Kelli Hess

Next week, March 25-31, is Zero Waste Week in Missoula. In fact, Mayor Andrea Davis, is officially proclaiming Saturday, March 30th Zero Waste Day. At Home ReSource we’re celebrating this week with events that call attention to the waste and consumption issues facing our community.

Our current linear economic system is designed so that the majority of resources are extracted, manufactured, sold, used and discarded. Simply put and explained by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, it’s a take, make, waste system. Unfortunately, in this system every step has a negative impact on our planet.  In the beginning, extracting natural resources from our ecosystem both emits greenhouse gases and reduces our planet’s ability to self-cool.

In the middle, manufacturing and transportation from where materials are produced to the doorsteps of consumers has an incredible emissions impact on our environment. At the end of a linear economy materials are used and thrown away. Some materials like plastics are designed to never decompose, while others naturally decompose producing methane gas when they reach the landfill. Linear economies are an unsustainable and costly driver of climate change.

Moving from a linear and consumption-based economy to a circular economy based on the principles of reduce, reuse, repair, and zero waste is a climate change solution with local economic and environmental benefits. During Zero Waste Week we’ll be encouraging Missoulians to waste less and in turn consume less too.

We often consider the carbon footprint and emissions created by our vehicles or within our home, but have not been trained to think about the embodied carbon in the materials we consume. For example, many of us pay attention to the carbon emissions created by the cars we drive. My 2016 Toyota Rav4 emits through its tailpipe 330+ grams of greenhouse gasses per mile driven, while a 16oz latte has on average 550 grams of embodied carbon (not including the to-go cup).  Embodied carbon - also known as embodied greenhouse gas emissions -  is defined by the EPA as the amount of greenhouse emissions associated with upstream - extraction, production, transport, and manufacturing - stages of a product's life.

When we reduce our consumption, we directly reduce both waste going to the landfill and the greenhouse gases created during production. Win, Win!  Taking inventory of the emissions produced by what we consume is essential, especially when Americans are among the biggest consumers in the world. Communities are starting to put emphasis on tracking the embodied carbon footprint of their consumption.

Being thoughtful about reducing our consumption is a critical step towards a circular and sustainable economy. Home ReSource is Missoula’s sustainability center and strives to help our community have a local circular economy.  In our store we collect, sort, and make building materials available for reuse. Last year we diverted over 1.8 million pounds of materials from the landfill for reuse. Every time a material is reused it’s a win win because consumption is less AND the amount of waste in our landfill is less.  We also host monthly Fix It Clinics to encourage a spirit of repair, helping to keep more materials in a circular economy. Adding longevity to a product's life is another way to reduce our carbon footprint, consume less, and produce less waste. Win,win, win!

The City of Missoula and Home ReSource are working toward waste reduction goals and we invite you to take the Zero Waste Week Pledge during the week of March 25-31. It’s just one week to think differently about what we buy, use and throw away.  Can you commit to trying 2 new ways to reduce your impact? When you pledge to be waste free for the week, you’ll get the opportunity to attend zero waste activities and receive curated emails for Home ReSource with lifestyle changes that you can easily implement.  Ready to pledge? Visit our website to learn more.

Kelli Hess is the Executive Director at Home ReSource. Climate Smart Missoula brings this Climate Connections column to you two Fridays of each month.  Learn more about our work, support our efforts, and sign up for our e-newsletter at



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