Gettin' green over Earth Week

One of the older projects at FLAT, the “hot house,” uses horse manure to keep the plants inside it warm through the colder days of the year. The residents of the FLAT house are in charge of maintaining all the projects at the house, and educating other students on what they are doing to remain sustainable.

Earth Day is April 22 and Missoula Urban Demonstration Project (MUD) looks to help students go green for the holiday.

MUD creates a replicable model of sustainable living in urban locations through education, demonstration and fun.

Located next to Home Resource, it’s easy to overlook the four shipping containers that make up the central MUD location. However, within their walls are the inner workings of MUD’s business, said Ann Quirk, the MUD membership campaign coordinator.

“Missoula is doing a great job but there are always ways we can improve by thinking things through a little bit more before getting in our car to drive two blocks,” Quirk said.

Quirk said part of MUD’s goal is to show people how to combine the world of living in a city with a sustainability-aware lifestyle — hence their choice of reusing shipping containers.

One of the most popular resources MUD has offered is their tool library, which is what pulled University of Montana student Matt DeLaney into MUD.

DeLaney, a senior studying resource conservation, was a librarian before becoming one of four MUD residents two years ago.

The residents grow food, keep up with the native garden plants, take care of the chickens and help with MUD events. Since it is open to the public at certain times, the residents often become a visible extension of what MUD is for curious people.

A sustainable life is possible whether you grew up playing in the dirt or avoiding it, DeLaney said. Someone can easily start their own small garden to substitute other foods. Plus, he added, once the planning process of a garden is done, the gardening becomes almost thoughtless.

“You get out there and you don’t have to think about exams, or what needs to be done,” Delaney said. “You can let your mind go crazy and you can day dream about whatever.”

David Schaad, a sophomore at UM, is an example of a student finding time for healthy choices among classes.

“Power seems limitless, which sounds like a Spiderman quote,” Schaad said with a laugh. “But it is with consequence that goes far beyond our apartment or dorm room.”

Schaad is on the UM Sustainable Campus Committee, where he met with staff and other facility services to look at how to make the campus greener.

He also volunteered as an Eco Rep for a semester to educate others about green-living ideas in dorms. Some easy things to do include biking or walking instead of driving, turning off your computer at night and taking shorter showers.

“As much as this isn’t going to solve the world’s problems by itself, recycling is amazing,” he said. “Buying new plates instead of throw-away-able, even.” 

Shaad was one of three Eco Reps during its first year of operation and was surprised the eight slots were not filled. He was also surprised by the lack of involvement.

“Students are already overwhelmed and there’s a lot competing for their time in a day,” Shaad said. “School comes first and that extra hour at an eco-friendly meeting may not feel possible.”

Brian Connelly, a graduate who studied natural resources ecology, is looking to go back to school at UM.

With his schedule, Connelly said he has to pick and choose his battles, such as not eating locally year round. Riding his bike and educating himself in what he is buying are some efforts Connelly said he would continue to make. 

There are always things people can do to minimize intake, Connelly said.

“Whether that’s just being attentive to the energy you use in your apartment, to the amount that you purchase and the things you recycle,” he said. “Nobody is required to live a sustainable lifestyle, but to say you can’t live more sustainably than you are because you’re busy — it seems like a bit of a cop-out.” 

katheryn.houghton@umontana.edu