Sustainable Ireland National Conference

The Sustainable Ireland National Conference took place on the 11th April in Croke Park, Dublin. The conference was about the Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on scale food producers.

After powerful speeches from four young people about sustainable food for our future, Michael Creed TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine took the floor and defined the SDGs and summarize what can be done and how Ireland is doing about each SDG.

Some other speakers were talking after that about SDGs in their organisations. There were information about SDGs in Ireland but also in Africa and how we can develop SGDs abroad, put in place good agriculture practices, fair trade and small scale agriculture, how Ireland is doing in term if SDGs and comparing it to other EU countries, how to improve agriculture practices in Ireland…

There were also some witnesses of farmers who decided to focus on organic food and small scale agriculture, and talks about how some organisations are doing around Ireland to improve the agricultural system.

The speeches were very interesting and showed that we need to do more for the environment and to limit climate change. We have to change our practices and behaviours. More and more farmers are trying to develop small scale agriculture and other good practices, which is one of the solutions we can put in place.

Even though it gives a negative feeling to see that Ireland is so low in term of SDGs achievement compare to other EU countries, there are many positive actions around the country that will lead the way to a more sustainable Ireland.

 

 

 

Boyle Energy Survey planned for April

Boyle Energy Survey

A major survey will be carried out in Boyle this week to see how residents use energy for heating, lighting, cooking and transport. This is being organised by Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI), who are working with IT Sligo and SEAI to see how support can be given to the town to become more sustainable, with greater energy efficiency, smaller bills and warmer homes. We are all spending a fortune in energy and not getting the best results from it, while at the same time producing thousands of tons of carbon dioxide and damaging the atmosphere. This survey will pinpoint how people in Boyle source energy, how much they are using, and how much it costs.

GEAI volunteers are working in collaboration with Abbey Community College and the goal is to survey 10% of the houses in Boyle. Teams of surveyors with local pupils will call to homes in the evenings of the first week of April with a questionnaire and hopefully, residents will be happy to cooperate.

This survey is completely confidential, we do not ask for names and no personal details will be kept. People will be amazed at how much in spent on energy in the town! We will present the results of the survey at a Seminar towards the end of May where we can come together and make plans for better energy efficiency, while reducing our carbon footprint and availing of substantial financial and mentoring supports from SEAI and other organisations. During this event, we will also show how Boyle can become a Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) with access to new funding programmes.

 

Save Leitrim from trees?

Some days ago we found a sticker on the window of a shop around here that piqued our interest. The sticker represents an access denied sign overlapped to the shape of a tree, a kind of conifer precisely. We heard that it is the logo of Save Leitrim, a group of people who are raising concerns about the impact of Sitka Spruce afforestation on the social and economic fabric of rural communities and the environment of County Leitrim.

The logo could be misunderstood by those who don’t know the problem – it appears to be a campaign against trees – but local people know what it refers to – the mismanagement of forests throughout the county. The issue is serious and we can talk about it after taking part in one of the meetings organised by Save Leitrim in Drumshanbo and the rally on the 30th of January in front of Leinster House.

Forests in Leitrim are almost entirely monoculture, with Sitka Spruce planted for the production of timber. Local people are very worried about it, because there has been an increase of these plantations in recent years and already 19% of the land is covered with forest, mainly this one species, in many cases planted too close to houses. These trees, although not native, find the Irish climate very favourable and they grow blocking out light and creating a very sombre atmosphere which is not good for mental health.

It could seem that growing trees – even for commercial purposes – is a good way to absorb carbon dioxide but things are not so simple. As they grow, they do absorb carbon dioxide, but if cut down and burned, that CO2 is released back into the atmosphere.  In addition, greenhouse gases are produced during felling, transport and processing of the wood.  From a broader perspective, the use of chemicals and the lack of biodiversity that negatively affects groundwater and wildlife must be considered.

It is a fact that Leitrim was completely covered by trees in the distant past, which for different historical reasons were cut. In our opinion many local hills seem barren without trees and maybe a smart national reforestation plan could put together the necessity of reducing emissions and the demand of timber for commercial purposes. Save Leitrim doesn’t ask to stop forestry but to think about sustainable solutions such as starting to plant broadleaf trees in order to have more biodiversity.

We asked our Director Leslie O’Hora to explain the issue to us. “The owners of these lands are often large dairy producers from the south of Ireland who decide to invest in forestry and buy the lands here”, said Leslie.  “The current government policy is to help these big farmers and give them the chance to receive tax credits if they plant trees. This also is a way to absorb carbon dioxide since Ireland is very bad in terms of greenhouse emissions. Most of these lands were sold by old people since there was no members of their family leaving there anymore, so now local people cannot do anything to stop forestry. Moreover, after planting trees the soil cannot be used for other purposes and so you can only keep going to grow trees. Maybe now forestry investors are starting to see the problem because people complain about it and we hope the government will try to find a solution.”

So, the solution is to start planting indigenous species of broadleaf that, although they need more time to grow, give us better quality wood and create biodiversity. A smart policy should ask to let some of these trees grow indefinitely and use the remainder for timber production. In this way we could benefit from forestry, for example by creating new parks and woodland trails. We could start talking about spaces to go walking and have fun, both for local people and tourists. In this way, forestry could be sustainable for the region.

 

Nino Rizzo

GEAI and Ballinagleragh Community Hall get ‘greener’

As part of our commitment to a sustainable future GEAI has changed our electricity supplier to Templederry Renewable Energy Supply Ltd. T/A CRES (Community Renewable Energy Supply). This is the first ‘community’ owned and operated electricity supply company in Ireland that sources energy entirely from renewable sources/technologies.

Solar Panel on Hall

Part of GEAI’s work is to promote the development of sustainable energy projects which could involve local communities working together to establish their own community owned/controlled electricity generating facilities.

Also, in furtherance of this objective GEAI has submitted an application to the Leader Programme for funding to install a 6Kw array of photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of our operational base – Ballinagleragh Community Hall. It is intended that this will generate enough electricity to drastically reduce our reliance on the ‘national grid’ – even though we are currently using electricity from CRES.

We hope to have a decision within the next couple of months on this application. So… watch our newsletter and website for further updates.

 

 

 

Climate Action Days 2.0 for Lough Allen College

After the success of our Climate Action Days initiative in Mohill Community College, GEAI organized several more sessions for Lough Allen College in Drumkeeran.  We are working with Transition Year students, learning more about climate change in a non-formal way. This activity is facilitated by our European Solidarity Corps volunteers.

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Having reviewed the results we achieved with Mohill students, we adapted the program for the second school: made our presentations more interactive, ice-breakers and energisers – more fun, and we also added in the basics of Sustainable development.

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Aedin McLoughlin, CEO and Youth Project Coordinator

Working with teenagers, we use a lot of games. Our first session was 2 hours long, because it included theoretical part and introduction of the climate projects, or actions, that the kids will do. So the games help to break it up a bit. And who doesn’t like games? We certainly do!

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During our second session we got familiar with Sustainable Development Goals: 17 goals founded by the UN in 2015 to tackle the major problems of humankind (hunger, poverty, climate change and more). The aim of sustainable development is to develop the possibility to grow economically without compromising the wellbeing of future generations.

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The students have chosen the topics for their group projects and are working on them. In two weeks we are going to meet again in the Organic Centre in Rossinver to discuss the results of their work.

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