BOZEMAN – The Montana Pollution Prevention Program, a Montana State University Extension program that provides pollution prevention technical assistance to small businesses, recently won a $989,000, two-year grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Funds will enable the program to continue its nationally recognized EcoStar awards program and partner with the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center to expand pollution prevention technical assistance to the food and beverage manufacturing industries.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock recognized this year’s EcoStar award winners for their pollution prevention efforts and statewide leadership in a ceremony held April 19, 2018 at the capitol building in Helena, Mont. Photo courtesy of the Montana Sustainability and Pollution Prevention office

The EcoStar awards program, now in its 18th year, recognizes Montana businesses whose impacts support environmentally and economically sustainable communities by conserving resources of water, energy and clean air and by serving as role models by surpassing state and federal requirements to reduce solid and hazardous waste.

The food and beverage manufacturing industry is the fastest-growing manufacturing industry in Montana, according to Jenny Grossenbacher, who has led the pollution prevention program since 2006. She said the grant caters, in part, to the booming microbrew industry in the state.

With funds from the grant, the Montana Pollution Prevention Program and MMEC will offer onsite technical assistance and training, including source reduction techniques, best management practices, safer chemical use and pollution prevention outreach and educational activities for small businesses. A portion of the facilities working with the program and MMEC will receive energy audits from the National Center for Appropriate Technology to identify energy conservation opportunities. To share results and transferability of programming throughout the state, the grant will also allow the Montana Pollution Prevention Program to expand its partnerships network for the cumulative benefit of statewide stakeholders.

“We are honored, once again, to be awarded the EPA pollution prevention grant to continue this integral work with small businesses,” Grossenbacher said. “This program can benefit an assortment of stakeholders, including breweries, wineries, distilleries, malters, coffee roasters and food manufacturers, including sugar beet, cereal grain, meat, dairy and pulse crop processors. We encourage any business in the food and beverage industry to reach out to us for assistance.”

Grossenbacher noted that onsite technical assistance will be capped at 20 businesses per year, but the insights gained and lessons learned will be available via a webinar series to help other businesses unable to participate in the hands-on training.

“These small businesses are the heart of many communities in Montana, and we’re proud to support these outreach education efforts,” said Paul Lachapelle, Extension community development specialist and principal investigator on the EPA grant. “Innovations in this sector have the potential to influence revenue across sectors.”

MMEC Director Paddy Fleming said there are multiple benefits to conserving resources.

“Reductions in water, energy and raw material use, as well as discharge and emission reductions in the food and beverage industry, not only make financial sense, they appeal to today’s consumers who are becoming more informed and often consider these factors when making their buying decisions,” he said.

Grossenbacher encouraged businesses already excelling in their pollution prevention efforts to apply for the EcoStar award. Annually, EcoStar recipients are honored by the Montana governor in a ceremony at the Capitol in Helena. EcoStar applications and nominations are due in January and can be found at mtp2.org. To find out more about EcoStar, applying for onsite food and beverage manufacturing industry training or NCAT energy audits, contact Grossenbacher at 406-994-4292 or jenniferg@montana.edu.

MSU News Service-ac-