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55 MIN READ TIME

Change One Thing Change Everything

KEEP CUPS

Karl Purdy and Caroline Sleiman-Purdy are the fine folk behind Cofeeangel, an independent specialty coffee business based in Dublin. Talking about the introduction of their own keep cup scheme – Your Cup Our Future, Karl mentioned some incredible figures which should be a great incentive for people to take part.

“Coffeeangel has been going for 15 years, so we have a pretty good insight into how much coffee we sell and how many cups we go through on a daily basis. We have long been aware of the issue of single use paper cups. We’re not going to solve the problem but we would like to feel we’re doing something tangible to help.

“All the cups we were using, even before coming up with the idea for the Your Cup Our Future campaign, are recycleable. The plastic tops are also recycleable. The real challenge is that the infrastructure isn’t always there to recycle them. On the city streets there aren’t dedicated bins for recycleables.

“We wanted to promote the use of reusable cups - keep cups. And what we felt was important was that rather than give discounts for the use of keep cups, we would donate 20 cent to Friends Of The Earth Ireland every time a customer uses one. This is in an effort to help Friends Of The Earth to affect environmental policy change at a government level.

“The response has been incredible. We have a little button on our till which we hit anytime someone comes in with a reusable cup. We started this campaign just at the end of 2017 and so far we’ve kept 31,000 cups out of landfill. We’ve also donated over €6,200. We look at this as our customers having donated that money.

“The numbers are growing every month as people become more aware.”

BUY LOCAL FOOD

Partners Lisa Fingleton and Rena Blake grow as much of their own food as they can. Lisa’s book, The Local Food Project, explores the power of growing and eating local food. Lisa tells us here about their journey.

“My partner Rena managed Loafers in Cork for four years and then an opportunity came up to move back to Kerry. This was ten years ago, in 2009. We both took a look at our lives and wondered how we could best contribute to the world. We wanted to live as sustainably as possible and grow as much of our own food as we could.

“For anyone wanting to grow their own food, would say start small and do what you can. You can grow food on a windowsill or a balcony if you don’t have a garden. Start with herbs or fruit and vegetables that you love to eat. The great thing is, that the minute you start to taste real, freshly picked food, you realise how food should taste. Then you are hooked!

“The Local Food Project came about because it was so difficult to get local food. Only one percent of our farms grow vegetables, we’re the lowest in the whole of Europe. The number of growers in Ireland has halved in the last ten years. I was wondering why nobody was talking about this.

“I decided to do a 30 Day Local Food Challenge each September. This meant would only eat food grown and produced on the island of Ireland and support local producers. One thing to note is you can label anything as Irish if you add value, if you create jobs, but we’re actually disconnected from where actual ingredients comes from. Almost everything is being imported.

“Eating local food is great way to eat tasty, fresh food; support local food producers and become more sustainable and resilient. We need to think global, eat local”.

For more information on Lisa and Rena’s latest projects or to get a copy of Lisa’s book, visit her website – www.lisafingleton.com

HOME PLANTING

Samantha McCafrey is a much loved member of the team here at GCN Towers. She’s introduced gorgeous plants to the office and has begun to transform our balconies into colourful bursts of nature up above the city streets. Here she espouses the benefits of home planting. Samantha’s the gardener on the right, accompanied by fellow planter Sabina Stan.

“We’ve started to sow seeds and bring in plants for our GCN balconies. It feels good to garden, however small scale, and it feels good to know that the plants and flowers are coming. “Already our little world on Exchange Street has started to look a little bit greener and that makes me happy. It makes me happy to think that we’ll have wild flowers bobbing about by the summer and that any lost bees will find a bit of food if they fly by our balcony.

“I love planting, like getting my hands dirty. I was part of the Weaver Square community garden in Dublin 8. Our head gardener, Ivanna, knows her stuff and we all ate crisp spinach, juicy cucumbers and sweet tomatoes last summer. There is nothing like freshly grown vegetables.

“Dublin City Council closed down the Weaver Square community garden and allotments earlier this year despite a huge local campaign to keep them open. We are still looking for places to plant. I love Dublin city but often feel my body ache to be out in the wide-open spaces of nature. And sometimes being in a garden, being around plants, growing things, being in little green places is the closest that we can get to that deep feeling of peace you can get in nature. It’s hard to stay pissed off once you start gardening.

“I plant because think our city, our world, needs plants, more plants, more green places. We need plants way more than they need us. Planting is an act of hope when a lot of things in the world seem so deeply unsettling. Planting is a way of saying that right in this moment - all is well.

COMMUNITY GARDENS

Community gardens are a terrific way to build up those essential green spaces. Maeve Foreman is one of the founding members of the wonderfully titled Mud Island - a community garden in Dublin’s north inner city. There’s a committee of 15 people who coordinate the running of the garden and they are always looking for green fingered folk to get involved.

“Mud Island is in the north inner city on the North Strand. The site is owned by Dublin City Council, they’d demolished a block of flats there and it was originally zoned for social housing but it had been left derelict for years.

“Eventually a group of local people got together in 2009 and after two years campaigning, the Council gave us a licence to build a community garden on the site.

“It’s entirely volunteer led and we operate by consensus. We work the garden collectively and it has really grown - we’ve built a beautiful garden with raised beds and sitting areas, we’ve got a pizza oven, a barbeque area and a social area we call the Hacienda with two stages where we hold regular events. During the recent Five Lamps Festival, we had musical acts, an arts and crafts spot, a cafe, and a couple of hundred people coming through the garden enjoying the space.

“What initially started off as a project about growing our own food and an example of environmental sustainability and biodiversity, has had the knock on effect of creating a really inclusive social and recreational green space.

“We’re members of Dublin Community Growers, which consists of about 40 community gardens throughout the whole Dublin area, and they are a member of Community Gardens in Ireland. There’s never enough people to do the work involved so we’re always open to new members. We don’t turn people away.”

If people are interested in getting involved in community gardens anywhere in Ireland, check out www.cgireland.org

ACTIVISM

Meaghan Carmody is the Head of Mobilisation at Friends Of The Earth Ireland. She is the perfect example of someone who translated her desire to help the planet into a force for change and explains why even one voice can make a difference.

“I came across a documentary called Gasland, set in the US, looking at families who are impacted by fracking (hydraulic fracturing), which is a dangerous way of getting chemicals out of the ground. Their land was taken by huge corporations and they were issued gag orders. I was emotionally affected by the injustice, so googled environmental organisations in Ireland and found Friends Of The Earth. They had some activists over from the US who were speaking about the fracking issue. The event was really impactful, so started to get involved with Young Friends Of The Earth - a local activist group.

“We’re an environmental campaigning organisation, our mission is a just world where people and nature thrive. Justice is at the heart of what we do. In Ireland we are really privileged in being able to speak out about environmental issues and to campaign on it. In some countries, you could get killed for your actions in projects that affect a company’s profits. It sounds dramatic but it’s true. We’re seeing higher and higher rates of deaths of environmental defenders.

“Right now we need collective action, we need people to get involved and join the movement. Every group out there needs more people and it’s unbelievable the amount of impact just one person can have. You think those groups are intimidating when you’re not in them and then you go to one of the meetings and you realise it’s a few committed volunteers who are making amazing things happen. And once you get involved you become one of those people.”

For more information or to get on the Friends Of The Earth mailing list, visit www.foe.ie or search for other activist groups online such as Extinction Rebellion, Not Here Not Anywhere and the All Ireland Student Activist Network.

ARTS ACTIVISM

There’s a huge link between art and activism. Most successful recent actions and movements have had visible and recognisable links to different forms of media. Here in GCN Towers, we’re incredibly lucky to have the talented Cassia Gaden Gilmartin interning with us. Cassia tells us about Channel Magazine, a literary journal she has created with Elizabeth Murtough.

“I’ve teamed up with poet Elizabeth Murtough to create Channel Magazine, a new literary journal publishing poetry and prose with an environmentalist outlook.

“We believe the current climate crisis is, in part, a result of society’s collective disengagement from the natural world. Not many of us still feel the emotional connection to nature that, if we were lucky, we may have experienced playing outdoors as kids.

“Channel is intended to play a part in rebuilding that connection, by publishing work that ties human lives and human habitats together.

“Arts activism has an impact. We’ve seen that in everything from Joe Caslin’s Marriage Equality murals to the Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment. The influences behind Channel include existing environmentalist journals overseas, such as Orion Magazine and Canary. These, like most literary magazines, have a small reach, but the connection between a single reader and a piece of writing can be powerful -and that connection tends to spread outwards.

“We hope to publish work that readers will want to share, and that will inspire them to get involved in the environmentalist movement.”

The website at www.channelmag.org will launch this Earth Day, April 22. You can reach the team at info@channelmag.org

This article appears in the 353 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 353 Issue of GCN