Zero Waste Montana Meets Zero Waste Colorado

By Alexa Holliday:

At the end of June, I embarked with my fellow members of Missoula’s Zero Waste Action League to learn all we could from the Zero Waste cohort of Boulder County and Fort Collins in preparation for drafting Missoula’s ZerobyFifty Pathway to Zero Waste Plan. Our travel crew consisted of Jeremy, my supervisor, Katie the E.D. of Home ReSource, Chase Jones with the City of Missoula and Sean Doty, Energy Corps Member with the City of Missoula.

We left on a Wednesday morning on the red eye flight and landed in Denver with a full day ahead of us. The trip started in Boulder with a brunch stop at a Zero Waste restaurant where we spoke with the owner about how she was able to divert 95% of the waste to the landfill. After seeing our first zero waste business in action, we made our way over to a hotel that also was awarded with the label of Zero Waste. It was inspiring to see all of the business owners and managers who had dedicated their business to model around Zero Waste before it was even a city ordinance.

After exploring the downtown scene, we made our way to Ecocycle, one of the largest recycling non-profits in the country. This business has a recycling pickup service, recycling processing facility and hard-to-recycle materials center. They also have a building materials reuse center and educate over 25,000 K-12 students each year! The scale of this business far exceeds anything Missoula has and was such an amazing opportunity. This organization showed us how much room Missoula has to grow and it is exciting to see such a strong business that does so much and has been going strong since 1976!!

To end the long but rewarding first day, we attended the Resource Advisory Board meeting for Boulder County. It was fascinating to see so many people everywhere from small recycling business owners to County employees discussing long running Zero Waste efforts — a somewhat new concept to Missoulians.

Energy Corps Member Sean Doty and I checking out the aftermath of a machine that condenses styrofoam.

The following day we toured New Belgium Brewery Sustainability Tour, Longmont’s Waste Diversion Center, Timberline Recycling Center, a crushing facility for concrete, asphalt, porcelain, a new composting area and spoke with the Zero Waste crew at the City of Fort Collins. As we spoke with more people and had our questions answered by Zero Waste experts, the puzzle pieces for ZerobyFifty became more and more clear.

The last day of our trip we toured Momentum Recycling Center, Boulder County Recycling Center, and University of Colorado’s materials recycling facility.

So much information was formulated this week as we debriefed and formulated a solid outline of the key components of a successful city-wide Zero Waste plan.

It was such a great growing experience to be able to tour all of these facilities, talk with close to a dozen experts on Zero Waste and really begin to see how reducing waste not only is possible in a city like Missoula but runs fairly smoothly and creates jobs!

Alexa Holiday graduated from the University of Montana in 2014 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. Previously to joining Energy Corps, she served as an Americorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) member. With Americorps NCCC, Alexa provided educational support for elementary schools in Arizona and Colorado and created a solar energy exhibit for a children’s museum in Texas. Alexa is currently serving at Home Resource. She will support Missoula in becoming a Zero-Waste community and act as the primary youth educator for a waste reduction program.

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