Eco Friendly Village?

While traveling around Ireland, I took interest into the dynamic of the Eco-Village and how their community worked. The first place we stopped while in Ireland was Cloughjordan. What was interesting about this village was the construction of the eco village and its relive location towards the center of the Cloughjordan. This eco village could have been located outside Cloughjordans main strip, but even though it was created well long after the village of Cloughjordan was founded it looks like it belonged there. Some interesting things I learned while staying at the eco village is that there is no one in charge of the village and that everybody their makes joint decisions. Mary, one of the residents, told us, “You learn love and hate everyone here”. That really stuck with me because in a community where everyone makes decisions instead of just one person being in charge things tend to get done slower. This was something I noticed about this community as they claim to be self-sustainable; however, they have not been able to use their solar panels they as a community purchased due to technical problems dating back 10 years. This is something I thought was interesting because that meant they got their electricity from somewhere else even though their motto is that they are:

  • Building
  • Sustainable
  • Community

When looking at their motto I found that their vision wasn’t being 100% achieved due to relying on outside energy. One thing I picked up on about the community is that everyone was there for a specific reason, and that was that they wanted to reduce their carbon footprint on the environment. This is something I saw throughout the village as they as a community tried to reduce waste, farm their own food, and reduced water usage. Seeing a community that truly believes that as a whole they could help make a difference was inspirational. While staying in the hostel, we came across apple juice that was for sale and asked about it. Pa, the owner of the hostel we stayed at, told us that they are sold by a member of the community and could also be bought up at the store ran by the hostel’s cook, Johanna and their husband. I thought it was interesting finding out that they tried to shop locally for their food unlike in America where majority of people shop at the supermarket. Overall I believe that if the eco-village wants to grow they need to fix their solar power issue to be fully self sustainable and work towards electing someone to make decisions for the community.

 

Ecohouse

1 liter Plastics Everywhere

The turquoise, deep blue water surrounds the land. The bright green grass covers the land itself. The clear, clean water comes out of the faucet filling our glasses. Yet I found myself walking to the convenience stores to buy 1 liter plastic water bottles during my time in Ireland.

Ireland’s water in most of the country is drinkable right from the faucet with no filter in which amazed me coming from an urban area. I was shocked that we could fill our bottles right from the sink and pubs and that restaurants gave us tap water. However, I still found myself at the store buying huge plastic water bottles. Every store I entered nowhere in sight was there a reusable water bottle, which is shocking as Ireland’s goal is to be greener and reduce waste. Buying plastic water bottles are also cheaper if the bottle is bigger, 1 liter vs 16 oz. What was even more shocking was that the most beautiful turquoise, deep blue water I saw was on this islands, also surrounded solely by water, yet it was the only place on the western side of Ireland that had a water shortage. “How is it possible to have a water shortage when surrounded by water?” is the only question I could ask. Linda the hostel manager in Innis Oirr, the smallest island, said that it had not rained in months and the water in the reservoir was not enough for its residents and tourist to use, which is why the water was turned off for 12 hours a day, 830pm – 830am. When the drops of water began to fall from the sky the island residents were happy and wanted it to continue as the tourist all wanted it to stop, seeing it as a disadvantage. This island appreciated any little water that fell as they had so little, while in the United States, New Englanders despise when it rains.

Clear Waters by Shelby Payanis

On the shores of Inisheer

Standing on the shores of the Aran Islands is like being on a beach at a resort in the Caribbean. The water is as clear and as blue as the sky on a clear sunny day, and the sand is soft in between your toes like butter.

When we arrived at the first Aran Island that we visited (Inishmoor) I remember asking one man – “How come your ocean looks as clear and as blue as the water in the Caribbean?” He smiled and giggled at my question and then said to me – “We care about our waters and the animals within them…There are seals and other creatures that need a good place to live too.” I thought that this was interesting because there are several groups in America who work every day to protect our aquatic wildlife, but yet, our waters stay dark, murky and polluted.

The waves crash up on shore.

I learned that in 2007 parts of County Galway (which is near the Aran Islands) experienced an outbreak of Cryptosporidium – a parasite that can cause serious stomach problems. It was said that water pollution was the cause of this outbreak, and as a result many people had to boil any water that they were going to consume. Like anything else in the world, it usually takes a tragedy to create change, but it seems as though the country, and county, came together to make a difference – and a fast one at that. It has been ten years since that outbreak and their bodies of water could not look any better. Perhaps it was the overwhelming sense of community in the country that enabled the change to come so quickly, but whatever it was, we definitely need a change like this one back in the states.

Although this country does a great job on cutting back on the amount of water pollution and water consumption in the country, I do have to admit that there are an overwhelming amount of water bottles sold in Ireland. In every store that we went to there were several different brands of water bottles for sale, and they all featured a notice on the back that read – “Must be consumed within three days.” This means that if someone had a water bottle sitting in their house for a week or so, then they would go out and buy another one instead of drinking the water or refilling the plastic bottle. I later learned that, “Irish consumers spent more than €76.5 million on bottled water,” which is a lot of money that could be going towards better causes.

I believe that the citizens of Ireland need to be informed of these facts. They are doing a great job in helping our Earth, but this is one of the biggest issues not only in this country, but around the globe, that needs to change. If the country can ensure clean and safe drinking water for its people, then more and more people should be taking the time to use refillable water bottles.

The Sustainable Island

 

It may seem like Ireland is completely sustainable considering how green everything is and how small a population there is, but they are not entirely perfect. Cows are actually the biggest contributor to methane production in the world, and as you travel through Ireland, the amount of cattle that catch the eye is staggering. This country had to make a very difficult decision along with other developing countries around the time of the industrial revolution, and that’s how this country will retrieve most of its energy in the future ­­– nonrenewable or renewable resources. As you are traveling through the country, it is nearly impossible to not pass a field of wind turbines at one point. Wind turbine fields are able to gather immense amounts of power to distribute around the areas, they also place these turbines in places that will not impact the environment’s aesthetic appeal either. The idea of a nuclear power plant scares Irish people greatly due to the fact they were harmed from the aftermath of a nuclear meltdown in Europe. Understandably, they have the right to be nervous about something such as that, but the concept not getting through is how a nuclear power plant is the most sustainable way to gather energy as of right now. When I was having a conversation with a local about how he feels the country was headed in terms of sustainability, he was extremely proud of how his country is going right now. I asked what his thoughts on a nuclear power plant were, his  response was “Nuh-uh, we will never allow a nuclear power plant in this country, no matter how hard anyone tries, this will not be something that would settle well with anyone.” For something that could progress the country as much as a power plant, it seems that people are just a little misinformed on the topic and if the government ever plans on it, hopefully they release the proper information for the population to grasp a better understanding. The government did try to pass legislation to build a power plant in the late 1970’s, but as I stated before, they received major backlash from the community. A valid argument to worry about is where to dispose of the nuclear waste. The answer to that question is the government should not even consider placing a nuclear power plant in the country unless they had a plan for the waste disposal in the end.