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Several local businesses were recently recognized for their efforts at growing a more sustainable and vibrant local economy. The Sustainable Business Council, a Missoula nonprofit, held its 9th annual Sustainability Awards at Ten Spoon Winery earlier this month.

“When it comes to sustainability, it takes effort to walk the talk,” said SBC executive director Jenny Mish. “By shining a light on some of those who are most dedicated and effective, we express our appreciation and take note of the steps involved in moving toward a more sustainable local economy.”

The SBC used a public nomination process and then selected winners in four categories. The winners had to be in the Missoula area and had to address all three aspects of sustainability – people, planet and profit – in their work.

The Missoula Hybrid Poplar Water Reclamation Project won Sustainable New Venture of the Year.

An innovative multi-stakeholder effort coordinated by the city of Missoula, the Hybrid Energy Group, Watershed Consulting, the Clouse family, Morrison-Maierle Inc. and other organizations, the project takes advantage of the nutrient-processing abilities of poplar trees to help purify reclaimed water from the city’s wastewater facility before discharging it into the Clark Fork River.

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A total of 72,000 hybrid poplar trees were planted this year as part of the 16-year project. The goals of the program are to remove nutrients that would otherwise create ecological problems in the river, and to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and produce marketable wood and energy products.

Upcycled, a Higgins Avenue Hip Strip retail shop, was named Sustainable Business of the Year. All products sold in the store are made from at least 50 percent repurposed materials, and most products are at 95 percent. You can find things like wallets and belts made from used bicycle inner tubes inside. Everything is made by Montanans, and the shop has helped more than 100 “upcycling artists” market their products and grow their brands, Mish said.

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Sussex School won Sustainable Nonprofit of the Year. Sussex was recognized for having a curriculum that focuses on the natural world and for addressing problems and issues through service work, field trips and outdoor activities. Students raised money, removed trash and weeds, planted trees and built trails. The school’s Sustainable Transportation Plan includes a map of bus lines, bike paths and carpooling options for all students. The Sussex campus features two LEED-certified classroom buildings, a garden, and employees that receive health insurance and retirement benefits.

Amy Cilimburg, director of conservation and climate policy for Montana Audubon, won Sustainable Advocate of the Year.

Mish said that Cilimburg has worked tirelessly in a number of roles to educate and inspire action around issues related to global climate change, energy, birds and wildlife. She developed Missoula’s “Conservation and Climate Action Plan,” which was approved unanimously by the city council in 2013. She also brought together a broad network of community members for a series of “climate summits.”

“Missoula is lucky to have so many dedicated people who work so hard to walk their talk,” Mish said. “Visible role models are pivotal in helping others to understand the issues and see what is possible. They catalyze further innovation by informing and inspiring others, who then take initiative and continue to raise the bar.

For more information, visit www.sustainablebusinesscouncil.org.

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Reporter David Erickson can be reached at david.erickson@missoulian.com.

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