If you want to know how to have a positive impact on your environment you have to ask Carol Loftus in Mulranny. Carol won’t talk so much to you about melting icebergs or about 2 degrees of global warming, Carol is a very practical person who and will tell you about how you can take care of the place where you live, she’ll tell you about all the small things that can be done, about recycling batteries or electronic rubbish, about how brilliantly you can heat your house by burning Rhododendron instead of running electric heating, about the new electric car charging point coming to Mulranny, or about collecting rain water.
Carol has been passionate about environmental issues for a long time. When she heard about The Green Plan, she thought it would be a great opportunity for the community in Mulranny to build a great future and to become environmental leaders.
“It’s absolutely beautiful where I live here in Mulranny. We have to take care of this place and teach our children to do the same, show them to love the area and give them good examples of how to do it.”
When Carol heard from her brother about a programme they were rolling out in Kilbarrack that aimed to make the local fire station a fully sustainable building, she was intrigued and contacted the founder of that programme called The Green Plan, Neil McCabe.
“I met Neil and told him how many people here in Mulranny care about the environment and about the great community spirit we have, and so Mulranny became the second place in Ireland where The Green Plan was adopted.”
The Green Plan is built around seven themes that have an impact on climate change: Water, Energy, Biodiversity, Waste, Green Procurement, Carbon Production and Society. You start by picking one flagship building in the community that you optimise around those themes and work on lots of little things that transform the building into a green role model.
Carol and her team from the Mulranny Green Plan group picked the Mulranny tourist office as their flagship building and started their save-the-environment-marathon about one year ago. To date, they’ve reduced the carbon emissions of the building by 74%. What Carol has learned in the past year:
“It’s all not rocket science. It all starts with very small things. Everyone can do it, old or young. And we had so much fun while developing new ideas and getting creative on what we can do around each of the seven themes.”
The Green Plan provides a framework on how to save water, recycle, switch to energy resources that are less carbon intensive, but it doesn’t give one solution for each of them. It’s up to the community to take on the challenge, to come up with the ideas that suit their own environment and the flagship building they’ve chosen.
In Mulranny they started with building a water harvesting system, threw away all the chemical cleaning substances and exchanged them for soda, vinegar and salt & lemon juice, installed a water hippo in the toilet to reduce the use of water to 1L each time you flush, started heating by burning Rhododendron that was cut down along the walking trails, put up proper recycling bins, exchanged all the light bulbs to LED, put up bird boxes and an insect hotel in the garden and set up a local GIY group. Lots of rather small things that all make a huge difference once you see them all come together.
For the transport theme we came up with the idea to organise a mini-bus during the summer to go to the Ballycroy national park twice a week and offered a guided tour there on arrival. People can reduce their carbon footprint whilst on holiday by leaving their car behind at the tourist office and travelling in one vehicle to the National Park. Also when travelling to Green Plan meetings members car pool.
Another idea, the one I’m most fond of, is about food waste. We’ve got many holiday homes here and I heard from cleaners how much food people were throwing away when they left the houses and couldn’t make any use of it anymore. We now encourage people to leave the non perishable leftover food in the tourist office when they leave Mulranny and we make sure to deliver it to people who need it.
The Mulranny Green Plan Group use all kinds of channels to advertise the food drop idea, starting with flyers in the holiday homes.
“It’s like a snowball, you start with one idea and more and more keep popping up. You just need to come down to the grass!”
The results of their efforts are all measured: The carbon emissions of the tourist office went down by 74%, LED lighting uses 85% less electricity than other bulbs, they will save 2016 litres of fresh water on average within 48 weeks.
Carol is taking a little break now from her work in December, but she is already looking forward to the next steps of the Green Plan that will kick off with the next meeting with the Green Plan group in January.
“We want to introduce everything we did to the people in the village and bring the community on board. We hope to start working on a new building in Mulranny that will become a co-working space. We’d like to build it according to the Green Plan from the very beginning, starting with the concrete we use and incorporting the seven Green Plan themes. That will hopefully become our Gold Award, but that’s still two years down the road.”
Carol would love to see a national movement build around The Green Plan with more towns and villages taking it on and exchanging ideas on how to best adopt the programme.
If you would like to start The Green Plan in your area, you can learn more about what’s involved on ChangeX and just register interest to get all the support and tools you need to get it done. You can download our free 5-step-guide to start The Green Plan and we’ll assign you to a mentor if you decide to give it a try. (It might even be Carol!)