Energy

Using energy efficiently within the home is aimed at achieving the required level of comfort, at the least cost to the householder, while minimising damage to the environment. Every time we switch on a light, cook a meal or turn up the thermostat, we use energy. Whilst the use of energy within the home is an essential part of daily life, nevertheless, an excessive amount of energy is wasted or lost within many or our dwellings. (source: Energy Action Ltd.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transport

Noise, smelly fumes, frustrating traffic jams, road works and stress - just your average car journey. But there is more at stake than uncomfortable travelling: transport is responsible for 19.7% of Ireland''s greenhouse gas emissions; small particles emitted by vehicles using petrol or diesel are linked to asthma, and nitrogen oxides cause respiratory diseases and can produce smog at ground level. Irish people are becoming increasingly car-dependent with car numbers increasing accordingly.

Between 1990 and 2006, Transport showed the greatest increase of greenhouse gas emissions at 165%. Transport was responsible for 34% of Ireland’s energy-related CO2 emissions, higher than any of the other sectors, namely industry, residential and services sectors. Since 2005, there has been more than one car for every two adults in Ireland. Private cars with engines greater than 1.7 litres have increased their share from 13% in 1990 to 29% in 2006 (from Sustainable Energy Ireland's Energy in Transport 2007 report). There are many ways that you can help to reduce your transport impact on the environment and we have included many of them in this section.

Water

More people = More demand for fresh water

The amount of fresh water that is available to humans is actually quite limited and as the world population continues to increase the more stress that is placed on this precious resource:

  • 97% of the water in the world is sea water and therefore not suitable for drinking. Approximately 2% of the water is held in ice. This leaves only 1% of the world’s water available for human consumption

It might be difficult to understand why we need to conserve water in Ireland, especially as we seem to have so much of it! But it is vital to conserve and protect the water we have, especially if we want our grandchildren to have clean, safe drinking water. The costs of providing clean water can be quite high and the process can be difficult to manage. This was evident when local water supplies in some parts of Ireland became polluted in 2007. It's surprising to know that the average daily water consumption per person in Ireland is over 148 litres! With impending water charges there are many ways that we can save money and reduce our water consumption by making small changes to our daily activities in the home and in the garden.

 

Where does our drinking water come from?

Water moves in a cycle from the earth to the air and back to the earth again in a process known as the water cycle: While on the earth, water for drinking comes from two sources:

1. Groundwater from underground aquifers

2. Surface water from streams, rivers or lakes Groundwater is pumped to the earth's surface from wells.

This water usually requires little treatment before drinking because it has already been filtered through sand and rock as it settles into the earth. Surface water requires filtration to remove any silt, sand or organic matter collected by the water as it moved from one area to another. Chemicals are added to speed up the process that nature uses to clean water.

All water in Ireland is either piped in from a local water supply or comes from an underground well. All of the water delivered to our homes is drinkable (potable)- even the water we use to flush our toilets and wash our clothes. Your Local Authority is responsible for water quality in your home, lakes, rivers and any other water bodies in the area. As water usage goes unchecked, there are more demands put on water treatment systems, as well as sources for municipal water supplies. By reducing the demand for water in our homes, the costs for water treatment will be less and there will be fewer threats to the natural water sources (lakes, rivers and underground aquifers) in our environment.

Some households get their water from wells. Usually, these households are sited too far from the public water supply and so need to source their water independently. The water in wells comes from underground aquifers. In a recent report released by the EPA, it was found that 57% of the groundwater samples taken were polluted. The less strain we put on the groundwater sources will result in less pollution and higher water-quality. Further information on water quality in Ireland can be found in the EPA's 2011 report on Water Quality in Ireland, 2007 - 2009.

Waste

Waste generation and resource use have increased in Ireland over the last decade in tandem with increasing production and consumption of goods and services. Ireland has made significant progress in meeting many EU waste recycling /recovery targets but challenges in relation to waste generation and management remain.

The average Irish household throws out about 1 tonne of rubbish each year - this is the weight of a small car! Over 60% of this waste could be diverted from landfill by composting or recycling. Organic food waste going to landfill results in methane and leachate byproducts. Methane is one of the six greenhouse gases associated with Climate Change and in fact is 20 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide, the oft cited greenhouse gas. It follows that there is potential to increase composting in Ireland even more.

 

Waste Prevention

The most effective way to deal with waste is through a Waste Prevention approach. This approach focuses on changes in lifestyles and in production and consumption patterns. By not generating waste, we can eliminate the need to handle, transport, treat and dispose of waste. We can also avoid having to pay for these services.

The Minister of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government launched the National Waste Prevention Programme in April 2004. It is being led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The aim is to deliver substantive results on waste prevention and minimisation and integrate a range of initiatives addressing awareness-raising, technical and financial assistance, training and incentive mechanisms. One of the many initiatives undertaken by the EPA to achieve this aim has been to fund the Green Home Programme.

Waste Hierarchy

The debate surrounding waste management has put forward a method of positive action with regard to waste known as the Waste Hierarchy. At the top of the Hierarchy is prevention and avoidance of the generation of waste, and at the bottom, the least preferred option, disposal.

Summary of the Waste Hierarchy

• Prevention/Minimisation: Before any purchases are made, consider are they even needed. Clever shopping by buying in bulk, using refills etc.

• Reuse: This is where a product is bought and sold on with the same purpose. E.g. clothes banks, jam jars - there is no change.

• Recycling: A waste is processed into a new product often not related to the initial item. E.g. glass, plastics and composting.

• Energy Recovery: Taking waste/part of a waste stream, and using it as a fuel. E.g. making paper logs, waste-to-energy plants.

• Disposal: Landfill is the disposal route for 91% of the household, commercial and industrial waste produced in Ireland.

WHEN IS FOOD SAFE? – EXPLORING ‘BEST BEFORE’ DATES


Have you ever been completely confused over the expiry dates on the food we buy?  There is the ‘sell by’ date, the ‘use by’ date, the ‘best before’ date…how can we ensure that the food we’re eating is safe and that we are not throwing out perfectly good food just because of the date on the box/tin?

On average, we in Ireland are throwing away 1/3 of the food we buy.  See Food Matters.  Some of this is because of wastage on the plate and some of this is because the food has gone off.  However, some of this is because we are throwing out perfectly good produce based on the expiry date printed on the lid.  Our parents and grandparents never did this.  They would use ‘the smell/taste’ test before throwing anything out.  This wasn’t a perfect science and I’m sure that some people got sick.  Nevertheless, this ‘smell/sniff’ test can supplement the current expiry date system.

Best before or Best by Dates:  These dates appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods. These dates are only advisory and refer to the quality of the product, in contrast to use by dates, which indicate that the product is no longer safe to consume after the specified date.

Use by Dates:  Generally, foods that have a use by date written on the packaging must not be eaten after the specified date. This is because such foods usually go bad quickly and may be injurious to health if spoiled. It is also important to follow storage instructions carefully for these foods.  These types of foods include milk/milk products and meat/poultry/fish.

Sell by and Display Until Dates:  These dates are intended to help keep track of the stock in stores. Food that has passed its sell by or display untildate, but is still within its use by / best before date will still be edible, assuming it has been stored correctly. It is common practice in large stores to throw away such food, as it makes the stock control process easier.


How Long Are Foods OK to Eat?

Here are Some General Rules:

  • Milk. Usually fine until a week after the “Sell By” date.
  • Eggs. OK for 3-5 weeks after you bring them home (assuming you bought them before the “sell by” date).
  • Poultry and seafood. Cook or freeze this within a day or two.
  • Beef and pork. Cook or freeze within three to five days.
  • Canned goods. Highly acidic foods like tomato sauce can keep 18 months or more. Low-acid foods like canned green beans are probably risk-free for up to five years. Obviously, cans bulging with bacteria growth should be discarded, no matter what the expiration date!

Food Safety Tips

Since product dates don’t give you a true guide to safe use of a product, here are some other tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Services:

  • Purchase the product before the date expires.
  • If perishable, take the food home immediately after purchase and refrigerate it promptly. Freeze it if you can’t use it within times recommended on the chart.
  • Once a perishable product is frozen, it doesn’t matter if the date expires because foods kept frozen continuously are safe for around 6 months.  After this time, the quality of the item decreases and there is higher possibility of freezer burn.
  • Follow handling recommendations on product.[1]

Food Waste Recycling Plants

There are a number of plants which can process food waste.

A list of the plants can be downloaded here:List of Food Waste Recycling Plants_09.09.2013

Recycle

Learn more about recycling

Why?

Each year Ireland produces approximately 19.8 million tonnes of rubbish, much of which should be in the green, rather than the black, bin.

Recycling saves energy, protects the environment and can save you money. Recycling just one plastic bottle will save enough energy to power a 60 watt light bulb for three hours!

By recycling we:

  • Conserve our natural resources such as oil, metal, water and trees
  • Conserve energy required to produce new items from scratch which means fewer greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere
  • Reduce our dependence on landfills – meaning fewer harmful emissions like methane gas

How?

You can recycle a range of different things including:

  • Paper and cardboard
  • Plastic
  • Glass
  • Steel
  • Aluminium
  • Green and garden waste
  • Mobile phones
  • Waste electrical and electronic equipment, household batteries and car batteries
  • Other items: fluorescent tubes, paint, printer cartridges, spectacles, textiles, used gas cylinders and waste oil

For more recycling tips, check out the blog by Irish food waste company, Obeo: Six recycling myths busted.

If you're in Northern Ireland, check out the Rethink Waste campaign which gives great tips on recycling, reduction and reuse of waste items.

Repair and reuse

In our disposable society, we often just buy new goods rather than try to repair our older broken ones. But a new movement of 'Repair Cafes' is trying to change that. Repair Cafes are free community events manned by expert volunteers and DIY whizzes who can fix a range of broken household goods. The Cafes aim to encourage people to think about their relationship with the items they own and to empower people to repair things themselves.

And finally… dispose with disposables

Previous generations never dreamed of single-use razors, plastic forks, polystyrene cups, disposable shopping bags, or  throw-away food containers. When you make a purchase, consider the item’s life expectancy – and that of the packaging it comes in. How long can the item be used? Will it have more than one use? When you’re done with it, will it end up in the bin? Start investing in reusable products for the items you most often throw away.

- See more at: https://www.trocaire.org/getinvolved/climate-justice/recycle?gclid=CMqw_M6-4MwCFeZl2wodYxUAaw#sthash.2c8iYoy3.dpuf

Top 10 Ways to Reduce Waste

  1. Bring reusable bags and containers when shopping, traveling, or packing lunches or leftovers.
  2. Choose products that are returnable, reusable, or refillable over single-use items.
  3. Avoid individually wrapped items, snack packs, and single-serve containers. Buy large containers of items or from bulk bins whenever practical.
  4. Be aware of double-packaging - some "bulk packages" are just individually wrapped items packaged yet again and sold as a bulk item.
  5. Purchase items such as dish soap and laundry detergents in concentrate forms.
  6. Compost food scraps and yard waste. Food and yard waste accounts for about 11 percent of the garbage thrown away in the Twin Cities metro area. Many types of food scraps, along with leaves and yard trimmings, can be combined in your backyard compost bin.
  7. Reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive. The average resident in Ireland receives over 10 kilos of junk mail per year.
  8. Shop at second-hand stores.  You can find great used and unused clothes at low cost to you and the environment.  Buy quality clothing that won't wear out and can be handed down, whether to other people you know or on to a thrift store.
  9. Buy items made of recycled content, and use and reuse them as much as you can. For instance, use both sides of every page of a notebook before moving on to the next clean notebook.  Use unneeded, printed on printer paper for a scratch pad.
  10. Also, remember that buying in bulk rather than individual packages will save you lots of money and reduce waste! Packaging makes up 30% of the weight and 50% of trash by volume. Buy juice, snacks, and other lunch items in bulk and use those reusable containers each day.

    Plus...remember to Get LESS Today!
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