Ready… Set… Plan!

by Katie Anderson

MCPS Zero Waste Steering Committee members identifying barriers to Zero Waste

This spring, I have been coordinating a Zero Waste planning effort with Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS). Our goal is to align the district with the City of Missoula’s ZERO by FIFTY plan. MCPS is one of Montana’s largest districts, representing over 10,000 staff and students in 17 schools. After many meetings, presentations, and drafts, the MCPS ZERO by FIFTY Zero Waste Plan is ready to be brought to the district’s Board of Trustees.

            This spring, I worked with my supervisor, Jeremy, to solicit input on this effort from over fifty high school students at three Missoula high schools. With MCPS Superintendent Mark Thane, we convened 17 administrators, board members, principals, teachers, staff, and high school students in a MCPS Zero Waste Steering Committee. Jeremy and I drafted a set of recommendations for a MCPS Zero Waste plan, which we brought to the steering committee for review in a series of meetings.

Committee members offered input, identified anticipated barriers to Zero Waste (over 50!), brainstormed solutions and implementation strategies, and ultimately helped to inform the final Zero Waste plan. We strove to make the planning effort open to and inclusive of students—I was happy to see high school students contributing to each steering committee meeting!

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle sign at Willard Alternative High School Program

 After many iterations of the draft plan, I am wrapping up my work with MCPS. Superintendent Thane has put Jeremy and me on the agenda for a Board of Trustees meeting on June 26th to present the final MCPS ZERO by FIFTY Zero Waste Plan. I am excited to share what we have accomplished so far and to expanding the discussion to the governing board of the K-12 district.

 While my work is wrapping up for the MCPS Zero Waste plan, this plan is only a small precursor of what’s to come. The time and effort put into coordinating meetings, consolidating feedback, and constructing these documents are but an initial investment in the Zero Waste effort. What’s next? Plans are great; actions are better. Perhaps, we’ll pass the torch on to a future Energy Corps member or a district sustainability coordinator to start making our objectives our achievements.

Alone, the Zero Waste plan will accomplish little. If used by the district as a goal, a template, and a starting line for Missoula’s collective journey towards Zero Waste, MCPS will continue to be “Forward Thinking, High Achieving” as it takes aim at becoming Montana’s first Zero Waste school district.

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Katie Anderson holds a bachelor’s degree in Geosciences and Environmental Studies from Pacific Lutheran University. Prior to Energy Corps, Katie worked in summer camps and with her university’s Outdoor Recreation Program. Katie joined Energy Corps in October 2017 and will serve in Missoula as a Zero Waste Educator/Planner. She will plan and lead education and community Zero Waste efforts for the city of Missoula through Home ReSource, a local non-profit. Katie will also be instrumental in helping Missoula County Public Schools to pilot a zero-waste classroom.

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