Greening Irish Communities

Date released: May 01 2009

A conference on the topic of Greening Irish Communities was held on Monday 27th April in Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park, Dublin.  Mr. John Gormley, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, provided the keynote speech during which he welcomed the initiative.

Speaking at the conference, Dr. Mary Kelly, EPA Director-General, said,

“This conference marks a starting point for mobilising communities in Ireland to live more environmentally sustainable lives. Our vision is to develop a network of organisations and individuals which will work together to integrate initiatives such as green schools, green homes, green hotels, green businesses, tidy towns, and transition towns into every Irish community, big or small.  Participants today debated how a national certification programme for green communities in Ireland might work."

“I firmly believe that the result of these activities will include real and measurable reductions in environmental impact such as reduced waste production, reduced energy consumption and a reduced carbon footprint for Ireland”, she concluded.

The conference was jointly hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government and An Taisce.  It was funded under the National Waste Prevention Programme.

A broad range of people from the public, private and voluntary sectors attended the conference.  They explored how to set ambitious targets for ‘greening’ Irish communities and how public, private, voluntary, social and cultural organisations can make a positive contribution in this area and can work together towards such a common goal.

Download the presentations from the conference.

ENDS

Additional Information:

Existing Initiatives:
There are several initiatives taking place around the country, which are broadly aimed at increasing the level of awareness about environmentally sustainable living, in the home, in schools, in communities and in the work-place.  These include

· the national climate change programme
· Green Schools
· Green Homes
· Green Energy
· the Power of One campaign
· Transition towns
· Energy neighbourhoods
· Green Business programme
· Local Authority Prevention Demonstration programme
· Green Hotels/Green Hospitality Awards
· Tidy Towns
· the work undertaken by local authority environmental awareness officers
· environmental awareness work undertaken by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and
· work undertaken by NGOs such as  An Taisce, Eco-Unesco and Cultivate. 

There are other associated programmes, such as national spring clean, which involve very large numbers of people (450,000 take part in National Spring Clean) in environmental community initiatives. 

These programmes are run or funded by a diverse group of organisations, including Government Departments (Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Transport, Energy), State Agencies (EPA, SEI), Local authorities, NGOs (An Taisce, Eco-Unesco, Cultivate) and community groups.

Benefits of Greening Irish Communities:

a) Climate Change and Resource Use
A national integrated programme of out-reach, building on the strengths of the many initiatives currently underway, and developing into a national green communities programme has the potential to radically improve our chances of making significant and measurable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the household and business sectors. 

The challenge of climate change requires that the majority of our citizens and enterprises adopt low-carbon habits, which means that we need initiatives that reach out to, and are understandable to the majority of our citizenry.  Were this to happen, it would have knock-on consequences for other sustainability issues such as use of natural resources and water management.

b) Transforming Public Services
The coordinated approach being proposed is in keeping with the overall direction of the proposed reform of the public service.  It envisages better integration of the various parts of the public service involved in this type of work, the development of networks involving public sector, private sector and the non-governmental sector, and improved engagement with our citizenry.

c) Influencing Behaviour Across Society

The challenge for these environmental, community and business initiatives is to build momentum. By focusing on the ‘individual’ and the ‘community’, the idea is to build sufficient capacity within our society for changing behaviour that should then transfer to other peers in sectors such as business, commerce, agriculture, tourism etc.  To put it another way, if enough people think that this is an important issue that needs to be tackled and believe that change is possible and that their input can have a real and tangible effect, then they will start to influence behaviour change through their own social and work-related networks.  The key message here is that people make the difference at home, at work and at play and if sufficient numbers of people want to change their own attitudes and behaviours and lead more environmentally sustainable lives, then we can mobilize and get much further.