By Áilín Quinlan
SUSTAINABLE Clonakilty, with 25 dedicated or core members ranging in age from people in their 20s to those in their 70s, undertakes a wide variety of projects.
Over the years the organisation, which was established in 2006, has also given birth to a number of ‘offshoot’ groups such as the Grow It Yourself group, and the Clonakilty Bicycle festival.
‘It’s a very dynamic group full of enthusiastic people, and we would very much like to see the membership continue to grow,’ said local hotelier and Sustainability Clonakilty director Michael O’Neill.
And, as of just last week, Sustainable Clonakilty is the proud holder of a prestigious new global sustainability award, which puts it on a par with renowned destinations like Canada’s Niagara falls, Jackson Hole and Vermont in the USA, Cape town in South Africa, Montepisano in Tuscany and Tung Dap village in Thailand.
The town received a Sustainable Destinations Top 100 award, coming on foot of the town’s win of a gold medal in this year’s Tidy Towns awards ,and its ranking last year among the top 10 tourist towns in Ireland by Failte Ireland.
‘This award will attract more people to the organisations and we are very excited about its potential – it’s fantastic,’ said Mr O Neill. ‘It’ll be a huge attraction to green-conscious visitors and great for the branding of the town abroad, as well as acting as an inspiration to local residents to make an ever bigger effort to emphasise the importance of living a sustainable lifestyle.’
The global sustainable tourism market is steadily increasing – people like to go to places where they know their impact on the local environment will be as insignificant as possible.
‘Winning this award means that we will be increasingly attractive to this sector of the market. At the end of the day, while we want more visitors to come to Clonakilty, we also want Clonakilty to retain its soul – and this is what sustainable tourism is all about,’ he added.
Based on 15 core criteria of the Green Destinations Standard, nominations were open to all, but competitors had to provide extensive information on their local area and outline its efforts towards sustainability for the benefit of visitors, residents and the world. Awards were presented at a gala event at the historic Ljubljana Castle in Slovenia.
The judges were impressed by Clonakilty’s array of eco-friendly initiatives, which include a community bicycle scheme, a community vegetable garden, a waste water treatment plant and a community ‘better energy’ scheme which had successfully promoted energy reduction initiatives such as solar panels, LED lightbulbs and sustainable, solid fuel heating systems in businesses and community organisations within the town. The efforts of local schools which had won a variety of green flags and planted kitchen gardens were also included in the application.
Mr O’Neill gave much credit to Cork County Council and to the local authority’s Municipal District officer Justin England for their ongoing support to the town.
‘Sustainable tourism is growing every year and is integral to the image of Clonakilty. Focusing on sustainable tourism also ensures that we protect the beauty of Clonakilty for future generations.’