trading out old incandescent light bulbs for LEDs) or simply use less energy goes a long way towards reducing our carbon footprint and boosting the impact of new renewable energy sources. We may not all be able to put solar panels on our roof or take part in a community solar project – but collectively, we can all use energy more wisely and use our votes and voices to advocate for clean energy solutions!