As home to endless rivers, wilderness areas and gorgeous mountain trails for skiing and hiking, Missoula, Mont., is a naturalist’s playground. But unlike many cities, the divide between “urban” and “rural” is blurry at best. Even the city center, home to the University of Montana and a playground for summer tourists, boasts plenty of ways to connect to nature, sustainability and the “big sky” that puts Montana on the map.

Work green

There are so many sustainable businesses in the Missoula area that they have their own council — the aptly named Sustainable Business Council. The full list of partners is too big to list, but here are a couple of highlights: the family-owned herbal company, Meadowsweet Herbs, the self-explanatory Missoula Green Carpet Cleaning company, and Timeless Timbers, which specializes in dismantling buildings and selling salvaging materials. 

Not on the list, but worthy of a mention: Eko-Compost has been making and selling high-quality compost for flower and vegetable gardens and landscaping since 1977.

Live green

People looking to keep up on the latest from the “eat local” scene should snag a copy of Edible Missoula, which profiles local chefs and sustainable food trends. And eco-minded people can meet, mingle and swill Irish (green?) ale at Missoula’s monthly Green Drinks.

Build green

Green building advocates should check out Sustainable Building Systems and Abode Natural Building Supply (formerly Burley’s Natural Home Supply), which focus on energy efficiency and green building supplies, respectively. Similarly, Loken Builders builds energy-efficient homes and using salvaged materials. Facilitating all of this good work from and educational and best-practices standpoint is the Montana Green Building Program of Missoula.

Grow green

Residents looking for fresh, local produce need not travel far. The Clark Fork River Farmers’ Market supplies fruits, veggies, meat, baked goods, plants and added-value products (e.g. jam, salsa) all summer long. Nearby, the Missoula Farmers’ Market has served as a community gathering center, food market and outdoor venue for live local music since 1972. Behind the scenes, The Community Food & Agriculture Coalition helps to foster sustainable agriculture policies and advocate for farmers across Montana.

Eat green

Missoulians hoping to grow their own can hook up with one of the community gardens via Garden City Harvest. The Good Food Store, which badges itself as one of “Montana’s natural wonders,” sells all things organic, locally grown, healthy and delicious. Liquid Planet produces organic and natural teas and coffees, and Tipu’s Tiger Chai, based in nearby Ronan, sells authentic chai tea blends sweetened with fresh ginger root and Montana-grown beet sugar.

As for sustainable eats, Missoula has a robust craft beer brewing scene including Kettlehouse Microbrewery and Big Sky Brewery; Red Bird restaurant serves up gourmet, local food; and Bernice’s Bakery has featured organic and fair trade coffee, baked goods and snacks since 1978.

Travel green

While Missoula has its fair share of SUVs cutting around the rough terrain, it also boasts an equally thriving scene for alternative and eco-friendly travel. Visitors can hitch a ride with the all-hybrid taxi service Missoula Green Taxi, driven by a band of nature-loving Missoulians. Meanwhile, Missoula in Motion helps locals and businesses look for alternative methods of getting around town — from carpooling to public transportation to skateboarding, and the Associated Students of the University of Montana’s Office of Transportation (ASUM) promotes alternative commuting within the University of Montana community.

When it comes to cycling, great bike shops like Missoula Bicycle Works, the Missoula Bike Doctor and Big Sky Bikes and Fitness help recreational cyclists take advantage of the area’s gorgeous bike trails. On the bike advocacy side, the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation runs a community bicycle shop called Free Cycles that teaches bike maintenance and rents out short-term bikes to community members. And the nonprofit Adventure Cycling promotes bike riding for fitness and transportation — both in Missoula and across the country.

Act green

Missoula has quite the natural legacy to protect — luckily a bevy of environmentally minded organizations is committed to doing exactly that. Since 1985, The Clark Fork Coalition has focused on protecting the majestic, 22,000-square-mile Clark Fork River Basin. Similarly, the Five Valleys Land Trust, headquartered in Missoula, protects Western Montana’s wildlife habitats, river corridors and agricultural lands. 

And the Great Bear Foundation does exactly what it sounds like — works to conserve and protect the world’s eight bear species. On the environmental justice front, Women’s Voices for the Earth, a national organization based in Missoula, works to promote a healthier environment for women and families.  

Want more eco-Missoula? The Missoula Green Map plots out the city’s environmental hot spots, organizations and resources on an easy-to-navigate online map.  

MNN homepage photo: chrisdeana/iStockPhoto