The State of Flathead’s Plastic

Community resilience is more than a fancy buzzword thrown around by scientists and politicians, it is something tangible that affects daily life here in Montana. The power of community resilience was recently put on display at the State of Flathead’s Plastic event hosted by Climate Smart Glacier Country, a community based non-profit. Their event drew in nearly 300 community members to discuss the lack of effective plastic recycling in the Flathead Valley and develop actionable solutions. The event was focused around identifying current limitations and barriers to local recycling, and brainstorming new ways to address these issues. Speakers from a variety of different backgrounds traveled across the state to share their knowledge and expertise with our community members. There was representation from several local recycling programs, plastic repurposing companies, university professors, and leaders throughout the community. The diversity of backgrounds gave this event a unique breadth that encompassed the whole spectrum of stakeholders. It was a unique opportunity for community members to interact with leaders in the field, an interaction that is vital to the success of our recycling programs.

The structure of the event enabled community members to ask questions after each speaker, creating a direct line of communication between community leaders and citizens. The questions that were asked by the community were diverse, and included a wide range of perspectives. It was inspiring to see how a variety of perspectives can provide depth to an issue and uncover certain problem areas that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. It takes collaboration and cooperation to effectively enact change, and there is no better way to do this than by bringing a community together. Collaboration and cooperation was achieved during the brainstorming session near the end of the event. This session was built around three separate overarching topics: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Each of these topics were split into groups focusing on three different aspects of each category: consumer, business, and recovery. This system resulted in nine separate groups, each dedicated to finding solutions to their particular issue. For example, one group was tasked with coming up with actionable solutions to recycling within businesses, another was tasked with reducing plastic consumption as a consumer. So on and so forth. The brainstorming session enabled community members to take part in the solution, and better yet, determine what the solution is. Each community member came in with a different skill set, perspective, and outlook. The culmination of all our experiences resulted in efficient and effective action items that can be adopted to help reduce our input into the plastic pollution crisis. Great things happen when individuals find their role in helping the community.

One major takeaway from the event as a whole is that the community is inspired and invested to take action to reduce plastic waste in our environment.. The combined interest of our community members is valuable, it carries weight. This event built momentum towards positive change in our communities. We can carry this momentum forward, and use it to make meaningful change. Climate Smart Glacier Country is holding a follow-up event to do just that, with their “Green Drinks” event. Join CSGC on Thursday December 5th from 5-7 PM at the Meadow Lake Bar and Grille. The brainstorming session produced action items providing avenues for making a difference locally, Green Drinks serves as a platform for community members to review  the action items and come up with next steps for implementing them. If you want to find out how to better your community, I suggest attending the event so you can offer your own perspective to the discussion.