Cork's female climate ambassadors share their tips for a greener life

For many of us our New Year's resolution will be to live a more 'greener', sustainable, climate-friendly life. EMMA CONNOLLY spoke to some of Cork's Climate Ambassadors to hear their tips and advice
Cork's female climate ambassadors share their tips for a greener life

Climate Ambassador Sarah Bryant.

CORK was awarded an impressive five of this year’s 12 Climate Ambassador Awards for Outstanding Achievements, recently.

Organised by An Taisce, the awards are an annual opportunity for Climate Ambassadors to connect and reflect, to recognise and celebrate their fantastic achievements.

Honours went to UCC students Sophie O’Callaghan and Sarah Bryant, the brains behind Irish Mammy Goes Green, Carmel Wright, one third of the Bog Standard Film Project, Patricia Dino, and youth activist Theresa Rose Sebastian, from Mount Mercy College.

Sophie and Patricia worked together on the beautiful Bog Standard Film Project. Sarah organised a Tree Week collaboration between UCC Dance, Green Campus and Reforest Nation. Carmel took her voice to social media with engaging sustainability tips every single day, while Theresa used her voice to advocate for climate justice, youth empowerment, equality and education.

In total, some 193 citizens from a wide range of backgrounds were all selected to be Climate Ambassadors in 2021. See climateambassador.ie for more.

Climate Ambassador Carmel Wright
Climate Ambassador Carmel Wright

Carmel Wright

Kinsale-based Carmel Wright set herself an online challenge to communicate accessible, affordable green tips online for people starting their sustainable journey. The mum-of-two creates a post a day on her Instagram account and will have reached the golden 365th post by next March. Along the way her Irish Mammy Goes Green Instagram account has attracted a growing community of followers who are there for her endlessly useful advice – and humour!

“You always gain more than you give when you volunteer. This has certainly been my experience with the Climate Ambassador Programme, An Taisce initiative, gaining (carbon-free) momentum each year,” she said.

“The programme facilitators provide a significant training investment in all 193 of us throughout the year, developing our climate change knowledge. This feeds into our ability to act as agents for change through communication avenues we each develop and express through this empowerment.”

Carmel engages with public and private bodies concerning various green actions to be implemented, which, for example, has resulted in the new service provision of a brown waste bin reaching the Kinsale Bring Site.

“This was important, as food waste sent to landfills releases harmful greenhouse gases as it decomposes. In contrast, composting is a natural solution and make sense.

“As someone with a passion for science but limited knowledge of Ireland’s biodiversity overall, I trained as a Seashore Explorer to be armed with the discerning skills to tell the difference between seaweeds and seashore life - it was a great experience. This upskilling prepares me for the task of citizen science surveys, in addition to other Flower Insect Timed surveys and ladybird spotting!

“Through these survey initiatives, people have an opportunity to develop their knowledge, passion, and desire to help and preserve ecosystems.

“I also implement changes in my work, some I am still working through, like using up my recyclable plastic supply before transitioning to non-plastic alternatives. Despite plastic’s ubiquitous nature, it is not sustainable. Saying no to plastics is one of the powerful ways to drive change from the bottom up as a consumer.”

See @IrishMammyGoesGreen on Instagram and Facebook.

For 2022, her top sustainable tips are:

Go with the low hanging fruit: Start easy! January is a tough month - add a meat-free meal a week to your dinner schedule. It can be as simple a a swop - having a margherita instead of pepperoni pizza.

Plastic audit: Plastic is everywhere. Try finding one single-use plastic item that often features in your bin, and replace it with an alternative.

Reusable cup: Coffee tastes better out of a decent cup. Taste the difference, and avail of a discount in cafes that participate in the Conscious Cup Campaign

Ripple effect: Spread the word about your changes and how they are benefiting you, and the environment.

Stay abreast of climate issues with reliable information: There is a growing platform of accessible climate change information on a diverse range of topics available in the form of online videos from the Climate Ambassador Programme, and some great documentaries.

Climate Ambassador Sarah Bryant
Climate Ambassador Sarah Bryant

Sarah Bryant

Sarah Bryant made student hunger as strong a priority as her studies, during her final year of her BSc (Hons) in International Development and Food Policy at UCC.

“Fellow students and I spearheaded the UCC Fighting World Hunger Student Coalition. By hosting multiple United Nations Food Systems Summit Independent Dialogues, we raised awareness of the fact that many students on campus face food insecurity.

“We also conducted research into students’ consumption behaviours and found that students called for more affordable, nutritious and sustainable food choices on campus.

“We were also successful in urging UCC President Professor John O’Halloran to recommit to sign the ‘Presidents United to Solve Hunger’ Pledge,” said 23-year-old Sarah, from Douglas.

For National Tree Week 2021, she co-ordinated a four-day environmental campaign called the ‘TREE-t Yourself’ campaign in collaboration with the UCC Dance Club, which included a vegan cook-along, a yoga class, a Q&A with the founder of Cork-based clothing company Final Bend, and more.

“We generated €1,100 to invest in nature-based solutions here in Ireland.”

She also represents Ireland as Country Coordinator with the 16th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY16) Global Affairs Unit.

“I worked with coordinators globally to collect over 40,000 inputs from young people who expressed their climate demands.

“This was then synthesised into the Global Youth Statement and presented to COP26 President Alok Sharma at COY16 in Glasgow.”

For 2022, her top sustainable tips are:

Start off small: Incorporate small, manageable eco-friendly swaps into your everyday life.

Understand this is a slow, personal process over a lifetime: There will be ups and downs and it usually won’t happen overnight

Be kind to yourself: Recognise the importance of reducing your carbon footprint but also be aware of the larger players who are to blame for the majority of climate change.

Try to be conscious of your purchasing habits: Self-reflect on the psychological reasons of when and why you buy things.

Go on this journey with others! It’s so much more fun and easier to do when you have support from your friends.

Sophie O’Callaghan is a Plant Biology student at UCC
Sophie O’Callaghan is a Plant Biology student at UCC

Sophie O’Callaghan

Sophie’s contribution to sustainability this year was far from ‘bog standard’. She was part of an all female team who produced a documentary of that name, Bog Standard, which looked at the country’s peatlands and the important role they play in climate change.

“Peatlands can act as carbon sinks but when damaged by peat harvesting, they release that carbon back into the atmosphere. Our film centres on the communities dedicated to conserving Ireland’s peatlands.”

The Plant Biology UCC student from North Cork filmed on multiple bogs and interviewed community members and peatland advocates from all over Ireland for the project. Follow the team on Instagram at @bog.standard.film.project

The 21-year-old also helped re-establish UCC’s Community Garden.

For 2022 her top sustainable tips are:

Get involved! Community is the way forward for climate action and sustainability. By joining or setting up a community group, you get to share the workload of climate action and also make new connections to support each other.

Reach out to community gardens or environmental groups, or attend online meetings and trainings: This can be as easy as an email or a DM on social media. You’re always welcome and don’t need any previous experience or knowledge to start your sustainability and climate action journey.

Try to buy peat-free compost: Instead of peat-based.

Avoid trends: Ask yourself will this still be fashionable or in good condition in six months or will it get thrown away. Organise a swap shop between your friends to give your old clothes a new lease of life

If you have garden or outdoor space, consider letting it grow instead of mowing it, plant native wildflowers seeds.

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