Green Group takes on Sage Mountain


Jasper Alexander, Writer

In May of 2022, Helena High’s Green Group went on a day-long field trip up to both the Butte Orphan Girl Mine and Sage Mountain Center. At these places we learned the importance of green living. 

 Our experience started early in the morning when Green Group boarded the bus that would take us on an hour and a half journey to Sage Mountain Center. 

Sage Mountain Center is a spiritual and educational retreat led by Mr. Christopher Borton and his partner Linda Welsh. The center, made from local materials by Mr. Borton and Ms. Welsh, began construction in the early nineties and was not open to the public eye until around 1996 when their workshop/studio was put into place. 

Using energy-efficient and sustainable materials such as cordwood construction, the center supplies its own energy through passive solar, hot water solar, and photovoltaic solar, as well as wind energy. It also has composting toilets, a year-round solar garden, a walking labyrinth, a yoga studio, and a place to “fill up your tank with sunshine” (plug in your electric vehicle).

But enough about the history and into the trip! After arriving, the chilly weather there was most definitely not our friend. Bundled up in our coats, the first event was Mr. Borton’s demonstration of a solar panel and how the different shades of sunlight affect the power it emitted. The solar panel was hooked up to a sort of faucet device, and when it was under full sunlight, the faucet had a stronger water current. When there was shade put in front of it, the water current weakened.

Continuing with our trip, we learned about his unique building technique which allowed for natural heating in the winter as well as cooling in the summer. There was also another notable factor the Labyrinth. It was not the sort of Labyrinth that you would think of with David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. The Labyrinth was a patterned path made by rocks that when walked would take you around an hour to complete and serves as a way of self-reflection. 

“It’s an amazing place,” junior and current Green Group Outreach Director Nick DeWald says, “How he grows his own food and all of his own solar technology that he had put in himself.” 


Up next on our Eco tour, we went to the Butte mines where we strapped on our hard hats and ventured deep into the earth’s crust. There we learned about the Orphan Girl Mine which was operational from the 1860s all the way up to the 1970s. Here 7,626,540 ounces of zinc, lead and silver were extracted from its depths. 

Junior Vesper Bacon recounts her experience saying, “The mine was amazing! We were going through these dark and intense tunnels underground and we got to see the ore veins inside of the cave.” 

In all, the trip was as fun as it was important. This planet is not just mine but yours too, as well as something we get to pass down through the many generations of humanity. It is important that we hold on to that annoying wrapper until we find a trash can instead of just throwing it to the side. 

Bacon added another particularly important piece of information saying, “Green living is achievable, we can do this!” 

If you are interested in seeing the Sage Mountain Center, Green Group is planning another trip on Saturday, November 5, all expenses paid even if you’re not in Green Group. See Mrs. Van Alstyne in room 32 or come to Green Group during lunch on Mondays.

 The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Orphan Girl Mine,” Historic Montana, accessed September 29, 2022,