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Armed with a pair of scissors and a sewing machine, Deborah Hayes demonstrated just how easy it is to turn an old T-shirt into a reusable grocery bag.

Cut off the sleeves, then cut out the neck and sew one seam into the bottom to connect the old shirt’s two sides.

“Two minutes,” Hayes said of the process of turning an unwanted shirt into a bag, which can be used to replace hundreds of plastic sacks used by a single shopper each year.

“It’s very simple. You’re reducing consumption, you don’t have to spend money on it and they end up looking so awesome,” Hayes said.

Hayes was one of several Transition Town Missoula volunteers sewing outside Sunday at Missoula Urban Demonstration’s Earth Day celebration in Caras Park.

Just across the park, Monica Dierken was hard to miss in her dress made of 500 plastic bags, which drove home the importance of Transition Town’s project.

“This is showing that one person in one year uses 500 plastic bags,” said Dierken, a volunteer for the Ecology Project Initiative, or EPI.

MUD’s sixth-annual event focused on bringing organizations like EPI and Transition Town together to celebrate and educate people on sustainable living practices. More than 30 organizations were represented at Caras on Sunday.

“We want people to understand our community has a tremendous amount of resources to help people live a sustainable life. It’s a free event to see what this community has to offer. I think Missoula should be proud of what it has to offer,” said MUD board president Lauren Caldwell.

Transition Town Missoula is one of the newest groups in town, and organizers are hoping to promote and share ideas to make a more resilient, conscious and creative community.

The group aims to create a forum where people within a community can come together to create local solutions to global problems, such as climate change, said Justin McCoy, who is helping organize Transition Town here.

“Addressing those issues on an individual level might not be enough. If we wait for the government, it will be too little, too late. If we address it as a community, we can move the whole community forward,” McCoy said.

Making reusable T-shirt bags is just one way to help. McCoy encouraged anyone with creative ideas on how to better the community go to Transition Town’s website,, to find out how to participate.

“To me, (Transition Town) is basically looking at our town and seeing how can we work to better it in the future?” volunteer Hayes said. “People are really thinking about how to do it all the time. How can we make Missoula a better community, a more sustainable one?”

Along with Transition Town’s reusable bag demonstration, the Earth Day event featured many kids’ activities, live music and the Sustainability Olympics, where teams competed events like Earth Day trivia and a can-crushing race.

For its part, MUD is gearing up to relocate and expand its Missoula Tool Library and its Truck Share programs. The two-year, $450,000 project should be finalized in July when MUD opens up a second space on Wyoming Street next to HomeResource.

The expansion is projected to help give 500 additional households in Missoula access to tools, transportation and sustainable practices information, a brochure for the project said.

Most of MUD’s programs are run by volunteers, as was the entire Earth Day event.

“It’s a tiny organization. For us to be doing a $450,000 project, it’s a big deal,” Caldwell said.

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