This page includes actions that can be taken by all Montanans.



Composting is an easy way to enhance your soil! It seems complicated but it’s really not! Composting is super easy and a great way to get healthy productive soil that’s going to grow strong and delicious food!

What Is It?

Compost is organic matter that begins to break down and decompose to create healthy and nutritious soil! Composting is easy and a great way to help eliminate personal waste, grow amazing food in your garden, and help the environment!

Where Should It Be Done?

Make it convenient! The first step is to choose a good location. One thing to consider is where you are getting the majority of your compost. You can get compost from your kitchen scraps or from your yard and garden! Wherever you get it, make it easy, and put your pile close to there! Another thing to consider is the plants that are nearby. If your pile is close to a big tree or bush there is the potential that your woody friend might take all the good nutrients out of your compost! An additional perk to having your compost located away from trees and bushes is sunlight! The more the better! The more exposed your pile is the better! With more exposure comes faster decomposition! Moisture and warm weather will create some really great organic matter that your plants will LOVE!

But Compost Is Ugly!

A big concern is the look of a compost pile. While they can be unsightly there are ways around that! There are lots of cost-friendly compost bins that could make your yard look even better! There are even some great DIY bins too!

Click here for a link to some cool DIY compost bins! or to some cute cheap ones ones to keep on your kitchen counter or in your yard!

What Can Go In Compost?

The best thing to compost is any sort of organic matter! Organic matter does not mean food that is certified organic from the store, it means any sort of food that is in your kitchen and garden that can break down fast and easy. It usually excludes meat and dairy but can include eggshells, flowers, tea, coffee grounds, and the paper filter, tea bags, hair, toothpicks, and matches! It’s always good to have a good mix in there so make sure to include wet materials like fruits and vegetables! Both dry and wet materials serve an important purpose in creating rich and nutritious dirt! With some oxygen and water, you can compost just about anything!

Some things to consider are that composting meat and dairy is possible, it will just make your pile smell and attract some pests (especially in bear country!)

What If You Do Not Have A Yard Or A Garden?

Even if you don’t have a yard or a garden, you can still compost! There are in-home compost containers that allow you to compost right in your kitchen! There are cheap and attractive options that help you eliminate your waste!

Don’t have a garden? That’s okay! Most every town has a location where you can drop your compost off at! Some communities even offer collection services! Click the links below to find an area near you!


You’ve made all this compost, now what?! There are a few things you could do with it and one of them is starting your own garden! Shopping locally is one great way of cutting down on your environmental impact and what’s more local than your own backyard!

It can be tricky to figure out what you should plant because western Montana has such a short growing season and such a specific climate. Because of our mountainous ecosystem and high elevation, it stays pretty cool during the summer growing season.  Before you can start planting, you have to figure out where to put your garden if you don’t already have one.

Because of the short season, you want your garden to be in an area that receives the most sunlight. This is usually on the south side of where you live and out from under lots of tree coverage. For most plants, you need around 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. One way to increase sun exposure is by building a raised garden bed. This not only increases the soil temperature in the early growing season and spring, but this also helps to cater to the soil conditions towards what you want to grow! It’s easy to mix in compost and manure to create healthy and wonderfully productive soil!

Now, What to Plant?


Beans are excellent at growing in most climates and conditions, they come in a variety of species that are tolerant to Montanas harsh growing conditions! Depending on the species that you grow, make sure that you chose to plant them in an area where they have the room they need so you can have a wonderful harvest! For more information on the specifics of growing beans, check out this website! 


Cucumbers are perfect for a cool crunchy summer snack or a nice addition to any meal. These are also a vegetable that takes a lot of care and attention and specific gardening and space requirements. For more information on planting and harvesting check out this website! 

Squash and Pumpkin!

Squash and pumpkin are wonderful fall treats. While these plants can be labor intensive and require a little more attention, they are very rewarding. Because of how many different varieties of pumpkin and squash there are, you have the opportunity to grow in the summer and the fall before it begins freezing again. For more information on growing pumpkin and squash, visit this website! 


Kale is a reliable option and has good harvest results. Montana’s cool climate is perfect for Kale and it actually brings out its flavors! For more information on when to plant and harvest Kale, visit this website! 


Lettuce is a very versatile vegetable that is easy to care for and has great results! Like most vegetables, it does great with compost and healthy fertile soil! There are several types you can grow and several ways to sow it too. For more information on how to best sow and reap healthy, bountiful lettuce, check out this website and video! 


Spinach is not only versatile in the garden, but in the kitchen! There are several different ways to cook this nutrient-packed vegetable and its totally compatible with cool climates, just like Montana’s! This awesome plant does best in the sun but it can also tolerate some shade and it’ll do just as well! For more information, check out this website! 


You can plant turnips in almost any part of the season, as long as they can be harvested before the first frost. They are a low maintenance, easy vegetable that taste great! Check out this website for more information! 


Beets are an awesome option for Montana and any cooler environment! While they love the sun and grow best with a lot of sunlight and exposure, they can also survive frost and near freezing temperatures. For more information, check out this website! 


Carrots can be a little more difficult to grow but are very rewarding once you get the hang of it! One thing that’s important to keep in mind is the health of your soil and the amount of sunlight it is getting! The more the better! For more information, check out this website!

If you want more information about gardening in a mountainous climate this article gives tons of great information and tips! Check it out! 

Don’t have a Garden? How about a Community Garden?

If you don’t have the space to garden, community gardens are a great place to start! Below are a list of links to the community gardens in Western Montana!

Rain Collection

Why Would I Want to Collect Rainwater?

Water is critical for life. All beings depend on it. However, not everyone has access to clean drinking water. Some communities lack the infrastructure to provide filtered, uncontaminated water. Not only that but in many places it is expensive!! Collecting clean, fresh rainwater is an effective way to supplement your home’s water supply. Whether you are trying to access clean water, limit erosion from rain runoff, or lower your water bill, rain collection can improve your home life!

**While rainwater is a freshwater source, please note the water can still be contaminated during the collection process. If you plan to use your rainwater as a drinking source, you must provide extra filtration and purification before drinking. It is the consumer’s responsibility to make sure the water is safe before drinking.**

Would This Be Effective in Western Montana?

The average rainfall for western Montana is approximately 15 inchesThis means that having a simple rain collection system could be beneficial for tending your garden or lowering your water usage bill. However, it is not realistic to rely solely on this water source in western Montana. Additionally, rainfall in western Montana varies depending on location and elevation. Because of this, rain collection systems should not be the primary water source for your home or yard.

What Is the Cost? How Much Could I Save?

The price varies from approximately $90 for basic rain barrels and can run upwards of $10,000 for complex systems with indoor plumbing. Regardless of what system you decide is best for your home, it is an investment. Any type of rain collection system pays for itself over time. 

“For example, a 3,000-square-foot rooftop with a 1,000-gallon tank might cost $10-15,000, or a few thousand more if you pipe the water indoors,” Bob says. “But the payback period is short — sometimes just 5 to 10 years, depending on your water rates and how much you use.” As to the system’s longevity? Most tanks are warrantied for 50 years, with pumps lasting 5 to 10 years. “There is some maintenance needed eventually, but overall, systems are fairly maintenance-free.” -Bob Drew, Founder of EcoVie Environmental

How Would I Do This?

There are various methods to collect rainwater depending on your objectives. These methods range from simple rain barrels to complex systems.

  • Basic Systems (Rain Barrel)
    • Objectives: supplement water supply for outdoor use (gardening), prevent erosion and/or flooding
    • How it works: Place a large barrel container under the gutter drainage. Place a screen on top to filter out debris. A spicket at the bottom of the barrel allows for easy drainage from the barrel.
    • Pros: easy, cheap
    • Cons: no pump, not suitable for indoor uses (toilets, laundry, etc.), can be bulky/take up space
  • More Complex Systems
    • Objectives: supplement water supply for indoor use (toilets, laundry, cooking), outdoor use (gardening), prevent erosion and/or flooding
    • How it works: either an above-ground or below-ground collection tank (can vary in size depending on needs) is placed under a gutter. Water flows off the gutter into the tank. A filter on top of the container removes large debris. The water can then be pumped from the container to its desired destination
    • Pros: moves water to more places (i.e. indoors), can be underground to save space, can have large capacities
    • Cons: more expensive, extra filtration and purification steps for drinking water

Want more information on rain collection?

Check out these links!


Sustainable House Actions

What can a homeowner do to make their home more sustainable? A homeowner can do more than someone who does not own their home because the homeowner can make physical alterations to a home. Certain activities may require a professional. To see a list of Certified Green Professionals by the National Association of Home Builders, see the “Get Connected: Home Professionals” tab.

What are Actions that Can Be Taken By a Homeowner?

  1. Seal any leaks in the exterior walls with caulk to stop airflow. This is the most critical step and is an inexpensive way to save on energy bills.
  2. Use Energy Star appliances
  3. Use LED bulbs in light fixtures
  4. Turn off electronics when not in use
  5. Insulate hot water pipes
  6. Install solar panels/ wind turbine
  7. Heat pump heating and cooling system
  8. On-demand tankless hot water heater
  9. Automated window shading
  10. Occupancy sensors for indoor lights and motion sensors for outdoor lights
  11. Programmable thermostat
  12. Energy monitoring device
  13. Energy management control system
  14. Smart appliances

What Are Actions That Can Be Taken During New Construction?

  1. Sun tempered design – (building orientation, sizing of glazing, and design of roof overhangs)
  2. Passive cooling design, Passive solar heating design

What Are Actions That Can Be Taken During a Home Renovation?

  1. Place as much insulation in the walls and ceiling that you can afford.
  2. Use windows with the Energy Star rating