ustainable Clonakilty (SC), formed in December 2006, aims to lessen the town’s contribution to climate change and dependence on diminishing resources, principally oil, and to prepare to deal with these very real threats to the future. It is a voluntary group, has no political or religious affiliations and works hand in hand with Tidy Towns, the Clonakilty Town Council, the Chamber of Tourism, and the community at large
SC’s first task was awareness raising with group discussions. These guiding principles were adopted:
- Reduce wasteful use of scarce resources
- Reduce use of polluting substances
- Reduce negative impact on nature
- Meet human needs fairly and efficiently.
Monthly public meetings have since informed on subjects as diverse as composting to domestic renewable energy heating systems. Keynote speakers Fr Sean McDonagh, Oisin Coughlan, Prof Peadar Kirby, Joy Larkcom, Dr Colin Campbell have expounded on the their areas of expertise. Site visits were organised to gardens, sustainable homes, and other natural environments.
Submissions were made on sustainable development for Ireland (via Comhar), to the Clonakilty Town Plan, the Special Transport Plan, a walkway/cycleway to Inchydoney Beach and local property development plans.
In January 2008 Minister John Gormley launched SC’s website which is updated weekly and has around 700 hits per day.
Excellent relationships with the local business community are enjoyed and provide the group with free meeting rooms, legal advice and other donations from time to time. The Town Council are regularly updated on SC’s plans and they are generous with their assistance.
How the Community Meets the Principles of Sustainable Development
The community is actively involved in many aspects of sustainable development, whether as users of the Town Council rubbish and recycling service, or the Recyling and Bring Centres. In addition through; involvement in the Annual Spring Clean, Tidy Towns’ and national Grow it Yourself (GIY) initiatives, three Green Flag schools, taking part in sustainability promotions and appeals, supporting the five recycled clothing and goods shops in the town and the two Farmer’s Markets, increasing energy efficiency and generation in their homes, working an allotment, community garden or home vegetable garden, helping organise or attending the annual SC Green Energy Fair.
SC is made up of three main groups:
- The Sustclon Ltd Board of Directors which is also driving the Jungle City initiative to raise environmental awareness in general.
- Events & Promotion Working Group. This organises; regular meetings, promotions such as the St Patrick’s Day float, the Green Energy Fair – where local providers of household renewable energy systems showcase their products to the community, and mounts displays, presentations and activities to support other allied community initiatives.
- Energy Working Group. Drives the major Clonergy 2020 Project strategy with aims to enable the transition of Clonakilty and the surrounding areas to energy neutrality through the use of renewable energy by 2020, in order to support a sustainable economy and quality of life for the community.
- Local Transport. This was established in November 2010 to complement the Energy Neutral vision, since one third of energy outputs in the Clonakilty area are attributable to transport. It aims to promote increased use of public and non-car transport, including the promotion of car pooling, cycling and walking buses for school children.
Steps taken to date to achieve the Clonergy 2020 goals are:
A fact finding mission to Güssing, Austria to learn how a town of 4,000 people became energy independent through the use of local renewable resources (and created 1,000 jobs) over the course of 15 years. The visit in November 2008 included the Mayor, Town Clerk, 2 Councillors and 5 members of SC.
Became a Company Limited by Guarantee in November 2008 and a registered charity, to facilitate funding and establish a professional identity.
Carried out an Energy Audit of Clonakilty Town in order to ascertain how much energy the town currently consumes. Funding came via the Clonakilty Chamber of Tourism from a prize they won from Failte Ireland.
Produced and distributed an up to date map which also informs about the Clonergy 2020 project. Funding was provided by Cork County Council Local Agenda 21 funds.
Obtained funding of €26,900 to employ a specialist contractor to carry out an assessment of the feasibility of using local renewable resources to supply energy in our local area of interest, which is roughly the area that lies within a 15 km radius of the town. The feasibility of the project was confirmed and steps to achieve the energy neutral aim were outlined. This project was supported by the West Cork Development Partnership under the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013.
SC is also meeting sustainability principles hand in hand with the community mainly through efficient use of energy resources, and good decision making, while recognising that all the other Comhar themes relating to equity between generations, respecting biodiversity, equity between countries and regions, social equity and respect for cultural heritage and diversity are inter linked and related to everything we do.
How does this Benefit the Wider community?
The work of Sustainable Clonakilty and the town’s other voluntary organisations help foster community spirit and provide a vehicle for people to learn sustainable skills. Open discussion forums allow people to participate in decision making about how the town should respond to the challenges of the future.
Successful implementation of the Clonergy 2020 project will keep money spent on energy, within the community. As in Güssing, establishment of local renewable energy supply facilities bring jobs and industry, and thus sustainable development, to the region.
The level of community participation?
This topic has been dealt with in the sections above. In addition, over 230 people are on the Sustainable Clonakilty email contacts list, over 70 financial members, numbers between 25 and 80 attend meetings depending on subject matter, and our website and facebook page (900 +members) promote our work. There are sixteen people (five women and 11 men) with a synergistic variety of skills and aptitudes who are actively involved in committee work and/or are directors of the company. Gaining the West Cork Development Partnership grant required a lot of support from local business people and others of influence in the wider community. This would not have happened if the group’s capability was not held in respect.