Recycled glass pathways. Repurposed building materials. Urban gardens. At MUD, we demonstrate these sustainable living techniques and many more. Read on to learn more about each component of the MUD demonstration site and find resources to help you get started with similar projects at home.

Shipping Containers

The MUD site was constructed with repurposed shipping containers in order to provide a cost-effective storage solution for our tools and office space. The shipping containers are a good solution for protecting tools, keeping out pests and water, and providing office space. However, they also require updates and maintenance in order to be used effectively. If you are interested in using shipping containers for your next building project, read on to learn about the strengths and weaknesses we have encountered at our site.

+ Reuse: Many shipping containers have a short lifespan for transporting goods and materials, and end up being stored for long periods of time. Selecting shipping containers as our storage solution gave us quick access to much needed space and put otherwise wasted resources to good use.
+ Durability: The shipping containers are sturdy and last a long time. We don’t have to worry about some of the issues that arise with traditional construction such as drywall damage or the need to replace siding.
+ Expansion: One of the reasons we chose shipping containers for the site was because we could easily add more containers to expand our site if needed. Additionally, the containers can be stacked if we are unable to acquire additional land for our site.

– Foundation: Our storage containers were not placed on permanent foundations so the containers rise and settle as the ground freezes and thaws. This can make access difficult, such as when the door latches dig into the ground outside of the containers.
– Temperature Regulation: The containers need to be thoroughly insulated to prevent condensation and aid temperature regulation. Our Tool Library office was heated and insulated while the other half of the container was not. When the warm air from the uninsulated space met the cool air in the insulated space, the moisture condensed and froze on the container’s surfaces and on the tools. The entire space has now been insulated to prevent further issues.
– Accessibility: It can be difficult for MUD members and staff to get in and out of the containers or maneuver large tools in the small space.
– Water Drainage: Since the containers have flat roofs we sometimes have issues with water accumulation and drainage. If there are any gaps in the welding of the containers the water can leak down and get under the flooring. 

For more information about building with shipping containers check out these resources (links navigate away from the MUD website):

Urban Gardening (Greenhouse, Fruit Trees, Compost, Xeriscape)

Despite our small space, we are able to grow many vegetables each summer in our urban garden. Raised beds allow us to easily add compost, and we use drip irrigation run by a timer to minimize water evaporation and erosion. In the past we also used vertical growing space, repurposed containers, and topsy-turvy tomato buckets. Surplus vegetables can be preserved using our canning equipment or donated to our neighbors at the Missoula Food Bank. Feel free to grab some of our veggies the next time you’re at MUD! 

Recordings of Past MUD Garden Workshops

Greenhouse: MUD’s greenhouse was built out of sustainably sourced wood from Bad Goat Forest Products and is used to extend our growing season. Small greenhouses like ours are a great tool for getting plants started earlier in the season and for providing a little extra heat on cold nights. However, they also require close observation to make sure the space isn’t overheating during the day or developing pest or disease problems.

MUD recently updated its greenhouse to include a small aquaponics demonstration. Watch this video to learn more!

Compost: Our compost bins are used for collecting food scraps and other organic materials that will slowly break down over time to create nutrient-rich soil for our garden and orchard. We also add llama manure to the garden each year as a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers. While our compost provides great nutrients for the garden, it can also be challenging to effectively manage small-scale compost collection and create the right balance of nitrogen and carbon materials. 

Fruit Trees: The south end of the MUD property is home to a variety of fruit trees including plums and cherries. Not only do the trees provide delicious fruit each year, but they also help the MUD site to be a Certified Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation.

Xeriscape: Xeriscape refers to the practice of landscaping to conserve water by using native and drought-resistant plants. MUD’s xeriscaped north and east boundaries improve water efficiency, require little maintenance, and don’t require the use of chemical fertilizer. Also, a variety of edible perennials, such as hops and currants, provide both aesthetic and nutritional value. 

Permeable Surfaces

Concrete and asphalt are commonly found around commercial sites, but they can funnel pollutants into waterways and cause concerns with pooling and flooding. At MUD we have implemented permeable surfaces whenever possible, including bricks in our parking area and crushed glass in our walkways. Not only do the porous surfaces allow water to naturally absorb back into the water table, they also make use of recycled materials. 

Glass Aggregate: The glass of the MUD site’s crushed glass pathways was recycled and crushed by i.e. Recycling in Missoula. Crushed glass can be used in landscaping, concrete products, and for arts and crafts. Tumbling removes the sharp edges, making it safe for people to handle. 

Psyllium Husk: Our central site initially had psyllium husk as a permeable walkway alternative to concrete or asphalt sidewalks. Psyllium husk is made out of organic material and helps stabilize the soil to form a usable, permeable walkway. It lasted about 5 years at our site and when it came time to install more, the materials were too difficult to obtain so we transitioned to glass aggregate. Here’s a short video of installing the psyllium husk at MUD.

Solar Panels

Harnessing the sun’s energy was MUD’s vision throughout the process of designing our demonstration site. We built a large (28.5’x42′) south-facing roof above Tool Library containers 2 and 3 with the hopes that the roof would one day house solar panels. That vision became a reality in 2018, and the solar panels now provide more than enough energy to power our site.

The roof was built as a DIY project on a budget to help educate and demonstrate how sustainable living choices can be implemented with small steps to meet a large goal. It was built with wood from a deconstructed business and siding from Bad Goat Forest Products. Their wood is sourced within about 15 miles of Missoula and is sustainably harvested to create beautiful wood products. The majority of the remaining building materials on site came from our neighbors at Home Resource. 

Interested in transitioning to solar power? Learn more:

Rainwater Catchment

MUD’s storage roof was also designed with the plan of installing a water catchment system. Missoula receives an average of 15 inches of precipitation per year, and if all of that precipitation is collected from our roof, we can harvest over 10,000 gallons of water each year! Our system has a capacity of over 350 gallons and we will use the gathered water for our demonstration garden, fruit orchard, and native plants. The system was installed with the help of the YWCA’s GRIT (Girls Representing in Trades) program for high school students.

Interested in installing your own rainwater catchment system? Here are a few resources to get started:

In this demonstration video, MUD helps install a rainwater catchment system at Soil Cycle.

Resource Sharing

MUD’s Tool Library, established in 1987, demonstrates sustainable living by sharing tools, resources, and knowledge, thus enabling MUD members to improve their lives and homes and become more self-sufficient. With over 2,500 tools in our inventory, we have everything from hand and power tools for your home and garden to tools that help with food preservation, sewing, and other domestic projects. The tools are available to our members and are shared, just like books in a library.

Truck Share: MUD’s Truck Share has provided the Missoula community with a unique transportation alternative for over a decade. Use your bike, feet, and small vehicles for eco-friendly travel in the city; use our Toyota truck (and trailer!) when you occasionally need a larger vehicle. Shared trucks mean individuals have access to the resources necessary to move large items, but aren’t burdened with the monetary and environmental costs associated with owning large vehicles.