The Sustainable Business Council Blog

Agencies offer incentives, financing and other help for employers
November 30, 2010, 10:20 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

Agencies offer incentives, financing and other help for employers

A Business Boost, if You Know Where to Look

Casey Stratton, center, places small pieces of hard plastic into a large lathe while working at Precision Engineering in Kalispell. – Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon

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Since launching in 1996, Precision Engineering has been doing a tidy business in Evergreen crafting parts used by Applied Materials, and before that, Semitool, among other firms.

“We’re basically a job shop that manufactures mechanical components,” Andy Upton, Precision’s quality manager and shop foreman, said. “Parts we build go together to build a larger component.”

Employing nine people at present, Precision Engineering is a good example of the type of “small business” politicians tend to refer to when arguing over tax policy and economic measures. Because it operates in such a specialized field, the company has highly specific needs.

“In this type of industry, we have a few complex pieces of equipment,” Upton said. Precision Engineering recently acquired a coordinate-measuring machine (CMM), which can precisely measure a part to ensure it matches the original design. But training on such a tool can be tough.

“Without that specific training, it’s such a complex piece of equipment, that we just didn’t have time to learn it ourselves,” Upton said.

That is, until Bill Nicholson, a field engineer with the Montana Manufacturing Center’s Kalispell extension office, informed the leadership at Precision they would likely qualify for the Incumbent Worker Training Program. Administered by the state Department of Labor, the program provides matching grants of $4 for every dollar put up by a business to pay for training that increases skills, productivity and wages – at up to $2,000 per full-time employee.

Incumbant worker grants

The Montana Manufacturing Center

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For more information on the programs available, contact Parson at 758-2802 or Jackson at 758-6252.


Missoula & Montana both rank high in best commuting practices!
November 30, 2010, 9:57 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

How Does Your City Get To Work?

Posted by Eric de Place

10/07/2010 09:30 AM
More commute rankings than you can shake a walking stick at.

There’s a heap of new Census data out, showing that Seattle is the Northwest’s clear leader in commute-trip alternatives. I thought it was interesting so I ran the commute-by-mode numbers for every city there’s data for in the Northwest states — and I bring it to you now for your reading pleasure.

So how did the residents of Northwest cities get to their jobs in 2009?

If you’re a two-wheeler, the real action is in Eugene, which puts every place else in the shade, likely owing to a big university and a stellar network of bike paths:


If you want to go by sidewalk, on the other hand, you’ll find more compatriots in Bellingham than anywhere else.

That’s thanks in part to a centrally-located college campus, as well as an urban landscape that never fails to tug at my heartstrings:

When it comes to public transit, on the other hand, the big cities in King County, Washington are way out in front:


If you’d rather work in your PJs, you’ll have more cyber-company if you live in Oregon, home to 6 of the top 7 cities in the region for working at home:


Carpooling tells another story, however. As a general matter, driving-centric cities tend to do better in this category, and none better than Kennewick in Washington’s Tri-Cities region:


Butte Supercomputing Company to Help Site Wind, Solar Farms
November 30, 2010, 9:52 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

Butte Supercomputing Company to Help Site Wind, Solar Farms

Great Falls Tribune
November 16, 2010

A new collaboration between the Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Centers in Butte and the global security firm, Northrop Grumman Partners, will boost wind and solar projects in Montana, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said.

The Maximizing and Optimizing Renewable Energy POWER initiative will leverage the RMSC on-demand supercomputing resources and Northrop Grumman’s unique site-selection tool to help identify the most efficient and productive networks of wind and solar farms for renewable energy projects.

“Max’s Economic Development Summit in Butte this past September helped make our MORE POWER partnership possible,” said Earl J. Dodd, executive director of Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Centers. “At the Summit we were able to bring the right people together, kick discussions into high gear and turn our ideas into real business opportunities.”

“I support any effort to bolster Montana’s position as a national leader in the renewable energy sector,” Baucus said. “This is a great example of teamwork to move us closer to our goal of creating good-paying jobs in Montana. It’s important to continue to draw upon our resources – like the Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Centers – to develop new opportunities in renewable energy.”

The MORE POWER initiative aims to lower the cost of operations by identifying an optimized network of wind farm locations and maximizing the ability to sell energy produced.

Northrop Grumman and RMSC are collaborating to provide MORE POWER services for the state of Montana to help establish governance guidelines for the state’s expansion of wind generation.

November Featured Member – Fill THE Gap
October 26, 2010, 8:29 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

Based in Missoula, Montana, Fill THE Gap is a company focusing on health and safety. Heat and air conditioned air loss evaluations are the next most important tests performed.

A multifaceted approach to heat loss and human health and safety is taken.  This includes air leakage, forced furnace duct leakage, and worst case combustion air zone testing and infrared thermography. Fill THE Gap provides consulting, pre-construction and professional witness services.

The money lost in residential and commercial buildings is costing Western Montanans potentially millions of dollars each year. Evaluations and recommendations from Fill THE Gap help to offset these costs considerably.

The major issues found with customers are air leaks and poor insulation. The list of odd situations continues to grow as each building has its anomalies.

Poor construction, EVEN in new buildings, leads to considerable heat loss through air leaks!  A classic example of this is a home with tongue and grove on the vaulted ceiling proved to have no air barrier. The heat loss was outstanding and would not have been found without thermography as the base of the ceiling started at 15 feet and ran up to 26 feet high. No test other than that which we provided would have found this out.

Another example was that of a client that was found to have hollow core doors for all the entrances to their house.  There were six such doors. This was found out through thermography.

Back drafting of furnaces and other gas-fired appliances can be deadly.  Finding out about this is critical for you.  We provide this type of evaluation by setting up a worst-case scenario of venting and depressurization of your building. Evaluating this is of great importance since the results can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning or fires.

Most homes have insulation.  However, the wrong insulation or improper installation of insulation can be disastrous.  An evaluation by Fill THE Gap provides an assessment of these and other problems. Excellent reporting provides a superb reference at better understanding the fixes. In fact, using this type of information to support the purchase or sale of a piece of property is invaluable as most people forget about the things they can’t see!

In our bag of tools is a thermographic infrared camera. Thermography is used to evaluate the heat signatures, or differences in heat displayed in the camera. The camera used by Fill THE Gap is extremely sensitive and can detect differences in temperature as little as one degree. It is up to the certified thermographer to fully understand the findings in each of the images.  Thermography is used for residential, commercial and industrial purposes of identifying missing insulation, air leaks, and roofs leaking water, prescriptive maintenance of motors and other mechanical equipment.

Fill THE Gap began in 2009 and has been serving customers in the Western Montana Region since its beginnings. Fill THE Gap personnel are confirmed verifiers for Energy Star Homes Northwest and Level l Thermographer.


November Featured Member – Walking Stick Toys
October 26, 2010, 7:22 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

Business is going well. I love my Hip Strip location and my store is celebrating her 5th birthday on November 1st. It has been a very fun 5 years bringing eco-friendly, sustainable toys to Missoulians. We started out small and our inventory has grown into a giant rainbow, very colorful and fun. We have play space in the back for kiddos while their ‘big person’ shops. My mission upon opening was to provide wood, wool, cotton and silk toys and I’ve been able to incorporate a lot of really unique toys, many of which are locally made. We are always on the lookout for new things.

We just recently added some new manufacturers, The Original Tree Swing is one of them, they provide wooden toys from reclaimed trees. We do have a web presence but we don’t have quite as many products on the web site as we do in our physical location. We’ve stuck to our mission of providing only natural safe toys so with all of the ongoing recalls you can feel confident choosing products for the children in your life at Walking Stick Toys.

Some people think that WST is a baby/toddler store, I think that is because of the diaper store front (my good friends that own Nature Boy and I share our location), but upon entering the back of the store you’ll find toys for kids up to 99. It is tricky to find quality green toys for older kids, but I’ve really expanded my game selection, art supplies, and outdoor toys and they are good for any age. Our fun marble tracks and some of our cooperative games are even fun for me, so we can assist you in finding toys to suit preteens. The store is growing and my kids are growing up with it, which was another very important thing to me, I wanted to keep them with me during their first several years of life and my store has created that flexibility for me. It is pretty rare that you’ll see me at my store without Simon and Gus (or at least one or the other of them).

We love our store, it is our home away from home and we love to share it with our amazing community!

I have a really fun upcoming event, it is our Annual Holiday Open House on Saturday the 27th of November. Big Sales, Snacks donated by Farm to Family (one of our new collaborations!) and Santa from 1-3. The sale goes all day but photos and chatting with Santa are from 1-3.

Keegan’s Story
October 26, 2010, 7:12 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

Thank you Team!!!

I’m back from the 320 mile Climate Ride California!!!  It has taken a couple days for the soreness to leave my legs, allowing me to walk normally!  A few things come to mind……I should have spent a lot more time in the bike saddle training for the ride…..WOW!  I also was reminded by how amazing our planet is, and how truly fortunate we are to be able to spend our lives here, and to fight for its continued stability (within the ranges that humans need, anyway).   I was initially intrigued by the idea of a week-long bike tour to raise funds and awareness about climate change, I thought the physical challenge would be interesting and that I would meet interesting new people.  Having ridden the week out…… the scenery reminded me of my love for the natural world and my awe at its many forms, especially REDWOOD trees….which are amazing!  I was not sufficiently prepared for the physical challenge, as training time with two small kids and a business to run was scarce.  I will remember the week, however, because of the great and diverse qualities of the other riders.  They were quite a range, from 12 – 74 years old, incorporating almost every type of work in our society and all driven by various visions of the future we collectively want to pass on to future generations.  The small actions that everyone is taking on the individual scale are building a movement – a schizophrenic movement (that I sometimes liken to a circular firing squad) – but building it nonetheless!  Large change will require that a coordinated effort amongst voters and citizens FORCE policymakers to recognize that preparing a low carbon development path, a renewable energy based economy and adjusting our consumption patterns to mitigate climate change is in our self-interest, and our national interest!  From the young turks twittering along the ride to the documentary film makers, to the grassroots door-to-door signature gatherers to corporate CFOs all of these people have a different approach to how they bring this concept into their daily life – and it was their enthusiasm, in the face of so much pessimism, that will forever remind me of the week I spent pedaling, sweating, smiling, and sometimes swearing, down the coast!

I’ve uploaded some photos from the ride to a website.  I took a lot of photos, but tried to keep the slideshow short enough to be seen without getting bored….. I know how it works.
You can see the photos at (click the slideshow in the upper right corner of the webpage and it’ll take off for you!).

With you help I was able to raise $3,120!!!!  That is almost $10/mile!  Perhaps it should be weighted more for the uphill miles and less for the downhill …….. J  I am honored that all of you thought my effort worthy of so much, and also that you are taking strides on your own to bring about some meaningful change in our approach to climate change.  The three beneficiaries of the funds will make more bike trails, lobby US politicians to enact climate change legislation, and promote the power of the group to leverage large producers to factor climate change and emissions into their manufacturing processes.

Quite an interesting chapter in the book of my life!  I thank you all for being part of it!  It was quite a ride!  I will forward a link to some videos that other riders were making as they come available.
Your humble rider!!!

Keegan Eisenstadt
ClearSky Climate Solutions
office: +406.721.3000 ext.1241
fax: +406.721.5912
cell: +406.207.3947

The Top 10 Plants for Removing Indoor Toxins A recent NASA study has determined the top 10 plants for reducing indoor air pollution.
July 7, 2010, 5:39 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

Common indoor plants may provide a valuable weapon in the fight against rising levels of indoor air pollution. NASA scientists are finding them to be surprisingly useful in absorbing potentially harmful gases and cleaning the air inside homes, indoor public spaces and office buildings.

The indoor pollutants that affect health are formaldehyde, Volatile Organic Compounds (benzene and trichloroethylene or TCE), airborne biological pollutants, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, pesticides and disinfectants (phenols), and radon. These pollutants contribute to ’sick building syndrome’, which causes symptoms ranging from allergies, headaches and fatigue through to nervous-system disorders, cancer and death.

Through studies conducted by NASA, scientists have identified 50 houseplants that remove many of the pollutants and gases mentioned above. Dr. B. C. Wolverton rated these plants for removing chemical vapors, ease of growth, resistance to insect problems, and transpiration (the amount of water they expire into the air).

NASA, with assistance from the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, conducted a two-year study directed by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, an environmental engineer from Picayune, Miss. Wolverton has worked as a research scientist for NASA for some 20 years. His study, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, of the interaction of plants and air found that houseplants, when placed in sealed chambers in the presence of specific chemicals, removed those chemicals from the chambers.

1. Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)

Also called the “Butterfly Palm”. An upright houseplant that is somewhat vase shaped. Specimen plants can reach 10 to 12 foot in height. Prefers a humid area to avoid tip damage. Requires pruning. When selecting an Areca palm look for plants with larger caliber trunks at the base of the plant. Plants that have pencil thin stems tend to topple over and are quite difficult to maintain.

2. Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)

Also called the “Lady Palm”, this durable palm species adapts well to most interiors. The Rhapis are some of the easiest palms to grow, but each species has its own particular environment and culture requirements. The “Lady Palm” grows slowly, but can grow to more than 14′ in height with broad clumps often having a diameter as wide as their height.

3. Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

Also called the “reed palm”, this palm prefers bright indirect light. New plants will lose of some interior foliage as they acclimate to indoor settings. This plant likes to stay uniformly moist, but does not like to be over-watered or to sit in standing water. Indoor palms may attract spider mites which can be controlled by spraying with a soapy solution.

4. Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta)

Grows very well indoors, preferring semi-sun lighting. Avoid direct sunlight, especially in summer. Young plants may need to be supported by a stake. The Ficus grows to 8’ with a spread of 5’. Wear gloves when pruning, as the milky sap may irritate the skin. Water thoroughly when in active growth, then allow the soil to become fairly dry before watering again. In winter keep slightly moist.

5. Dracaena “Janet Craig” (Dracaena deremensis)

The Dracaena grows to 10’ with a spread of 3’. Easy to grow, these plants do best in bright indirect sunlight coming from the east/west. They can adapt to lower light levels if the watering is reduced. Keep the soil evenly moist and mist frequently with warm water. Remove any dead leaves. Leaf tips will go brown if the plant is under watered but this browning may be trimmed.

6. Philodendron (Philodendron sp.)

One of the most durable of all house plants. Philodendrons prefer medium intensity light but will tolerate low light. Direct sun will burn the leaves and stunt plant growth. This plant is available in climbing and non-climbing varieties. When grown indoors, they need to be misted regularly and the leaves kept free of dust. Soil should be evenly moist, but allowed to dry between watering.

7. Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)

A hardy, drought-tolerant and long-lived plant, the Dwarf Date Palm needs a bright spot which is free of drafts. It grows slowly, reaching heights of 8-10’. The Dwarf Date Palm should not be placed near children’s play areas because it has sharp needle-like spines arranged near the base of the leaf stem. These can easily penetrate skin and even protective clothing.

8. Ficus Alii (Ficus macleilandii “Alii”)

The Ficus Alii grows easily indoors, and resists insects. It prefers a humid environment and low to medium light when grown indoors. The Ficus Aliii should not be placed near heating or air conditioning vents, or near drafts because this could cause leaf loss. Soil should be kept moist but allowed to dry between watering.

9. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”)

The Boston fern grows to 4’ in height with a spread up to 5’. It has feathery ferns which are best displayed as a hanging plant. It prefers bright indirect sunlight. Keep the soil barely moist and mist frequently with warm water. This plant is prone to spider mites and whitefly which can be controlled using a soapy water spray. Inspect new plants for bugs before bringing them home.

10. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”)

The Peace Lily is a compact plant which grows to a height of 3’ with a 2’ spread. This hardy plant tolerates neglect. It prefers indirect sunlight and high humidity, but needs to be placed out of drafts. For best results, the Peace Lily should be thoroughly watered, then allowed to go moderately dry between waterings. The leaves should be misted frequently with warm water.

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