Sadly Ireland, the ‘green clean island’ has consistently ranked among the poorest performing countries on the environmental sustainable development goals (SDG’s) presenting ‘a very disturbing picture of pollution and biodiversity loss’. According to the latest Sustainable Progress Index (SPI) commissioned by Social Justice Ireland, we rank 11th out of 15th comparable countries in the EU. It’s also pretty shocking to learn that although some areas are performing well, the biggest transgressor of environmental law in Ireland is the State.
In 2015, countries worldwide came together for the first time under the United Nations and adopted the 17 sustainable development goals. They covered a wide range of areas from climate change to health, education and food waste. An ambitious agenda for a better world by 2030.
Since then, there has been many missed deadlines and many summits including a recent 2-day virtual summit hosted by President Biden to celebrate World Earth Day. The US, China, Russia and EU participated. Greta Thunberg has rocked the world with her clear science based message and direct challenges to world leaders and more recently Pope Francis appealed for the world to ‘take care of biodiversity, take care of nature’ and reminded us that Covid-19 and climate change demonstrated what scientists have been screaming from the roof top for decades we no longer have time to waste.
Not for the first time, the general public are well ahead of the politicians, we’re all properly fed up of empty, flamboyant promises. We crave action and direction. We long for courageous leaders who will walk the walk not just talk the talk and we are ready to walk with them. Time is most definitely running out.
Coupled with the trauma of living with Covid, the enormity of the challenge can seem overwhelming.
What can we do? Let’s rack our brains to think of little things we can change in our everyday lives to live more sustainably and benefit the planet.
First, let’s pick up our pens and write to our politicians to emphasise that as citizens, we want Ireland to step up to the plate and honour our commitments. I’ve always dreamed of Ireland, the Organic Food Ireland – think of how it would enhance the prosperity of our farmers and food producers at a time when people are craving food they can trust and are well aware of the damage pesticides and herbicides are doing to our health, the health of the soil and the environment in general…
In no particular order:
1. Avoid single use plastic and switch to reusable water bottles.
2. Let’s grow some of our own food - check out Grow Food not Lawns
3. Grow our own herbs, immediately we are eliminating all those plastic trays. Grow perennial vegetables, herbs and flowers.
4. Shop at a Farmers Market which also supports local farmers and food producers and small food businesses.
5. Keep a stash of reusable shopping bags in your car.
6. Carry a coffee mug or glass in your bag.
7. Work towards Zero Waste, almost 50% of plastic waste globally is generated by shopping. Leave the packaging behind and politely urge your supermarket to reduce unnecessary excessive packaging.
8. Buy loose vegetables and fruit…
9. No need to line your trash bin with plastic - these bags takes 10-20 years at least to decompose.
10. Keep a few hens – 3 or 4 hens in a little coop in your garden will eat all your food scraps and reward you with eggs instead. They are the ultimate recyclers and the manure will make your soil more fertile to grow more nutritious food – or link up with a neighbour who has hens, swap eggs for food scraps.
11. Keep bees, even one hive on your roof or in your garden, if you don’t want to be a beekeeper, why not contact a local beekeeper, they may be happy to look after your bees, buy the honey from them in exchange…see www.
12. Think natural cleaners. Make your own all-purpose cleaner. Combine half a cup of white malt vinegar with a quarter cup of bread soda and 4 pints of water.
13. Use cloth rather than paper napkins and washable wipe down cloths.
14. Let’s try not to buy more than we need, get creative and have fun with leftovers. You’ll be surprised how much money you save and how little food you waste.
15. Buy local flowers, about 90% of flowers sold in florists are imported and heavily sprayed. Ask for Irish foliage and flowers.
16. Learn ‘how to recognise’ food in the wild, forage…
17. During Covid, many of us have realised we need a lot less ‘stuff’. Shop in thrift or charity shops, donate, reuse, recycle, repair.
18. Use a bar of soap rather than liquid soap in dispenses that have a far heavier carbon footprint.
19. Use timber chopping boards and wooden spoons rather than plastic – they are more hygienic and in many cases are easier to clean.
20. Collect kindling when you go for a walk in the country. There are a million other ways we can make our homes more energy efficient.
21. Support small local shops, your local butcher and fish monger. Seek out lesser known fish and cuts of meat, less expensive and absolutely super delicious.
22. Use all parts of vegetables, the green part of leeks for stocks and soups, stalks and leaves of beets, leaves of radishes…
23. Make the most of seasonal gluts, have fun preserving in oil, vinegar, jams, chutneys, ketchups, make kimchi….
24. Leftover bread can be whizzed up for breadcrumbs, frozen and used for stuffing’s or gratins, alternatively dice and use for instant croutons.
We can all make a difference in a myriad of ways and enjoy the feel good factor.