Sustainable Missoula: Keeping the Fairgrounds Green as the Fair Approaches


Beginning in 2019, The Western Montana Fair joined Missoula’s Zero by FIFTY initiative, to reduce the material the fairground sends to landfill by 90 percent. In 2021, the Fair welcomed approximately 80,000 visitors producing 38 tons of waste, 2 tons of recyclable materials, including 2 to 300 pounds of aluminum cans.

Since 2018, The Fairgrounds has reduced its waste by 38%. It’s an improvement, but there’s still a long way to go! Creating green initiatives is a step in the right direction, but now is the time to implement them. Here’s how the Fair is working to get to Zero by Fifty and how you can help.

A staple of the Western Montana Fair is the food; funnel cake, Tater-Pigs, Lemondairy, Vikings, etc. Before everyone can enjoy these tasty creations, sellers must meet the following sustainability standards such as: no polystyrene, no plastic bags, no single-use glass, plastic bottles or containers, and no plastic straws.

All vendors must only offer BPI certified compostable plates, bowls, cups, utensils and napkins. Food vendors are also urged to offer incentives to “bring your own” straws and utensils, reduce foodservice packaging in general, offer portion size options to reduce food waste, and use take-back programs foods such as the Missoula Food Bank Food Circle Program.

This year, all vendors are also offering a commemorative aluminum 2022 Western Montana Fair water bottle that can be reused or recycled. This was done with Philipsburg, MT, Montana based company Silver Springs. Aluminum’s infinite recyclability is the perfect choice for The Fair’s Zero Waste goals.

The fairgrounds will have many reciprocals with signage to explain where waste should be disposed of. Republic Service will provide composting, recycling and waste services for the fair. Recycling Works will provide glass recycling for the Fair’s bars (which are also required to provide beverages in recyclable containers).

The Western Montana Fair has also partnered with the Missoula City Department of Community Planning, Development and Innovation to provide zero waste stations at 4-H barns. Under the direction of 4-H Team Leaders, 4-H members are responsible for monitoring these stations to ensure items are properly sorted. This will help ease the workload of the rest of the fair staff who will be dealing with reciprocals in the rest of the fairgrounds.

How can YOU contribute to the Fair’s sustainable development efforts?

You can contribute to the fair’s sustainability efforts before you arrive at the fairgrounds. Instead of driving to the fair, consider walking, cycling or traveling by bus. Not only are you choosing eco-friendly transportation, but you’ll also save money on parking fees! Mountain Line is a zero-fare bus service that offers three routes stopping at the South Avenue entrance to the fairgrounds. Bike to the Fair Day is Friday, August 12. Ride to the Fair and the first 250 riders receive a $2 meal voucher redeemable at any participating Fair Food Kiosk. Missoula in Motion will offer free valet parking from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Free Cycles will offer free bike tuning lessons.

Show off your recycling skills by participating in the Creative Reuse division of the fair. You can give new life or function to old or unwanted materials and have a chance to win cash prizes! Enter your creation in July 29 at MissoulaFairgrounds.com

The green team is the most important component of the Zero Waste initiative. Green team members will help pick up litter, sort recyclable and compostable materials, and educate visitors on how to properly dispose of materials. You can join the green team and help ensure fair attendees leave the fair feeling empowered and informed about zero waste practices!

Green Team members are also eligible for regular volunteer benefits. For every 6 hours of volunteering, members can receive $20 in food dollars, an all-day carnival pass, or a general admission ticket to an arena event. You can sign up to volunteer at the Western Montana Fair at MissoulaFairgrounds.com/guidelines/volunteer.

Whether it’s supporting local agriculture, turning objects into works of art, or fixing the irreparable, sustainability is a long-standing fair trade tradition. Many steps are in place to achieve Zero by Fifty, but it takes a community effort to achieve these goals. Reducing your waste, disposing of waste properly, and respecting the green space of the fairgrounds are steps anyone can take to make the Western Montana Fair a greener event.

Sustainability Events

Here we offer ideas on sustainable ways to stay involved in our community. To learn more, consider signing up for the Climate Smart eNewsletter via their homepage here. And sign up for the Home ReSource eNews through their homepage here.

It’s farmer’s market season! Support local food and farmers. The Missoula Farmers’ Market at XXXX celebrates its 50th season – markets are held Saturday mornings through October, as well as Tuesday evenings July through September. The Clark Fork River Market runs through October.

Sign up to become a volunteer Zero Waste Cafeteria Coach with MCPS.

July 7 — Day of volunteer work on conservation lands near Frenchtown (16 miles west of Missoula). Hosted by 5 Valleys Land Trust. 4-7 p.m. RSVP by email. before July 5.

July 8-10 — Summer Stewardship Project in the Great Burn WSA – at Clearwater Crossingg. next trip is July 22

July 9th – Fixit Clinic – don’t throw it away, fix it!. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Missoula Public Library (Families First Lab). Get help fixing toys. Info/Register here. Free. More clinics on 9/10, 11/12.

July 9-16 — Wildfire Smoke Preparedness Week. check back for details.

July 8-11: Statewide Climate Coalition Actions at NorthWestern Energy in Butte. Save the date and contact Abby for more information.

July 135 p.m.: Annual Jeannette Rankin Peace Center Peace Party at Paddleheads Stadium.

Remember – Donating materials to Home Resource spins the wheels of reuse in our community; and remember everything you need to know about what to do with your unwanted stuff can be found at www.zerobyfiftymissoula.com.

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