Christmas is a wonderful time to be ‘green’ and give free rein to that creative side of you, in an environmentally friendly way. There are loads of craft sites on the internet, showing how to make your own Christmas decorations – baubles, cards, wreaths, etc – using ‘green’ products such as oranges, pine cones, cinnamon sticks and so forth. (I’m not sure whether you look at them or eat them!!!) And if I had the sewing skills, there is no end to the variety of decorations I could make. (And I include knitting and crochet in there too!)
In a time of year when ‘consumption is king’, I’m gearing my presents more towards the home-made variety. I’ve tried my hand at apple chutney and Christmas jam (both delicious!), I’ll have a go at Christmas fudge and I’ve found a delicious recipe for gingerbread syrup. There’s a ‘hamper’ theme here! And hats off to the cake-makers and pudding-stirrers out there! You can’t beat home-made. I’m also trying my hand at making my own candles and I’m hoping to make my own soap bars.
Let’s not forget the amount of wrapping paper we go through each year. Instead of using sticky tape to seal your pressies, why not tie them with some coloured twine? It is a little fiddly but it looks amazing under the tree. When buying your paper, try not to get paper with glitter on it. It can’t be recycled and it makes an awful mess of your house, speaking from experience!
Lastly, remember to recycle your glass bottles after Christmas as well as your tree. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council set up special depots to take back your trees where they will ‘chip’ them and use them in the public parks. Check their website nearer the time to see how long you can recycle your trees this way.
Don’t even bother cooking your brussels sprouts either. Just put them straight into the compost bin where they belong. Bleurgh! You know I’m right … Jo Bourke
As we head into the cooler months, it’s a good time of year to get our houses ready for the ‘cold spell’ and make them more cost-efficient. Boilers should be serviced annually and Autumn is an ideal time as it ensures your boiler will run well throughout Winter. It is also advisable to get chimneys swept, again ensuring you have no problems with your flues in the coldest months. There is no doubt that it is getting more and more expensive to run our homes and businesses.
And while the €200 credits last Winter were very welcome, there are some things we can all do to improve our energy usage. Just turning off lights when they’re not in use is a great start. Changing your lightbulbs for energy-efficient long-life lightbulbs is also advisable. Draft excluders under doors keeps heat in rooms and using foam draft-excluding tape around loose window frames will also help. Close your internal doors to stop your heat spreading into rooms less used.
On a bigger scale, there are Government grants available for insulating your house. Solar panels are also an option. Check your attic insulation to make sure it’s doing it’s job! Lastly, try not to use unnecessary appliances (dishwasher, washing machine etc.) between 5.00pm and 8.00pm. Because of the extra pressure on our grid at this time, often older generators are called into use which are much less energy efficient and rely on more fuel to run.
Summer is here and what better way to celebrate than embracing our natural habitats! We are so lucky here in South Dublin as we have the mountains AND the sea on our doorstep. There are plenty of hikes around Ticknock and Tibradden, and if mountain biking is your scene, you can even rent bikes in Ticknock. The mountains are full of wildlife at this time of year. The gorse is blooming, the frog spawn has hatched and the birds are raising their chicks. And if you prefer a cool dip, Sandycove and Seapoint are excellent meeting areas, with ‘regulars’ meeting every morning for a bracing swim and a catch-up over a coffee. Picnics are great during the summer, even if they are in your back garden. By now, any planting should be blooming and hopefully your flowering plants are chock-full of bees and butterflies. If you are lucky enough to grow your own fruit and vegetables, this is a great time of year. Nothing tastes nicer than a home-grown tomato! And summer fruits are great in salads and for preserving. Whatever activity you choose to do this summer, please remember to ‘leave no trace’. Always take what you bring and leave nothing behind.
We are so familiar with our green bins now, it’s easy to take them for granted. But it’s no harm to remind ourselves what can go in … and what can’t! According to the Panda website (panda.ie/recycling guide), the following items are suitable for recycling: Tinfoil (clean), aerosol cans (empty), drinks cans, aluminium food trays (clean), foil takeaway trays (clean), lids from glass jars, anything Tetra Pak including juice and milk cartons (rinsed out), steel food tins (clean), all paper such as newspapers, magazines, junk mail, envelopes (with the plastic address window removed), yoghurt tubs, light cardboard (cereal boxes, toilet rolls, egg boxes etc.), plastic bottles (rinsed out) such as shampoo bottles, drinks bottles, washing-up bottles etc., fruit and vegetable trays, bread and pasta bags, bubble wrap, crisp and sweet packets and disposable coffee cups. It is vital that all products that go in our green bins are clean with no food product on them at all, otherwise they can’t be recycled and end up in landfill. Things that can’t go in our green bins include dirty nappies, dirty plastic and tinfoil food contaminated material, sanitary waste, wallpaper, wax-paper wrappings or wooden materials. Most importantly, DO NOT put batteries into your green bin – they are a fire hazard! Most supermarkets have special boxes for recycling batteries so best bring them there. Also, glass must be brought to your local bottle bank. Panda also ask that you make sure you can close your bin lid at all times as any rainfall will soak the materials inside and make them unsuitable for recycling.
Autumn is upon us and now is the time we think of tidying up the garden and readying it for Winter. But perhaps don’t be in a hurry! Seed heads are a great source of food for birds and a Winter home for many of our smaller creatures. If there are too many seedlings next Spring, the Plant Stall of the Summer Fête 2023 will welcome them!
Many of you had a 'No Mow May' and one kind parishioner invited us to celebrate 'No Mow' on the 31st May with dinner on the long grass. Unfortunately it was a wet evening, so we sat inside and admired the meadow. It will be an annual celebration for me from now on! ‘No Mow May’ means not mowing your lawn for a whole month. The glorious result of this is more wildflowers each year and a veritable buffet for wildlife! Extra seeds can be added but please ensure no herbicides or pesticides are used as these are damaging to the insects hoping to ‘dine’! Our Church grounds now have areas with no mowing and it is a joy to see them teeming with life.
Allowing some wild flowers like nettles, ladys smock (cardamine pratensis), dandelions, clover, valerian, hawthorn, holly, blackberries and foxgloves will support our butterfly and bee population. Garden plants like sedums, buddleia, poppies and most single flowers are good for our native pollinators.
We are fortunate here in this locality to have good parks and open areas for recreation. I am sure you have noticed the wilding and greening of our common areas and road verges here and on travels through the country. You can keep up to date on DLR County Biodiversity Plan 2021-2025.
Eco Congregation issues regular newsletters and will help churches and congregations along their sustainable journey. It provides news of what is happening in other parishes in the country. www.ecocongregationireland.com
“We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Native American proverb
Sustainable Eco-Friendly Face Coverings
Most of us are required to wear face coverings on public transport and in places here we cannot be sure of distancing two meters from others. Have you considered the environmental impact of using single use disposable face masks?
• Disposable face coverings are generally made with non-recyclable synthetic plastic materials.
• Contaminated masks have to be disposed of carefully and will be sent to landfill or incineration.
• If not disposed of carefully, we are already seeing single use masks on our roadsides, rivers and
beaches. This will threaten health and wildlife.
• Disposable masks disrupt the supply of medical grade masks to those who need them.
• We are likely to be using masks for some time and it could be expensive.
Tips for using washable reusable face coverings:
• A mask can be made at home, using old recycled fabric, cotton t-shirts and old sheeting. There are
many patterns online including HSE. You don’t need to be able to sew as some patterns are stapled together.
• Irish companies and individuals are making and selling facemask and would welcome our support.
• Some charities are selling face covering. ‘Masks that Matter’ are sold in support of Trócaire, Marie Keating Foundation and Irish Hospice Foundation. Check out www.aideenbodkin.com/shopmasks
• Researchers note that cotton is one of the best materials using two or three layers.
• If it is see-through, it won’t be effective.
• It will save money.
• It will prevent masks going to the landfill.
• The mask can be washed in 60˚C soapy water, dried and reused.
• Carry a pouch holding a clean mask if needed when out and to take home a used one.
• Make sure your mask is comfortable, otherwise you won’t wear it. Like with all clothing, find the best fit for you.
Finally, a reusable mask is good for you and those at risk around you, is better for the environment and saves medical grade masks for those who need them most. Keep yourself, and the environment, safe.
Carol Newburn September 2020
Christmas Giving 2019
A wonderful way to teach children the true spirit of Christmas is to choose a toy or piece of clothing each Sunday in Advent and to donate it to a children’s charity. Most charities won’t accept soft toys but other toys are acceptable. Adults can take part too. That warm coat, sweater or gloves that you don’t use very often, could be washed and donated to a charity or someone who would really appreciate it. On Sunday 8th December at Taney Family Gift Service new hats, scarves and gloves will be accepted for charity and is another wonderful opportunity for giving.
The environmental cost of gift wrap is immense. Christmas is a time of celebration, but family, friend and work gatherings can be of source of non-recyclable rubbish. Much gift wrap contains non-paper components like plastics, metallic decoration and glitter. Removing these non-paper components from the paper is not cost effective so they are not recycled. Also intense dyes cannot be removed and won’t be recycled. Thin poor quality paper such as tissue paper is difficult to recycle because it lacks fibre. Cardboard is easily recycled with its dense fibre content. Paper with adhesive tape cannot be recycled and it is much better to use jute string or left over knitting wool.
Novel gift wrapping ideas include using pages from glossy magazines, newspaper, maps, children’s art, sheet music, old calendars and wallpaper. The wrapping can be part of the gift by using pillowcases, tea towels, scarves, cloth napkins, sweaters, aprons or reusable cloth shopping bags. Gift tags can be made from last year’s Christmas cards and scrap pieces of paper and is great entertainment for children and adults. Pine cones, berries, pressed leaves, pine twigs and paper shapes all make sustainable decorations rather than using plastic coated ribbons and bows. I hope your imagination will take over and you will be inspired to be creative when wrapping your gift.
A blessed and sustainable Christmas to all.
JUNE 2019 - CLIMATE ACTION AND CLIMATE JUSTICE
Climate Action and Climate Justice are buzz words at the moment and many organisations are working towards a better future for the next generation. 'Stop Climate Chaos' is a coalition of over 30 civil society organisations campaigning to ensure Ireland does its fair share to tackle the causes and consequences of Climate Change. Their website is a good place to keep up to date with what is happening in Ireland - www.stopclimatechaos.ie Some of our well loved organizations like EcoCongregation, Christian Aid and Concern are members of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition. To quote Christian Aid:
“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing our planet. Poor countries are in the firing line - they are hit first and worst by its effects. Christian Aid is campaigning for the Irish Government to take urgent and immediate action to reduce our carbon emissions and to assist poor countries to adapt to climate change.”
Many of you have read about Greta Thunberg, an inspirational 16 year old Swedish environmentalist whose activism is the focus for the ‘Fridays for Future’ campaign. ‘Fridays for Future Ireland’ is a second level student activist network with members from across the Republic of Ireland and is part of a global movement. As World leaders gather in New York for the United Nations Summit for Climate Change on 20th September 2019, the ‘Fridays for Future’ students will assemble in the city centre. In support of our young campaigners, Dundrum Climate Vigil meets every Friday at the base of the redundant escalator in Main Street, Dundrum 10.15- 11.15. All welcome. If you are interested in participating, please contact them by email at email@example.com
JUNE 2019 - LET'S 'BEE' FRIENDLY!
Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male part of a plant to the female part of the plant and is essential to ecological survival. Pollination agents can be animals, insects, birds, bats, wind, water and even plants themselves. The Pollinators now most endangered are the insects and particularly bees, as bees carry out most of the pollination needed to grow our vegetables, fruit and food crops in Ireland. Baby food for bees is exclusively pollen and they cannot survive without it. We tend to think of the honey bee, but in Ireland we have 98 different types of bees:
• The honey bee is generally domesticated in beehives.
• 77 different solitary bees need to nest in holes in walls or wood and some mine into bare ground.
• 20 different bumblebees which need to nest in long grass.
• One third of the Irish species of bees is threatened by extinction. By providing some long grass, bare
ground and old wood you will help most of the wild bees to find a safe place to survive.
To help restore our gardens and open spaces we need to take urgent action. All bees need to forage in healthy bee-friendly spaces with a variety of habitats. Our beloved Pelargoniums, Begonias, Busy Lizzy, Daffodils, Tulips and Petunias have virtually no pollen and nectar. It is much better to plant single flowers like Cosmos, single roses, pyracantha, lavender, thyme, rosemary, hawthorn, ivy, apple and fruit trees. Try to make sure to have suitable flowers from March to October.
Eliminate pesticides - that includes insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. Pesticides are harmful directly or by damaging plants and the habitats the pollinators depend on.
Don’t mow the grass too often - try six weeks in some area if possible. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has a ‘Slow to Mow’ initiative. Allow dandelions to flower - they are one of the first foods for bees in a hungry season. Some plants in garden centres have an RHS ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ logo.
Sixty-eight governmental and non-governmental organisations have agreed a shared plan that identifies 81 actions to make Ireland pollinator friendly 2015-2020.
APRIL 2019 - ALL ABOUT PLASTICS
Here are some sobering facts about plastics.
David Attenborough estimates there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050. We are all disgusted by the sight of plastic bags on our roadsides, rivers and sea, but in reality the biggest danger is from plastic when it breaks down into micro plastics. David Attenborough also said “we have a responsibility to take plastic off the menu.” Most of us have eaten plastic now, particularly from the seafood we consume. All single use plastics (such as drinking straws) should be banned, but in the meantime, we can wield our consumer power by not choosing Single Use Plastic. Plastic takes centuries to degrade, so every bit of plastic ever made is still with us.
• One of the hidden sources of plastic microfibers comes from the clothes we wear. Synthetic materials like polyester, rayon, nylon and acrylic shed microfibers of plastic which are not caught by the washing machine filters. Choose linen, wool, silk, hemp and cotton fabrics because the fibres will degrade naturally. We cannot all change our existing clothes overnight and a Guppyfriend Bag will capture the mircofibers in your washing machine. They are available online.
• ‘Blacklist’ black plastic. The automated machines in our recycling plants can’t recognise it, so it is unrecyclable.
• Plogging is a combination of jogging and picking up rubbish - a movement started in Sweden. Jog or walk with gloves and a bag and intensify your workout by bending to pick up plastic as you go.
• Choose paper, glass and metal instead of plastic.
• Plastic can only be recycled a few times, then it is down-cycled or sent to landfill. Most plastic isn’t recycled.
• Metal and glass take more energy to produce but can be broken down and recycled infinitely.
• Paper and cardboard can be recycled seven times, then it can be composted.
• Mixed materials - plastic lined paper - generally cannot be recycled as it takes too much energy to separate.
• Buy big packages as they use less packaging than several small packages.
• Choose paper packaging where possible. Porridge oats can be bought in paper, most processed cereals are in plastic.
• Choose a natural cloth instead of wipes, they produce fatbergs in our sewers and most have plastic content.
• Does a bunch of bananas need to be in a plastic bag?
• Buy loose tea. Check your tea bags as most have some plastic in the bag and they don’t compost properly.
• If you buy cotton buds, make sure they have cardboard stems.
• Choose reusable nappies wherever possible. Lobby your local Council to provide grants for the purchase of cloth nappies. Nappuccino - a cloth nappy information group - is coming to south Dublin end of March and end of April. www.clothnappylibrary.ie/local-libraries.html
• Instead of using clingfilm which is never recycled, cover food with a plate or use beeswax covers. Beeswax covers are now available at Marlay and Dun Laoghaire Markets, and on-line or are easy to make. Recipes can be found on Pinterest and YouTube.
• Take jam pots with you to the shop or market when buying deli items, olives etc. Most of the stall holders give a discount to you if you bring your own container. Ask what the discount is.
• Zero Plastic Waste isn’t new. Previous generations practised it because they had no plastic and we should be able to also.
• It can seem overwhelming but individuals can make a difference. Mary Robinson said. “If you are small and don’t particularly want credit for what you are doing, you can achieve a lot.”
Happy Easter and give it your best!
DECEMBER 2018 - SUGGESTIONS FOR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
Spend some spare time before the New Year deciding how many of the following suggestions could be your New Year’s Resolution. Don’t overwhelm yourself and maybe try a few more suggestions as a Lenten ‘Fast’. The earth is changing because of our constant demands on resources like fossil fuels, soil, water and air. The more we squander what little accessible oil we have on the planet on single use plastics, the more we depend on drilling and fracking dangerously to get every last drop of oil.
1. Shopmarkets. We have a new local Farmer’s Market nearby at Airfield 9am to 2pm every Friday. The stalls include breads, bakery, fruits, vegetables, cheese, honey, Wicklow lamb, jams and chutney. You will be able to speak directly with the producer and avoid unnecessary packaging. Bring your own bags and containers.
2. Cook from scratch and avoid processed food. Most processed food has ingredients you wouldn’t have in the kitchen and comes in plastic containers.
3. Eat organic where possible as it is kinder to the environment and kinder to you.
4. Avoid fast fashion. Only buy clothes you really need. Buy timeless clothes that you can wear for a longer period. Swap clothes with friends and look in thrift shops.
5. Get chemicals out of your toiletries. A bar of soap wrapped in paper is good. Shampoo bars: avoid plastic bottles. Refill bottles at the Refill Centre. You will find recipes for toothpaste, deodorant and creams online.
6. Get chemicals out of your household cleaning materials. Use a steamer to clean without chemicals. Indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air because of the chemicals we use. You will find recipes for household cleaners on line.
7. Carry a reusable cup and water bottle. Many cafés offer a reduction if you bring your own cup.
8. Hang your laundry out to dry. An electric clothes drier uses a huge amount of power.
9. Refuse a plastic straw with your drink. Steel and glass alternatives are available and they are small to carry in your bag.
10. If you use cotton buds make sure the stems are not plastic. Paper/ card stems are available and degradable.
The Water of Life. Water is our most precious commodity, essential to life. This summer has given us a timely reminder to put plans in place to harvest rainwater for garden irrigation for next summer. If, as is likely, we have other summers of drought, our gardens and plants won’t thrive, insects become homeless, pollinators die and our food crops will fail. It is all interconnected but we have plenty of rain in the winter just going down the drain. This is not just a problem for farmers, we who live in the suburbs need to be careful with our use of water from the reservoirs. Water butts to collect water off the roof are available from our local Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Recycling Park at Ballyogan and in many local household suppliers. Even collecting from a shed roof will yield a lot of water. By putting a water butt or a series of water butts in place now you will collect water for use next summer. More sophisticated Water Harvesting systems are available but are expensive. It seems crazy that we are flushing our toilets with drinking quality water.
Ireland’s 3rd National Biodiversity Action Plan was launched last year to cover the years from 2017 to 2021. It is easy to think that this Action Plan does not affect us here in the suburbs, but suburban gardens are a very important habitat and a haven for many insects, animals and plants. I am particularly thinking of the collapse of our bee and insect population in Ireland.
Insects are in decline and of the 98 Irish wild bee species, one third is endangered. Why should we protect the creepy crawlies which most people don’t like? Insects are important pollinators of our food; they provide food for many birds, bats and small mammals; they provide food for other insects and are decomposers - cleaning up dead matter.
We are constantly cleaning up, spraying, killing ‘weeds’ in the lawn, paving and concreting which leaves no space for wildness. Dandelions, clover and daisies provide food for starving bees. Dandelions are especially good early spring pollinator plants.
Choose flowers for your garden to support the bees, for example, open-centred flowers like, daisies, single roses, asters, buddleia and lavender. The County Dublin Beekeepers’ Association has a good list of bee friendly plants.
http://dublinbees.org/want-to-learn-about-beekeeping/garden-plants-for-bees/ We are all interconnected. Flowers feed the insects, birds need insects for food, we need insects to pollinate our food. Many of our birds are in decline because of the decline in insects.
Love your local creepy crawlies!!