Entries for the 2019 'Climate Action and Air Quality' special award were received from all over Ireland. They showed a broad range of actions to raise awareness and take direct action regarding these important issues.
Villages/Small Towns winner
Picturesque Ardmore in Co. Waterford won the overall award in the Villages/Small Towns category for a project that included a particular emphasis on the effects of climate change on coastal communities. Their entry also had a significant air quality aspect in that they worked on reducing emissions from transport in the area, by helping to establish a new 'Local Links' bus service, providing bike racks, and giving a demonstration of an electric vehicle.
Large Towns/Urban Centres winner
Sustainability and recycling were at the heart of the entry from Ennis in Co. Clare, which won the Large Towns/Urban Centres category.
Working together with the local athletics club, they arranged for compostable cups to be provided for a major 10k event, instead of the approximately 2,000 single-use plastic water bottles that had been used in other years. Other waste streams associated with the event were also greatly reduced, and overall, almost 25kg of waste was diverted from landfill.
The group also provided reusable water cups to the local HSE centre, and offset the carbon footprint of producing the cups by planting more than 20 trees, using recycled cardboard as mulch and recycled bicycle tubes as tree ties.
The overall runner-up award went to Kilanerin in Co. Wexford, where the Tidy Towns committee organised a Sustainaibilty Fair that included test drives of electric cars, a demonstration of how to make Eco-Bricks, and more.
Kilanerin also ran a series of lectures and demonstrations over the course of ten months, with speakers from organisations including An Taisce, Voice Ireland, the EPA, the SEAI, and more.
The Youth award for 2019 was shared between Castleisland (Co. Kerry) and Corofin (Co. Clare).
The Castleisland entry focussed on recycling projects in the local Community College, while the Corofin entry focussed on the establishment of a regular 'Walking Bus' at the local National Schools. Both projects involved large numbers of young people and are highly replicable for the future.
Up to 2018, separate awards schemes operated for Climate Action projects, and Air Quality projects. These have now been combined into a single Climate Action and Clean Air special award, but looking back at previous winners can still provide inspiration as regards what worked well then, and what can still work well now.
Climate Action Award Winners
Awareness campaigns are very important in tackling climate change and wider environmental issues in Ireland. Spreading information on what climate change is and simple ways we can help are excellent Tidy Towns projects goals.
Previous winners such as Ennis, Co. Clare (2018 Large Town winners) and Ballon, Co. Carlow (2018 Small Town winners) engaged the local community by taking measures to encourage people to tackle climate change through some simple steps. Ennis stood out with their Recycling and Waste Prevention flyer. These were printed on paper from sustainable managed forests, and were distributed to more than 7,000 households. A further 5,000 flyers were distributed through local shops and other outlets.
Ballon impressed us with their 'Go Green Expo'. This included a Junk Kouture fashion show, a 'Grow Your Own' stand, a locally-rescourced BBQ, and a talk by the VOICE Ireland Recycling Ambassador Programme. They also introduced a reusable cup campaign and a village water refill station, and produced a 'Balána Glas (Green Ballon)' booklet.
Another previous winner, Monaghan, hosted a seminar with well-informed speakers discussing climate change with the local community. Others projects include eco-camps and workshops. The workshops teach people about how they can be more economical with their energy as well as their carbon footprint!
Another great initiative was by Ballycanew in Co. Wexford, which produced a column for their local newspaper on simple behavioural changes people can make, to become more environmentally friendly.
Clean Air Award winners
In 2018, Ennis used social media and the local press to spread a message about how even one small change can make a difference to the quality of the air we breathe. The message they chose was 'Don't Fume at the Kids' – which was an appeal to parents to turn car engines off outside schools when dropping off or picking up children, instead of allowing the engines to continue to run. The committee worked with a graphic designer to develop an image that was equally effective at small size on a smartphone screen as at large size in a printed newspaper. They also developed both English and Irish language versions of the graphic.
Local schools, Clare County Council, and the Clare Echo newspaper all helped the Tidy Towns committee to deliver the message to thousands of people.
Another great entry was by Carrigaline (Co. Cork), who submitted an entry that involved several initiatives:
- They conducted a comprehensive Home Heating Survey, which received 500 replies. They used the results to produce and circulate an information leaflet to encourage people to move towards solar power for secondary heating needs, and make them aware of various Home Energy Grants available.
- They encouraged a local secondary school to join the GLOBE initiative. TY students there now take air quality measurements as part of a national Citizen Science project.
- They arranged talk by Professor John Sodeau of UCC, on The Importance of Clean Air. More than 200 people attended.
- They also spread a message to encourage people to turn off their car engines outside schools, instead of leaving them idling.