A grassroots adventure

December 3rd, 2019 7:05 AM

By Emma Connolly

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As Clonakilty celebrates getting its ‘Cool Community’ status and is working to ultimately go 'off-grid,' one local woman is on a mission to discover if living sustainably can be more of an adventure than a sacrifice

LOTS of us are committed to trying to live more sustainably, but not many of us are prepared to radically overhaul our entire lives – and hold ourselves accountable on Instagram.

That’s exactly what Sinead Crowley from Clonakilty is doing with impressive results.

She went from feeling overwhelmed and thinking she couldn't make a climate difference, to figuring it was at least worth a shot.

Pulling her head out of the sand she dived right in by ditching her car, became mostly vegan, trained with Al Gore as a “Climate Reality Leader” and also organised the sell-out “She is Sustainable Cork” conference in the city this year. This brought together women working in all aspects of sustainability to share stories, experiences and their role in shaping a better future.

Her combined efforts have seen her cut her carbon footprint almost in half - from 18.9 tonnes in 2017 to a current 9.4 tonnes. And those figures are dropping all the time.

Sinead, who works remotely as a designer for the Wicklow based Cool Planet Experience, the country’s first climate action exhibition, explains how her ‘grassroots adventure’ began:

‘As part of my job, I was constantly being confronted by articles, imagery, and videos of the impending doom awaiting the planet. I was scared and I stuck my head in the sand. I felt paralysed with fear and to me, it was just a huge problem that little old me had no chance of changing.

‘But as time went on I realised that approach was not helping anyone so I decided to make myself a lab rat and test if I started making planet-positive changes to my life - in the form of an adventure as opposed to sacrifices - what would happen?’

So she launched her Instagram blog @agrassrootsadventure  in July 2017 which saw her part company with  her beloved Peugeot Lola.

‘I opted instead to walk/cycle/public transport/car pool my way around. As a result, I have lost weight, I save least €1200 a year (and that’s only my insurance), I also save money on petrol although that kind of balances with the times I use public transport or rent a Go Car.’

Sinead also became, what she dubs, a ‘bad vegan’ or flexitarian. ‘Basically, I eat veggie dishes 90% of the time and occasionally treat myself to meat/cheese dishes. As a result, my skin is clearer, I feel healthier and again it’s saving me money. I am also consciously trying to eat more local and seasonal foods, which sends my money to local farmers.’

Next she looked at her energy sources and deduced that Airtrcitiy were the most cost effective but also provided 100% renewable energy.

‘That saves my partner and  I €19 a year which we use on a cinema date!’ she said.

Her wardrobe and shopping habits also came under scrutiny: ‘I have totally transformed my wardrobe using charity shop finds, second hand wins on the app Depop, absolute gems I have found at clothes swaps or shared clothes using the website NuWardrobe. Occasionally I will spend money on an investment buy. I am proud of the fact I have only bought two new items of clothing this year and we are now in November - a dress for a wedding and  a pair of Levi jeans.’

Travelling is one area she admits she struggles with as the reality of living on an island is hard to get around.

‘I take mini staycations around Ireland instead of weekends abroad which myself and my partner are really enjoying. When I do fly, I carbon offset the emissions (which should never be the answer but it is better than not doing anything at all).’

She’s been involved in Clonakilty getting its Cool Community status from Cool Planet, founded by Ballinascarthy man Noman Crowley, and it’s something she’s very proud of.

‘I remember when I was  in primary school and Clon became the first fair trade town and now they are doing the same again becoming a Cool Community. It’s not easy and Clon have stepped up to the challenge.’

On the flipside she feels our government have not.

‘It’s what has surprised me most on this adventure – that the government still isn’t properly embracing sustainability when it means incredible benefits to society like: cleaner water and air, a happier, healthier population, green jobs, energy independence etc.’

But far from presenting herself as perfect – she insists her adventure is about trial and error and importantly having fun. 'We don’t need a handful of people being perfectly sustainable, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly. Don’t be afraid to f**k up –  just give it a try and  see how you feel. If it makes your life better, continue doing it, if it doesn’t, then forget about it and  try some other planet-positive changes that suit you better. Everyone is different and there is no single solution that works for everyone. Also, have the craic! Life is an adventure, enjoy it, laugh along the way and most of all bring someone with you.’

*Sinead is planning to set up a “Grassroots Adventure Club” to get more people joining in, making changes and reaping the benefits of planet-positive living. Follow her on Instagram @agrassrootsadventure or visit her website for more.

Keep an eye on @sheissustainableCork for their next event.

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