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Archive for the ‘Green innovation’ Category

Anyone who reads this blog knows I am an avid fan of reusing and upcycling. For fellow fans here is an Irish website you absolutely must check out. Scroll through the case studies to read about inspirational uses for waste products that help both the economy and the environment. What’s not to love?

SMILE Resource Exchange is a free service for businesses that encourages the exchanging of resources between its members in order to save money, reduce waste going to landfill and to develop new business opportunities. Potential exchanges are identified through networking events, an online exchange facility and a support team to assist throughout.

SMILE has entered the World you Like Challenge and needs your support to get the award it so deserves. The Challenge is an EU funded competition that awards low-carbon initiatives in Europe and showcases innovation in green business and sustainability. Visit here and cast your vote to help SMILE become one of the 8 winners. You can vote once daily. So go on- show a little love and highlight a worthy project today and every day up until Monday 6th of September.

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Last Sunday I took a trip to Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary on a bus full of keen gardeners and GIYers. Why, you might ask, (as we all know it’s such a long way to Tipperary…..) Well, because that’s where you will find Ireland’s first Ecovillage. Set on 69 acres, the cluster of 50 energy-efficient homes, constructed mostly from sustainable materials such as straw, mud and hemp, blends seamlessly into the main street of Cloughjordan as a newly built neighborhood in the already established rural settlement. Despite the sustainable and somewhat alternative lifestyle adopted by the Ecovillagers they share a harmonious rapport with the wider community of Cloughjordan.

We were met by our tour guide Davie Philip at the market square just outside the renovated coach house. Davie works for Cultivate, an organization focused on sustainability through active education that has close associations with the Ecovillage.

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Davie explained how community-supported agriculture (CSA) has been successfully implemented to feed their members. The Ecovillage operates an organic mixed farm of 40 acres. Primarily using biodynamic farming methods vegetables, cereals, milk and meat are produced for the community. The members pay an annual contribution, to cover administration, running costs and growers’ wages in return for a regular supply of in-season farm produce. Farmer Pat Malone delivered an insightful talk on growing for a community and answered some of our questions as we sheltered from a downpour in the on-site eco hostel.

CloughJordan2Davie then guided the group through the site where we could glimpse the variety of homes that had been ecologically constructed. Each house is connected to a central heating system powered by 500m2 of solar water heating panels and an industrial wood-chip boiler.

We made our way up to the allotments where Bruce Darrell was waiting for us. Bruce works for RED Gardens. He outlined his role as a research grower, trialing and testing various horticultural concepts to find the most productive and sustainable solutions for future food production at the village. We saw evidence of the 20,000 plus trees that were planted, ambled through various polytunnels, past the WeCreate building- a green enterprise centre – and back to a cafe on Cloughjordan main street to reflect on the days events.

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Although the project was granted planning permission only a few years ago, already there are 100 residents in the Ecovillage and that number is steadily rising. With five different serviced sites available to rent or buy, including apartments and live-work units, the village attracts like-minded souls fleeing the stresses of modern living in search of a more sustainable and peaceful life. In line with the Ecovillage goal to become a centre of education and training there are a number of courses and events run throughout the year. And of course you could always avail of a group tour, as we did. Free Introductory tours run from 3pm every Saturday and Sunday.

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The Ecovillage ethos offers a practical model for community living that works with, instead of against, the environment. A model that works on so many levels. Please sit up and pay attention city and urban planners. Develop communities that provide sustainable, holistic solutions; give people a voice and the opportunity to control their own environment and lifestyles where they can be free from economic pressures, social degeneration and isolation. Most of all, have the foresight to recognise that this is the only way forward.

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Killarney, Co. Kerry

View from our hotel room

There’s a lot to be said for a “staycation”. We do our bit by sparing a few air miles and boosting local economy but if I’m completely honest it’s the ease of transfer that attracts me most. None of that airport anxiety of mislaid tickets, careful luggage segregation and delayed flights. After a hectic run of work we chose to ignore the lure of exotic, faraway places to spend a few peaceful days on Irish soil. Sunshine wouldn’t be guaranteed but we took a chance and got lucky. Once the summer “leprechan rush” is over, Killarney is sublime. I had forgotten how beautiful our little country is even in the drizzle. We ambled by lakes through autumnal forests, ate well, glimpsed a white -tailed eagle and fell asleep to the sound of a bellowing stag outside our window. It was relaxing and, if anything, far too short.

Muckross House gardens

Muckross House gardens

Muckross Abbey

Muckross Abbey

Torc Waterfall, Killarney
Torc Waterfall, Killarney

But yeah, because it is hard to switch off completely and no green jam jar post would be complete without an injection of “green” I just had to include a picture of this solar compactor snapped on Killarney’s main street. We had never seen one before. It seems Kerry County Council have hit on an ingenious way to reduce the environmental hazard of overflowing litter bins. Descriptively called the Big Belly it claims to reduce collection costs by up to 70%. A solar panel provides the power for an internal compactor. When the rubbish reaches a certain level, sensors inside the bin trigger the compactor. Each Big Belly takes up roughly the same space as an ordinary street bin but because of its compaction capability it can hold up to eight times more than an average street bin. Clever. More local authorities should take note.

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I should give credit for the lovely photos: my talented husband Z took these pictures which I subsequently robbed. Many thanks Z

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This guy is incredible and inspirational. A cardboard bicycle- who’d believe it? A must-watch video.

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Though Sugru is not fully biodegradable or organic it earns buckets of greenie points (as opposed to brownie points…) for it’s fantastic ability to fix stuff. It was invented by Jane, an Irish product designer living in London. The name is inspired by the Irish word to play- sugradh. It can fix almost everything from key fobs to door knobs. It is malleable like play-do for easy application. When cured it is sturdy and reliable yet amazingly still manages to retain its pliability. Dazzled by it’s magical properties Z bought a packet to play with. It comes in small sealed sachets of several colours that once opened need to be used up straight away as it sets in 24 hours.

For that reason we had been gathering broken items to fix- a sort of gadget hospital. Last night we decided we had enough injuries to warrant opening two sachets. We lined up our patients: the unhinged casing on a small digital clock; the snapped-off knob of my mothers teapot lid and the dislocated handle of a scissors and with charged fevour we molded our damaged goods back to funtionality. It’s very satisfying to work with. A sad admission of how dull our lives are but I would even go as far as to say it was fun. We are already forming a heap for our next Sugru session. Has anyone else given it a go?

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Product design graduate Sue Shiu Yuk Yuen has her eye on the weather. Living in London Sue is familiar with unexpected rain showers and has cleverly designed an environmentally-friendly brolly to cope with such downpours. All you need is your (read) newspaper/ plastic bag or whatever showerproof item is to hand and the eco brolly attachment. It will get you from the tube station to your office or down to the shop to buy milk for elevenses without being soaked to the skin. Sue says it is not designed as a replacement but more as a convenient stopgap that reuses stuff that would otherwise be binned.

“an environmental friendly umbrella that aims to encourage society to take part in recycling, making it fun.

It is a supporting devise for when it rains. All the user has to do is unscrew the top lid, poke the lid onto the middle of a reusable object, re-screw to secure it & open it out like an umbrella!

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© Copyright 2006-2011. Shiu Yuk Yuen. All Right Reserved

With the soggy summer we are having, one of these would sure come in handy. Great product Sue, I hope to see it in the shops soon.

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