ASK them what they do and they’ll point to everything from the life-sized tiger in Spiller’s Lane to plans for installing energy efficient technology in public buildings. Sustainable Clonakilty is a busy organisation.
Its raison d’etre is to promote sustainable living, recycling and energy efficiency in the area, but, while it has plenty of its own projects on the go, it makes a point of getting involved with as many local initiatives as possible.
‘Our focus is on getting the message out about cutting back on waste in all parts of life, through a series of projects on everything from food to energy to tree planting, climate change,’ explains Ray Lucy, one of the directors.
To this end the group has forged links with a variety of local organisations such as the Tidy Towns group, the Chamber of Commerce and Branch Out.
If participation involves getting out on a Saturday morning to chop up enough firewood to fill 250 bags of blocks to donate to the local St Vincent de Paul, they’re there. If it means throwing their support behind projects like the colourful and wildly successful Jungle Cities initiative, which saw around 30 ‘wild’ animals installed in various locations around the town, they’re up for that too.
They’re also currently considering planting vegetable gardens in the town centre and are in the midst of talks with Sustainable Energy Ireland about a plan to install renewable energy and energy efficient technology in six public, community and business buildings in Clonakilty.
Originally established in 2005, this dynamic group made headlines some years ago with is ambitious plan to make the town, and a 15 kilometre radius around it, sustainable. Members travelled to the Austrian town of Gussing which produces and exports its own power. The group later drew up an energy road map for the area, and published a comprehensive report on the issue.
Then, recalls Xavier du Buisson, another director of the group, the recession hit. ‘The whole economy changed in terms of realising the road map and the investment opportunities were no longer there as a result of the economic downturn.’
In response, Sustainable Clonakilty turned its attention to a smaller project-focused approach. Now, as the country slowly eases away from the excoriating recession of recent years, the group has experienced a new hike in membership along with a surge of public interest in its activities.
‘In all we have about 50 members in the group, from people in their 20s and 30s to people who are retired and everything in between. In terms of approach we’ve also decided to increase our level of cooperation with other community groups and join forces with organisations like Tidy Towns, Chamber of Commerce and Vincent de Paul,’ he explains.
Sustainable Clonakilty supported the 2012 Jungle City project, which has brought many tourists to Clonakilty and brightened the town with its trail of 30 brightly-painted wild animal sculptures.
‘We still own the animals for five years and then we will bequeath them to the county council,’ he says.
Last winter, when several dead trees were cut down in the town’s Convent Avenue area, Sustainable Clonakilty members were on hand to chop the resulting €1,500 of waste timber into logs and bag it – it was afterwards donated it to St Vincent de Paul to alleviate fuel poverty in the Clonakilty area.
The group has also been involved in the Branch Out project at Gullane Lake outside the town – about 3,000 trees, comprising a mix of alder, birch, bird cherry, wild cherry, hazel, pendunculate oak, sessile oak, scots pine and willow have been planted – and more will be planted in March of this year.
‘We’ve all helped to plant about an acre of trees, a mix of broadleaf native Irish trees, which were donated by local nurseries around the town. There will be another Branch Out tree planting day in the same place around St Patrick’s Day.’
At the moment the group is holding talks with Sustainable Energy Ireland about submitting an application for funding under the Better Energy Community Programme for an estimated €200,000 project to install energy efficient technology in a number of local buildings.
‘Our objective is to install renewable energy and energy efficient technology in six public buildings, community and business buildings in Clonakilty,’ says du Buisson. Sustainable Clonakilty is also currently engaging with a number of business groups, voluntary organisations and public authorities to identify suitable buildings for the project and the application will be filed before the end of March. It’s a good deal for all concerned. He adds: ‘We’d get up to 50% funding for the project so it would have a very good return for the owners of the buildings who would pay the rest.’
The group has also thrown its weight behind a clever plan by local hoteliers and the Chamber of Commerce and hoteliers to get a bicycle rental scheme going in Clonakilty, similar to those now popular in big cities like Cork, Dublin and Galway. ‘The idea is that when people are cycling they’re not driving their cars,’ says du Buisson, adding that they’re also currently considering an innovative way of teaching children about the importance of growing their own food. ‘The idea is to plant vegetables in the green squares around the town, so that instead of growing grass, the open spaces would be about growing something that people would eat.
‘The concept of the project is to demonstrate the growing of food in green spaces around the town and we are hoping to start that later this year.’
For more information on Sustainable Clonakilty go to . www.facebook.com/sustainable.clonakilty