Living a more sustainable existence can be done in a myriad of ways nowadays. Driving a hybrid car, recycling and upcycling clothes or furniture, reusing packaging or harvesting rain water are all small ways in which people can make a difference in order to live a lighter life.
Bord na Móna now wants to identify and celebrate those individuals, businesses or communities by choosing a Sustainability Hero through its Naturally Driven campaign.
Renowned architect and Naturally Driven ambassador Declan O'Donnell said of the initiative: "Most people have this perception that being sustainable isn't stylish but that couldn't be further from the truth. Nowadays, beautiful design is created with sustainability in mind – you could even say that being sustainable is considered trendy."
“With changes in design and architecture over the last few years it’s become a lot easier for people to be more sustainable, more energy efficient and more aware of how they can be more naturally driven at home.”
With this in mind we spoke to three organisations that are making a difference when it comes to choosing a more sustainable way of living and doing business.
SMALL CHANGES WHOLEFOODS
When Peadar Rice first opened his store, Small Changes Wholefoods, in Drumcondra in 2010, he says it took “a lot of convincing people” to try it out.
In setting up the shop, which sells foodstuff, household and beauty products, he wanted to make the distinction between it and health food stores.
“My opinion is that health food stores used to be centred around food, but it seems they’re more about selling vitamins and supplements now and food is being pushed to the side. Our approach is that we’re primarily focused on food and people should look first and foremost at their basic diet,” he says.
It's not just old hippies like me who are doing this – younger people are getting involved
In terms of the sustainability aspect, he says: “We have always been heavily involved in promoting the idea that as consumers we need to reduce the amount of packaging/plastic we use so we always offer refill options. For example, the customer buys a bottle of laundry detergent and then we refill it each time. People have developed a habit of finishing the bottle of washing-up liquid and putting it into the recycling bin or the general purpose bin but over the years the message has gotten across and people don’t see refilling as any hindrance and the fact that they’re saving money is good.”
“We’ve used the success of the household cleaners to get people into the mentality of moving away from prepacked goods, so we have started eliminating dried goods packaging too. People either bring their own containers or use containers we have. The items available include beans, rice, seeds, grains, cereals and nuts,” he says.
He says this is a three-pronged approach in tackling the issue. “It’s removing unnecessary plastic, it’s making the product more affordable and it’s tackling the issue of food waste as you’re buying exactly what you need.”
It seems that his trident approach is working. “The tide has turned. It’s not just old hippies like me who are doing this – younger people are getting involved. The enthusiasm is widespread, so I know there is hope,” he says.
Ballymount-based social enterprise ReCreate collects materials from businesses that would otherwise be considered excess or “waste” and reuses them as art materials and educational supplies.
Manager Kevin McLaughlin says that in doing this they are diverting material from landfill.
“We bring the materials back to our warehouse and store everything in bulk. For an annual membership fee, schools, creches, special needs groups and artists can join and have unlimited access to the materials here, for creative reuse as art materials or educational supplies, depending on what we get in.”
“We have 250 businesses that supply us but a perfect example of what we do is with Smurfit Kappa, who are based just across road from us. They make paper bags so they have rolls of paper, miles in length. When they get to the last 40 or 50 metres of paper it’s not really worth their while to keep going so we get that 40 metres of paper.”
The idea for ReCreate came from the Play Resource Centre in Belfast. “Early childhood Ireland and Tallaght Community Arts used to run bus trips up and back to Belfast. They got together with SDCC, South Dublin County Partnership and Oakfield Trust, to see if it was feasible to have a similar model based in Dublin, and we were officially launched on Valentine’s Day 2014,” he says.
The centre runs workshops for schools, and they’re currently giving a course to primary school teachers, showing them how to incorporate “waste” materials into the wider primary curriculum.
THE REDISCOVERY CENTRE
The Rediscovery Centre is based in the newly repurposed Boiler House in Ballymun; an exemplar eco centre that is the first of its kind in Europe. It provides education courses on sustainability practice and has four social enterprises; Rediscover Fashion, Rediscover Furniture, Rediscover Paint and Rediscover Cycling.
From the second you walk in you recognise this is a different way to live
Chief executive Sarah Miller says: "We take donations and gather materials that some people perceive as waste. We reuse those through a community enterprise programme and make new products that are sold and the money that we make goes back into the business to pay the trainers and provide the training courses."
The centre received €3.6 m in EU funding and is an excellent example of sustainability in practice. “We generate all our electricity on site, we’ve composting toilets and we recycle urine into a plant system,” Miller explains. “We have green walls and roofs and our garden has been designed as an outdoor classroom so we have a fresh water pond, bug hotels and grow our own food. The walls are made from hemp, and the insulation is sheep’s wool. From the second you walk in you recognise this is a different way to live.”
The eco cafe is operated by the Green Kitchen, a social enterprise working with people with learning disabilities. “They work closely with us in terms of cooking with sustainable food, that’s in season, making sure there’s no food waste.
“We also hold a number of exhibitions to encourage people to engage and learn about the environment, to learn about small changes they can make in their own lives in order to become more sustainable,” Miller says.
PEOPLE DOING THEIR BIT
Bord na Móna is searching for Sustainability Heroes around Ireland who are doing their bit to live sustainably, in a variety of different ways. Being a sustainability hero means different things to different people. It can be a series of small things that people do in their daily lives, from being clever with recycling or making the most out of the compost bin, to getting the family away from the TV and digital devices for a couple of hours, getting outside and exploring everything that nature has to offer. Being a sustainability hero also applies to the big efforts that people have made to make their community more sustainable.
What is a #SustainabilityHero?
It's a person, a community or a business doing its bit to live sustainably by minimising their impact on the planet in the way they live, consume energy, dispose of waste and more importantly, make the most of the natural world around them.
A #SustainabilityHero not only safeguards but also takes proactive steps to play their part in making things better.
Bord na Móna wants to celebrate the individuals, communities and businesses who have made big strides in being more sustainable and encourage those who are making big efforts to do small things to stand up and shout because when everyone is playing their part, small things can be heroic.
Are you a #SustainabilityHero?
Visit facebook.com/BordnaMonaIreland and tell us what small or big efforts you're making to be more sustainable.