Over the years we have implemented a number of sustainable living techniques at the MUD site. Scroll through this page to learn more about them and how to use similar resources in your own life!
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 updating and maintenance in order to be used effectively. If you are interested in using shipping containers for your next building project check out some of the strengths and weaknesses we have encountered with them at our site or stop by to see them for yourself.
+ Reuse: Many shipping containers have a short lifespan and end up being stored for a long period of time. Using the containers gave us quick access to storage space and made use of reused materials.
+ 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 replacing 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 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 met the cool air in the storage space the moisture condensed and froze on the container’s surfaces and on the tools. We will be insulating and heating the storage space to prevent further issues.
– Accessibility: It can be difficult for tool library members 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):
- 11 Tips You Need to Know Before Building a Shipping Container Home
- What I Wish I’d Known Before Building My Shipping Container Home
- Building With Shipping Containers
Urban Gardening (Greenhouse, Fruit Trees, Compost, Xeriscape)
Despite our small space, we are able to grow many fresh vegetables each summer in our urban garden. The raised beds allow us to add compost each year, and we use drip irrigation run by a timer to minimize water evaporation and erosion. In the past we also used vertical growing space and repurposed containers with our pallet gardens for growing greens 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 taste some of our veggies the next time you’re at our site!
- Planting a Successful Home Vegetable Garden (MSU Extension)
- Can I Grow That Here? (MSU Extension)
- Heirloom Vegetables for Montana Gardeners (MSU Extension)
- Harvesting and Saving Garden Seeds (MSU Extension)
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 your plants started earlier and providing a little extra heat on cold nights. However, they also require close observation to make sure the space isn’t overheated during the day or developing any pest or disease problems.
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.
- Home Composting (MSU Extension)
- How to Build a Compost Bin
- How to Start Composting – Including links to more in-depth information!
- 7 Things to Never Compost
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 help provide us with 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 less 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.
- Yard and Garden Water Management (MSU Extension)
Concrete and asphalt are commonly found around commercial sites but can funnel pollutants into waterways or 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 groundwater, they also make use of recycled materials.
Glass Aggregate: The glass 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.
Harnessing the sun’s energy has long been MUD’s vision as we designed our demonstration site. Angling the roof above containers 2 and 3 southward, we have a large (28.5’x42′) exposed surface ideal for solar panels. We built our roof 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. The solar panels will be able to provide all the energy needed for our site and we can add more panels if the site expands.
The roof where the solar panels are installed 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:
- Climate Smart’s Solar Smart – Information about solar projects in Missoula and Montana
- Climate Smart’s Solar Ease – Practical Information for your own solar project
- Project Sunroof – Estimate your home’s solar potential!
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 was collected from our roof we could 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:
MUD’s Tool Library, established in 1987, demonstrates sustainable living by sharing tools, resources, and knowledge, enabling MUD members to improve their lives and homes and become more self-sufficient. With over 2,000 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 we still have the resources we need to move large items, but individuals aren’t burdened with the monetary and environmental costs associated with owning large vehicles.