Sustainability in action 

Last Tuesday, August 12, the second Sustainability Tour of 2003 made the rounds, visiting some of Missoula’s finest examples of housing built from local materials, with an eye toward minimizing waste and maximizing energy efficiency. The tour was organized by HomeWORD, a Missoula organization dedicated to developing affordable and sustainable housing options for low-income individuals and families.

Home construction consumes over 40 percent of the world’s energy and raw materials, while accounting for 44 percent of landfill material, HomeWORD claims. By building sustainably, with local and recycled materials when possible, and with the employment of energy-efficient design and wise use of space, much can be done to reduce this waste.

We sat on the roof of the Gold Dust, on North 1st, HomeWORD’s newest development. The building’s siding is metal, with baked-on paint that should last 50 years. The design includes plenty of shading features to reduce the need for cooling. Warmth comes from radiant floor heat.

Earlier in the evening, the tour had stopped at a strawbale demonstration home on the north side of town, and at Fireweed Court on Russell, a high-density rental community featuring carpets made from recycled plastic pop bottles, recycled insulation, an on-site recycling system, and a strawbale wall to keep out noise from the street.

“Brilliant ideas aren’t obvious until you hear them,” said attendee Judy Mosher. “This is very inspiring.”

The evening ended in the Rattlesnake Valley at the PEAS farm’s new barn, the strawbale walls of which are framed with recycled timbers. While we munched salad and sipped beer, representatives from NorthWestern Energy described the various incentives available to customers who switch to sustainable technologies, including rebates on horizontal washing machines and energy-efficient light bulbs, as well as business and homeowner assistance for the purchase and installation of solar-electric systems.

The first Sustainability Tour, on July 10, signed up 20 people. This time HomeWORD “sold out” (the cost is on a sliding scale, $5-$25) at 44. In case you missed it, there will be one more, on September 9. For more information, or to reserve your spot, call 543-3550.

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