This is a report of sorts of the first Skerries Eco Night, 22 November 2022. It has also a list of actions. Join us in doing something – yourself, in your household, in your neighbourhood, group… Have a look through this blogpost and see what you’d like to do.
Or jump to very bottom for the web of ideas that resulted from the night!

The need to act

We all know that not just the climate, but also biodiversity is in trouble. In Skerries as much as anywhere.

We know something must happen, but where should we start?  And what can we here in Skerries do to tread more lightly into our future? 

Some 70 people met in Skerries Mills recently for the first Skerries Eco Night to explore those questions. 

Individuals, representatives of many committees and clubs. 

Fact box: Why, who, what?

  • The Skerries Community Association, through its committee, Sustainable Skerries, had invited local individuals, groups, and businesses, and some 70 attendees were at the first Skerries Eco Night on 22 November 2022 in Skerries Mills.
  • The evening was the first tangible result of the Skerries Eco Town Course organised by Sustainable Skerries and funded by the European Agricultural Development Fund, administered by LEADER Fingal through the Department of Rural and Community Affairs.
  • In six weekly classes and one intensive weekend in Cloughjordan Co. Tipperary, the first Irish eco village, more than twenty participants learned about the causes and consequences of the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. 
  • The main focus was always on what we can do here in Skerries – active hope instead of passive fatalism.
  • On the night, five committees of the Skerries Community Association outlined what they are already doing: Skerries Tidy Towns, Sustainable Skerries, Skerries Cycling Initiative, Skerries Sustainable Energy Community Initiative and the Skerries Community Centre.
  • In a dozen small groups, all attendees then discussed one of the six topics in depth and made suggestions for practical next steps in Skerries. The topics were transport, energy, food, biodiversity, waste / the circular economy and water (water management, the sea, river, rainwater…).
  • All outcomes and the feedback from the attendees are now being put together and fed back to everyone, so that the next steps can be taken towards a more sustainable, maybe even regenerative Skerries.

A start has been made

It’s important and reassuring to remind ourselves that we don’t start from zero. A lot is already happening in Skerries, and nationally.

Tidy Towns groups all over Ireland for instance have changed from looking for manicured greens and front gardens to focusing on sustainability and biodiversity. The local members, represented at Skerries Eco Night by Anne Laird, are involved in many small and large activities to enhance biodiversity and to raise awareness. “No Mow May,” Anne reminded those present, means that there is food for pollinators at the beginning of the flower season, when there is little else than dandelions and similar early wildflowers. She also pointed to their cooperation with BirdWatch Ireland (whose Cathal Copeland was in the room) and asked everyone to make sure to bring home litter especially from the beach, and to keep dogs under close control when near the brook (Rugby Club end of the South Strand), where many migrating birds rest. 

Another very busy group is the Skerries Sustainable Energy Community Initiative, S-SECI for short. As the chair, Mike Mullen Jensen, was unfortunately sick on the night, John Fitzgerald represented the committee’s work. There was a lot of interest – energy costs have focused all our minds on the importance of reducing our usage.

He presented the main ideas in the Energy Master Plan for Skerries. Some two thirds of energy used in Skerries is used by private households, a lot of it for heating. Insulation and ensuring the immersion is not on unnecessarily are two quick steps everyone can take. Another great idea is to get together with neighbours – as has happened in Ardgillan View – and to organise a retrofit together. It seems this is the best way of ensuring a company will even look at your house these days…! 

Another important area and nearly a quarter of energy use in Skerries is for transport – making the point for considering how to change our habits for transport, especially small trips and commutes by diesel/petrol vehicles. SSECI will be part of trying to make alternative travel, such as active travel (bicycles, etc), local micro-mobility and community transport options more available.

Many areas overlap – the need for more active travel featured centrally as well (of course) in the input by Michael McKenna of the Skerries Cycling Initiative (SCI). He highlighted the SCI’s long work for better cycling and indeed walking infrastructure. It finally looks like there will be some tangible progress, with the Greenway about to connect Balbriggan, Skerries, and Rush on the one hand, and the Skerries Active Travel Plan improving the situation in Skerries itself on the other. The SCI, Michael assured us, will continue to liaise with Fingal County Council on both!

Charlie Heasman is no stranger to the people of Skerries, and biodiversity is his main concern. Many parents were very impressed with the enthusiasm with which their children came home from school after one of Charlie and Marion Heasman’s guided pollinator walks. This evening, Charlie drew the attention of the audience to the urgency with which we need to do something about biodiversity loss. Having said that, he has every reason to be very pleased with the first results of the Sustainable Skerries Pollinator Action Plan – the Large Carder Bee, under pressure everywhere in Ireland, is extending its locations in Skerries and was found in the Community Garden just outside Skerries Mills this past summer. It goes to show that seemingly small, real actions can and do make a difference. 

Helen Scullion, also of Sustainable Skerries, then briefly outlined what else this very active committee does – mentioning their awareness-raising and skill-sharing work in e.g. the Sustainable Food Festival, Repair Cafés, car-boot sales, and the monthly First Friday For Future events, which draw attention to various aspects of the climate change and biodiversity crises.

In short, a lot is already happening on part of the SCA committees. And then there is Skerries Community Centre, run by its own Board of Management for the Skerries Community Association. Sharon Guinane, the manager, gave us a wonderful example of how much can be done in a short amount of time, once the commitment is there. Insulation, upgrading of the lighting to LED in nearly all places, improvement of switches and more waste segregation have already taken place. Applications for solar power and a heat pump have been made, and 2023 will see a bee-friendly wildflower garden and first steps towards using rainwater in the toilets. Sharon says that she is very happy to share her experiences with any other groups managing community buildings in Skerries.

The Background: The Skerries Eco Town Course and What We Learned

It’s near impossible to distil the learning of six 90-minute sessions and a full weekend into fifteen minutes. Sabine McKenna of Sustainable Skerries tried all the same, and did give a taste of what had been explored this September and October just gone.

The most important take-aways from the Skerries Eco Town Course were that the situation regarding both climate and biodiversity is serious, and that it is important that we do all we can to effect a change in the way our society, economy, country and in the end most directly our community is structured, so that it gives more people an easy option to live a sustainable and even regenerative life. Sustainable is what can be sustained, what can be kept up over a prolonged time – regenerative is what improves things from the way they are. 

Isn’t it a wonderful thing to consider how we could leave our environment better than we find it (be regenerative), not just keep it going as it is (be sustainable)?

Anyone interested in learning more about the state and implications of climate change and biodiversity loss, about energy, about food security… please see our suggested links at the bottom!

Community is at the heart

One central take-away from the course was: Community is at the heart of all solutions. We experienced its importance for ourselves during the weekend there, as a group and in the eco village. [a few cj pictures]

The ability of a community to cope together with challenging situations – community resilience – can be estimated, if not measured, and it can be strengthened. It needs 

  • healthy and engaged people; 
  • inclusive, creative cultures shaping a positive, welcoming sense of place; 
  • an economy adapted to, and improving, the local area that sustains food, energy, water, housing and other resources; 
  • strong links to other places and communities. 

Are we surviving, existing, or thriving in these four areas? And what can we do to thrive in all? That question underpins what we are hoping to do now, and it also informed the small-group discussions that followed.

The discussions at the tables

We experienced the importance of coming together as a local community first hand at this first Skerries Eco Night. Given the space and time, we can come up with amazing solutions. 

What was most memorable – and mentioned by nearly everyone as they left after a very engaged evening – was the buzz, the energy, the palpable sense of participation everywhere.

This extended to the report from the individual tables, and the feedback forms filled in by participants. Put together, it is actually a very long list of diverse small, medium and large actions we can take individually, in groups, and as a society. 

The first step is taken … We have come together for a first time, and started the conversation across group and association boundaries.

There were business owners and committee volunteers. Individual residents and chairs of parents’ associations. Sports clubs of many different kinds were represented, on land, in and on the water. Real estate agents and ornithologists. Artists and farmers.

Skerries is amazing, and we have made a first step into a future in which we tread more lightly. Who knows, we may yet become the first regenerative town in Ireland – a town the community of which leaves the local ecosystem in a better shape than it is now.

Will you help us?

Next steps

Here are just a few suggestions from the night. 

  • yourself: Subscribe to the Sustainable Skerries Newsletter to be kept informed of future events and opportunities to get involved! 
  • your household: Check windows for drafts, and create a wildflower front garden
  • your neighbourhood: Make sure your road does not lose out on information! Are you part of Skerries Neighbourhoods Network? See https://www.skerriesca.com/hom/neighbourhoods-network/ for a list of areas that are already in it. If you don’t have a network in your road, use the tips on how to set one up!
  • your kids’ school: Swap as many things as possible, toys, uniforms, party equipment, bikes… many of these will already be happening. Be active in your parents’ association and help them along.
  • your business: How can you nudge customers towards more eco-friendly choices? Make it easy for those who bring bring cups, reuse packaging, opt for organic / plant based. And check your energy use – how can you help the climate while saving money? Get in touch with S-SECI!
  • any group you’re in… Make sure that biodiversity and climate action underpin everything you do. Share lifts. Avoid single use. Reduce energy consumption. Plan for the future. Grow some wild plants.

From little acorns, mighty oak trees grow. 

Watch out for more events soon, and stay in touch! See below the photos for the web of ideas incorporating suggestions made during the night and afterwards.

  • Would you like to join our Sustainable Skerries Chat Group on WhatsApp? Send an email to sustskerries@gmail.com [that’s the correct email] with your name and phone number!
  • Follow us on Facebook, on Insta, on Twitter – and please, please, like, share, comment on, our posts so our reach grows!

Ideas from the Tables and from the Feedback Forms from Skerries Eco Night 22nd November 2022 

So what was the outcome of the first Skerries Eco Night? A colourful web of ideas!

We tried to tease out some strands and to summarise the suggestions here by theme.

In general:

As individuals, we all can be open to information about the current situation regarding climate and biodiversity.

We all can look for small, sustainable solutions.

We all can let politicians of all parties, and none, know how important these issues are to us.

We all can do our best in our households, families, groups, businesses, on our commutes and places of work.

We all can help spread awareness that living a more environmental life usually means more, not less enjoyment.

We all can start by not judging anybody, just doing our own best.

As parts of groups, we can make sure environmental and climate awareness underpins all we do. (Maybe have a ‘green officer’?)

We can cooperate with other groups, seeking overlaps, synergies, sharing information.

We can participate actively in future Skerries Eco events – a series of evenings that focus on one issue each, maybe, a Skerries Eco Festival perhaps, or even steps towards a Skerries Eco Hub for information and tool sharing.

There are many, many suggestions here. Some may be easier than others, some might have a bigger impact. Some may even contradict others! We did not sort them by relevance, we did not have the time to fact-check them all (and if there is anything that is actually counter-productive in this list, please let us know by email to sustskerries@gmail.com and we’ll take it off)… we just tried to harvest the ideas triggered by the first Skerries Eco Night and to group them loosely. Why not pick something that speaks to you, suggest them to your group, join a relevant group or find some others who might be interested and set up a group, and have a go?!

By theme:

Food growing, food production, food quality and food waste

We all individually can:

  • Grow food, make compost & share about it so others see how easy it is
  • Participate in Open Garden events (see below)
  • Reduce food waste (and money waste) – make a list before shopping, and maybe take a “shelfie” (snap a photo of your shelves and fridge so you know what you already have) , be creative with left-over food and do batch-cooking – as a last resort, compost any food waste (this is still important as it feeds the soil)
  • Purchase as much as possible what is seasonal, local, organic, waste-minimising, ecosphere-enhancing and regenerative (s.l.o.w.e.r.)…

Groups can:

  • Organise Open Garden events where local people who are growing food themselves can show others 
  • Organise gardening classes
  • Use some of their available space for growing fruit or veg
  • Organise cooking classes both inside and outside schools:
    • using seasonal vegetables and fruit including how to make jams and jelly
    • how to do batch-cooking
    • making most of left-overs
    • plant-based cooking for non-vegans / vegetarians
  • Organise foraging workshops throughout the year
  • Get together and also bring in knowledgeable individuals to draw up a foraging map of Skerries
  • Open Orchards group: Find more areas to plant fruit trees, maybe linear orchards on grass verge to Skerries Point and beyond: Apples, Crab apples, Currants, Pears, Plums…

Local farmers can:

  • Engage with local groups and the public to see how we could support them to move more towards farming for nature to enhance the natural health of the countryside
  • Consider inviting locals to forage for blackberries etc, if that is possible from an insurance point of view (especially if they do not use any chemicals on their farm)

Businesses can reduce food waste:

  • Reduce Food Waste by reducing the price of more food as it goes out of date (SuperValu has increased the amount of reduced items by over 60%, we heard.)
  • Follow the change of regulations regarding Best Before with the relevant changes in labelling
  • Reduce pre-packaging so that customers can select the number of carrots they want themselves, and make loose fruit & veg no more expensive than pre-pack
  • Look into misting certain fruit & veg as shops in the Netherlands have begun to do.
  • Bring more local foods / product into their shops (we recognise that SuperValu, Gerry’s, Olive, the Skerries Mills Farmers Market, local farm shops Skerries Organic Farm and Bare Acre Farm and others already do a good bit in this area, and we would encourage them and others to build on this and extend what is available)

The Government can (and we can lobby it to):

  • Make it easier for small farmers to grow and sell organic food to a local / regional market
  • Put the onus on food distributors to make it easier for franchisees (local supermarkets) to bring local food / products onto their shelves

Food Wishes:

  • We’d like a bigger diversity of Irish-grown food on our shelves – but imports are often cheaper
  • We’d like more organic food, ideally seasonal and local as well, and at a fair price to consumer and farmer
  • We’d like another Sustainable Skerries Food Festival!

Circular Economy / Waste Reduction

As individuals, we can:

  • Contribute to the reuse of items by offering them
    • to local charity shops, and by purchasing things from them
    • on Skerries Free Stuff (Facebook group with 5,800 members):
      Scan the code to ask to join the group
  • Use reusable Cups (all Skerries coffee shops etc are accepting them, most give a discount!)
  • See also GoCar, Bike Rental, Community car under Transport & Active Travel – all helping to reduce the need for a second family car!

Some wishes regarding the circular economy:

  • We’d like more of an incentive to bring KeepCups so that the use of single-use cups can be reduced more – and a better management of the disposal of ‘compostable’ coffee cups that are still used.
  • We’d like shops and take-aways to make it easier to bring containers instead of using single-use plastic containers

Transport & Active Travel

As individuals, we can:

  • Walk, scoot, roll, cycle whenever possible and make that our first choice, e.g. by keeping the bike in a place that is easy to access, and by having good rain gear ready for walking and cycling.
  • Use GoCar instead of a (second) car: There are currently four GoCars available for rent in Skerries. https://www.gocar.ie/how-it-works/ 
  • Use rented bikes instead of cars. Bike Rental: Bleeper bikes, Tier bikes can be found in many locations in Skerries.
  • Spread the word about the Fingal Community Car and maybe become a volunteer driver. Skerries is one of only two places which currently (2022) have such For those who can’t drive themselves. Trained drivers will take them to medical appointments, community events, to see people in hospital etc.
    https://www.fingal.ie/fingal-community-car 

All of us, groups and individuals, can:

  • Lobby for reduced transport chargers and better local transport
  • Lobby for more and better active travel facilities including better footpaths, safer cycle routes, better bike parking

As schools / clubs / organisations, we can:

  • Encourage our teachers, students, parents, members to use active travel (establish first how people arrive, then try to improve on those figures – make sure you get the baseline  data as this will help see any progress and also assist Skerries Tidy Towns in their 2023 report!):
    • Have good pedestrian and cycling routes to our facilities
    • Have good bike parking where bikes can be locked and are maybe even kept dry
  • Encourage car sharing where using cars is necessary

As businesses / shops, we can:

  • Make it easier to shop without a car, e.g. by
    • offering good bike parking facilities including for cargo bikes
    • encouraging people to use delivery services instead of driving
  • Make it easier to walk to our premises e.g. by
    • favouring pedestrians over cars on the car park
    • lobbying for safe pedestrian routes to our premises

We can all help improve the situation regarding commuting so that we can reduce the commuting by car. We can engage with NTA, Iarnrod Éireann, bus companies and BusConnects on the following.

  • A better train service, reliable and frequent (some of this may happen with the new hybrid DART-like trains)
  • A more attractive bus service with improved connection to Swords, the airport, Santry, Whitehall, DCU.
    • reliably delivered
    • with reasonable journey times. 
    • also serving the newer estates in the town (Kelly’s Bay, Barnageeragh Cove and Hamilton Hill towards the north, as well as Ballygossan and Hacketstown). 

We also should engage with the local authority in order to ensure that all the projects to improve the town (public realm and active travel initiatives) are sensitive to the impact on the quality of the bus service. This may include treating roads that are bus routes differently to others for speed ramps, traffic light phasing, car parking etc.

Water Management: Water & Waste Water, Flood Management, the Sea, our brook…

Households and individual and community buildings

Even though water is free, it is a limited resource that we need to preserve so that the quality of our drinking water does not deteriorate (which it does with every circulation through the system). Flooding and droughts will increase with the changing climate

  • Harvest rainwater: Install a (second) water butt
    • to reduce flooding risks
    • to reduce erosion
    • to have water for user during drier times
  • Reducing usage: See the Irish Water website for tips, such as put a brick into the cistern of your toilet, turn off taps when brushing teeth, take (shorter) showers, use the water from rinsing veg for watering your plants. 
  • Increasing the amount of rain that can drain into the ground by keeping as much ground as possible free from tarmac / cement / paving, e.g. by using permeable driveways 

Buildings and hard landscaping – especially for new estates

  • Encourage people to keep front gardens green instead of concrete: Porous solutions for drives etc reduce erosion and flood risks
  • Engage with the builders to see whether rainwater harvesting systems could be offered to prospective buyers, as it is a lot easier and cheaper to install them during construction.

The quality of our sea water

Effluent Inflows

Skerries does not have raw sewage entering the sea but raw sewage does enter the sea at Howth (Doldrum Bay), Malahide and Ringsend as well as in Louth and Wicklow. 

After heavy rain in the bathing season the water quality at the south strand in Skerries is occasionally deemed unfit for swimming due to sewers overflowing. Works should if possible be carried out by Irish Water to reduce this.

A possible foul water inflow at Red island was noted recently and needs investigation.

Litter on our beaches, especially plastic

  • Signage encouraging people to remove litter and other environmental messaging (e.g. keep dogs on lead) should be installed at south strand, Red Island and north beach. “Take 3 for the Sea” resonates with people. 
  • In the absence of bins or when bins are full people should be encouraged to take their litter home.
  • Adopt a Beach should be revived or a similar programme put in place.
  • A campaign should be run in local schools against littering and dumping at coast, stream and green spaces. Green Schools could be a way to do this.
  • We need bins at Red Island and north beach.
Green and Blue Flags
  • An assessment should be made as to whether the South Strand could be made eligible for these awards and the work required. Three Fingal County Council beaches had the Blue Flag status in 2022.
Harbour
  • There are no waste disposal facilities at the harbour and pier and no bins. The sea bed is heavily littered and a clean-up is needed at low tide.
MILL STREAM / “The Brook”
  • A lot of clean-up work has been carried out by volunteers over the last two years. We need to reach kids in schools to try and stop littering and dumping.
  • Less cutting of the banks by FCC would be good for biodiversity as would planting of trees on the banks.
  • Water quality needs monitoring for upstream pollutants. A recent test showed nitrate levels within allowed limits but this can vary over time.
  • It was suggested to have a part of the stream that would be accessible for young children to remove tadpoles etc.

Biodiversity

For individuals:

  • Learn about biodiversity, e.g.
  • Join the Gardening for Pollinators Whats-App group (send an email to sustskerries@gmail.com if interested, make sure to mention Gardening for Pollinators Whats-App Group and to send your phone number)

For groups, organisations etc

  • Keep areas wild! Example: The Sailing Club has a wild patch 1 m wide behind the sheds. They will keep it as is.
  • Organise information sessions on how to help biodiversity in one’s garden:
    • pollinator-friendly gardening
    • biodiversity-friendly gardening including if and what to feed birds, how to help hedgehogs etc
  • Tidy Towns have moved to awarding sustainability, so the local awards could change as well
    • Tidy Towns could emphasise even more that they are awarding prizes to the most bio-diverse front gardens, not the “tidiest” ones, e.g. by posting photographs of the last few winning front gardens if owners are happy to allow this
    • New categories could be added for most biodiverse sporting club, bee-friendliest school – maybe find additional local sponsors for these?

Specific aspects and areas

Pollinators
  • Individuals, pledge your front garden, your back garden, your balcony and help pollinators with wildflowers or pollinator-friendly plants
  • Check the Large Carder Bee Action Plan and see if you can help with any of the suggested actions, as an individual, group, or business.
  • The coastal strip extending from Red Island along south strand and on to Shenick point is an important biodiversity corridor and should be designated a local conservation area with signage on species including birds and Large Carder Bee.
Fishing: Given that the Skerries islands are a Special Area of Conservation should the surrounding sea be a Marine Protected Area? 
  • What is the ecological impact of fishing / dredging for razor clams near Skerries on the seafloor and on biodiversity?
  • Is there a possible contribution to coastal erosion? 
  • Overfishing leads to smaller sized creatures with further knock-on effects.

It was acknowledged that fishing is a livelihood for those involved.

Energy

The rising cost of energy has focused minds on the desirability, if not need, to cut down on energy consumption through better insulation and more efficient use of energy, as well as moving to more sustainable and possibly local energy sources. This is true for individuals, who often are faced with unacceptable choices, and sports and community groups, who feel that their operations can be endangered by rising energy costs.

The average BER of a house in Skerries is D, which means that there are probably a lot of E-rated houses…

Here are a few things that could be done.

Individuals:

  • see if a full retrofit is possible / desirable
  • What about solar power on your roof?
  • explore ‘low hanging fruit’ such as getting the seals of draughty windows replaced, investing in better curtains (and remembering to pull them) – see SEAI Energy Saving Tips for more ideas

Neighbourhood groups:

  • explore the possibilities of getting together with neighbours with similar homes to make work from window repairs to full retrofits and solar power
  • explore the possibilities of district heating

Groups / clubs / schools:

  • explore what is possible with Skerries Sustainable Energy Community Initiative
  • get together with others to explore communal solutions to common problems

Skerries Sustainable Energy Community Initiative might:

  • make information easily available to everyone regarding attic insulation, window and door seals, time and thermostat on immersion 
  • possibly run an energy upgrade / information fair to help people access information and / or builders, plumbers etc 

Political framework:

  • ensure all new builds are passive energy homes, as well as harvesting rainwater

In the bigger context, given that Statkraft are going to be building a wind energy farm just off our coast, can the money that they are promising local communities be used for local energy projects? Could some energy that is ‘landed’ nearby be used locally?

Would local energy generation be possible?

There was more!

We have have read all the many ideas which reached us through the feedback forms, but have not yet (as of 01 Dec 2022) managed to put them into a meaningful list – we’ll probably add them to the text above when we get to it. Consider this a work in progress!

We do it every day, usually several times – eat.

And what we eat makes a difference. As you can see from a few examples below, based on the BBC Climate Change Calculator.

Now we don’t recommend calculating the greenhouse gases for each meal… there are more fun ways to drive yourselv mad … but it does help to become aware of the very high impact especially meat has compared to other protein alternatives.

And it’s not necessary to go totally plant-based (though I had a plant burger yesterday, as part of my practical research for this blogpost, and found it indistinguishable from the meaty thing). A reduction is totally enough!

If everyone was to reduce their beef intake by 50%, this according to an Irish Times article, would mean a reduction from 19 kg (2019) to 9.5 kg per head of beef per year. According to research by Teagasc, in Ireland, 1kg of beef caused on average 11.9 kg CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases (CEGG).

So an immediate reduction from 29% of beef dinners (which is the typical number for Ireland, according to Bord Bia) to 14.5 % – having 3 dinners with burgers / beef lasagne / steak per fortnight instead of six – would save (9.5 kg beef times 11.9 kg CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases) 113.95 kg CEGG. Per week.

Chickpeas, tofu, beans make surprisingly good alternatives – you could experiment yourself with recipes, just google for vegan dinner ideas, or even reach for fake meats, which however only reduce the amount of climate gases by about 45% percent.

If you opt for beans, legumes etc instead of beef half the time, you could even reach for organic beef the other 50% – and improve your impact on the environment even more by ensuring that no pesticides or artificial fertilisers are used.

By the way, there is only so much we can do for climate and biodiversity as individuals.

Even if all of us drastically change how we live overnight, it would not be enough.

The number one thing we all can do in this climate and biodiversity emergency is to let our politicians know we care. And the media. And our friends. Together, we can make a difference!

Plus raising awareness must never be about a “greener than thou” attitude.

As Mary Robinson said:  “Get personal, get angry, get involved.” (Quoted in a recent, excellent article by Sadhbh O’Neill, entitled “What can I do to help combat climate change“) Sadhbh O’Neill writes: “The focus on changing our individual behaviour can be overwhelming and, frankly, pointless, given the scale of the challenge and the power of the fossil-fuel industry. The most important thing an individual can do is not be an individual. The climate movement in Ireland is growing, and it is diverse and inclusive of everyone.”

So…

  • Join us at our monthly First Fridays For Future events, every first Friday at 7 pm (or 7 am sometimes)
  • Subscribe to our email newsletter!
  • Would you like to join our Sustainable Skerries Chat Group on WhatsApp? Send an email to sustskerries@gmail.com with your name and phone number!
  • Follow us on Facebook, on Insta, on Twitter – and please, please, like, share, comment on, our posts so our reach grows!
  • And of course… come to our events, we’d love to see you there!

And we’ll leave you with just a few facts…

Source: 9 things you can do about climate action

Source: BBC Climate Change Calculator

Have you made your submission to the Skerries Active Travel Plan yet? You can find out more on https://www.fingal.ie/activetravel/Skerries but hurry, you can only make a submission until 3 November!

And speaking to some officials working in the Active Travel Department of Fingal County Council, every time a route is mentioned as needing attention, every time a crossing is mentioned as not being safe, it makes a real difference.

And everybody living in Skerries has different active travel needs. And knows best how they could get around more easily without using the car all that much.

This is why we outlines principles rather than mentioning specific points or routes. Which is why we are encouraging you to make your own submissions with specifics.

Here is what we sent in to Fingal County Council:


Sustainable Skerries welcomes the Skerries Active Travel Plan. We have participated in the local workshops and given some views there. Here, we would like to suggest certain principles by which the redesign of Skerries for active travel might be guided.
By “Active Travel Routes” we mean paths suitable for walking and cycling, for people who cycle or walk, who are using mobility scooters, or buggies or cargo bikes…

  1. Making walking and cycling pleasant and easy by designing the shortest possible routes from all population centres – desire lines have formed on many greens and should be used for guidance, as well as individual submissions by residents in those areas.
  2. Lighting needs to be redesigned to favour pedestrians over cars. A lighting audit needs to be undertaken – many paths even including in the town centre are very badly lit. When adding lighting, environmental concerns need to be taken into account. Lights could for instance be turned on by motion sensors rather than being on during all dark hours.
  3. Permeability. All of the culs de sac cut off by a wall which can be opened to ATRs should be opened up. All.
  4. Traffic calming: A 30 km zone should be applied to all of Skerries,. The 30 km zone needs to be reinforced by speed cameras. Speed bumps should be taken out as they are very problematic for ambulances, make travel on buses uncomfortable etc.
  5. All schools and sports clubs should be audited for easier ways to reach them by active travel. For instance, it would be possible to open up extra entrances, provide better and safer cycle parking, and impose no-parking zones.
  6. Cycle parking needs to be more plentiful (so that the public bikes, which are a welcome addition, do not take up all available space) and safer, and needs to be redesigned to accommodate cargo bikes. At the train station and possibly other locations, a fob-operated cycle cage should be installed. The access to that should be priced so that it is attractive for possible users.
  7. It must be easy and pleasant to reach Balbriggan, Ardgillan, Loughshinny, Rush and Lusk by active travel. It is also very important that the Skerries Active Travel Plan takes the emerging preferred route for the Greenway into consideration.
  8. One way systems can make safe active travel paths possible in the town centre.

At the moment, most parents living in one part of Skerries do not feel it is safe to allow their children to cycle to their school in another part of Skerries. That will only change if their are safe cycle paths for instance along the railway side of the Barnageeragh Road.

We are very hopeful for the Skerries Active Travel Plan and are looking forward to seeing a considerable change for the better in our town, thanks to the hard work being put into it.

Our first ever Skerries Wild Bee Festival was a great success, partly down to all the hard work people put in and partly down to luck.

Noeleen Smythe explaining the make-up of a plant

It all began early this year when Una FitzPatrick of the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) proposed holding the event here. We owe her a debt of gratitude. Fingal CC came on board and between the two organizations the weekend was planned. Our own Fingal biodiversity officer, Debbie Tiernan, did most of the organizing for their end and must also be singled out for praise.

Perhaps not everyone who attended would have realised that some of the leading Irish experts in their various fields were there. Una, apart from being lead scientist at NBDC, heads up the All Ireland Pollinator Plan; Michelle Larkin, also NBDC, is their pollinating insect expert; Maria Long (NPWS) is Ireland’s leading grassland expert; Noeleen Smythe is an internationally renowned Irish botanist.

We, Sustainable Skerries, could never have hoped to assemble such an illustrious line-up.

Visitors came from far and wide. Apart from the expected East Coast attendees there were people from Kildare, a lady from Mayo, four guys made the trip down from Donegal, and another woman travelled up from Dingle. We were able not just to talk with local people but also network and establish connections nationwide.

We can also give ourselves a pat on the back. Sustainable Skerries had an information stall where we handed out literature, bumblebee swatch cards and the like as well as getting people to sign up and pledge their gardens for biodiversity. Right beside it bumblebee and butterfly face painting was happening which kept the kids entertained, and the whole thing became a focal point where people gathered to chat.

So that’s the hard work side of things covered, what about the luck? Well, first off, the weather held. Everyone had been dreading a typical Irish washout weekend and if it lashed down what would we do? We needn’t have worried, Sunday saw a little very light drizzle from time to time but Saturday was gorgeous. This meant that certain uninvited guests showed up.

The event had been widely publicized but it never occurred to anyone to invite the real stars
of the show: the bees themselves. They came anyway.

And not just any old bees. The primary focus of the weekend was the endangered Large Carder Bee, seen in a few locations around Skerries but never, until now, at Skerries Mills. It spread to here this summer, long after the venue was picked, and was ready and waiting for its admirers on the day.

Our stall was out in the garden, surrounded on three sides by bees buzzing around on the late season flowers, which couldn’t in itself have been more fitting; but what are the chances of being able to say to visitors, “Rare bumblebee? Certainly Sir/Madam, there’s one right beside you and another over there.”
That’s luck!

This is how Mark Broderick, Fingal County Council videographer, saw it. We don’t disagree!

Sustainable Skerries Committee Member Brendan Muldoon writes:

On a recent trip to the Ballygossan Park Playground in Skerries my eye was drawn to a rather barren-looking patch of ground in the playground. On closer inspection, I noticed that there were in fact many tiny, inconspicuous holes dotted throughout this area. Perhaps inspired by the recent Sustainable Skerries online talk on insects by Dave Goulson – I was intrigued as to what the tiny holes might be.  

Following a little bit of research (and confirmation from our local bee experts Charlie and Marion) it turns out these tiny holes are the nesting sites for solitary, wild bees. This shows that you can find some very interesting wildlife in the most surprising of places! Solitary bees are harmless. They do have a mild sting, but rarely use it. They generally just buzz around when disturbed.

I guess it also tells us that even a seemingly barren patch of earth can still be playing an important role in the ecosystem even if it is hard to see with the naked eye. Find out more about native solitary bees @ https://pollinators.ie/record-pollinators/solitary-bees-for-beginners/

Seasonal. Local. Organic. Waste-minimising. Ecosphere-enhancing. Regenerative
= SLOWER Food!

We braved the rain, saw the Community Gardens at Skerries Mills, welcomed platains, wholemeal sourdough bread, homemade popcorn, wonderful cake made by a 10 year old, wonderful cookies made by his 15-year-old sister (actually, they may be 9 and 16 or 11 and 14… apologies…), peppermint tea and good chat. Join us for August, 7 pm on Friday 5 August at the South Strand (meet at the public toilers) for a walk to see the biodiversity of Skerries South Strand.

See here for more about our First Fridays For Future events.

Sustainable Skerries welcomes the vision but has deep concerns at lack of staffing and funding for the draft Fingal Biodiversity Plan

With a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency declared in the Dáil in 2019, we need to do better than implementing only a fraction of actions deemed necessary by the draft Fingal Biodiversity Action Plan. This is the main observation made by Sustainable Skerries in their submission. Have you made yours? You have until tomorrow night, as it closes on 5 July 2022, 23:59 h.

Here is ours:

Sustainable Skerries commends Fingal County Council on the vision of, and the many targeted initiatives in, this plan. However, we are deeply concerned that of the 100 actions required to halt the loss of biodiversity in Fingal by 2030, only 30 are prioritised for implementation, due to the financial and staff constraints. Several actions seem to need relatively little extra funding, so it seems that human resources are the bottleneck. Extra staff for the biodiversity team should thus be a priority. Many additional actions might make it to the “prioritised for implementation” list if there were two, or maybe even just one, extra staff in the Fingal County Council Biodiversity Team.

It is understandable that the council faces difficult decisions with regard to funding initiatives in the county, but for something as important as this more efforts must be made to obtain the necessary budget. We would like to see Fingal County Council work with the government to get further, ring fenced, funding to meet our obligations to cope with the biodiversity emergency. For instance, Minister Malcolm Noonan recently launched the “Strategic Action Plan for the Renewal of the National Parks and Wildlife Service”. With the increased resourcing and staffing this plan provides for, there is an opportunity for Fingal County Council to work with the NPWS to implement more than the 30 prioritised actions.   

The current draft of the Biodiversity Action Plan seems to solely focus on actions that can be achieved with direct Council funding,  and does not identify how Fingal Coco might seek to bridge the gap by promoting existing centrally-funded schemes, targeting EU funding,  or maximising biodiversity benefits from privately funded initiatives. 

 It is noted that Action 72 (Explore funding models for carbon offsetting to fund wetland and

woodland development) could be a key and rapidly developing opportunity in this context,  which is why we feel it should be a priority action.  

There are obvious possible synergies with efforts being made outside Fingal in central and local government particularly with respect to the preparation of the numerous guidance documents, procedures and training requirements identified. 

Actions 33-38, especially those which involve producing guidance documents for biodiversity-friendly building and infrastructure projects, are relevant to all local authorities nationally, not just Fingal County Council. One example is Action 38:” Pilot a biodiversity inclusive design for a social housing estate with green roofs, green walls, wetland & pond SUDS, green carparking, nest boxes in facades, wildflower meadows and wildlife friendly shrubs and trees in open space.” 

A priority action to be added to the plan should be to identify partners (including other local authorities and national organisations) and together find new funding streams, thus maximising the potential for efficient use of public money by coordinating with other public bodies to deliver those actions not just in Fingal but nationwide. We note that they are not prioritised in the current draft and suggest that with additional staffing, and by cooperating with other bodies, they could still be achieved.

While we welcome the actions that are being prioritised, some of the actions which appear to have been de-scoped do not require significant funding to make progress in, rather a political will and staff resources for coordination.

Rewilding: There is no overarching objective relating to rewilding of small and marginal areas of public lands – areas that could be essential stepping stones in Fingals ecological network,, a potentially cost free exercise (apart from staffing implications for coordination) that could be begun simply by taking less actions and spending less money

Fingal County Council’s own webinar introducing the plan highlighted the importance of protecting the network which connects Nature Development areas with Special Areas of Conservation. Sustainable Skerries agrees that corridors linking these areas must be protected.  Providing corridors through which wildlife can move about is a priority. One simple, achievable action would be the revision of mowing regimes. Leave some areas completely unmown for the summer, leaving them to become natural wildflower meadows, while reducing mowing frequency on areas that still need to be cut, allowing pollinators a window of opportunity to harvest flowering plants. By extending the mowing interval by even a week, preferably longer, money is saved, staff can be redeployed to other activities, CO2 emissions reduced, fossil fuel usage reduced and nature benefits. A truly win/win situation. Allowing native wildflowers to flourish, which provide essential food for pollinators, will in turn maintain a biodiverse environment for other wildlife.

Coupled with this, there is an opportunity for the plans in Action 6, currently envisaged only for golf clubs, to be extended to other sports clubs as well. Plenty of local clubs (cricket, rugby, GAA, soccer etc) have significant green areas not used for playing on, as well as green areas around the playing fields.

The continued use of herbicide by the council in graveyards is a cause for concern. While this must undoubtedly be handled sensitively there are more appropriate ways to maintain these areas. Fingal County Council must ban the use of herbicides in all contexts across the whole county and work with grieving relatives to address their concerns in the context of the biodiversity emergency we are facing.

Action 40 (Support and promote All Ireland Pollinator Plan Actions for Councils and monitor resulting changes) has as an objective that Fingal County Council increase to only 20% the land in the council’s control to be given over to biodiversity improvement. This is too low, and there is a huge opportunity here for an inexpensive win for Fingal. This seems to cost little or no money, and if managed properly actually saves money for use in other areas of the plan.

Sustainable Skerries is disappointed that Action 18 (Incorporate measures for

biodiversity conservation in the management plans for a Regional Parks in Finga)l has not been prioritised. Such management plans give Fingal County Council an opportunity to set an example in best practice for biodiversity management. If Fingal County Council does not even draw up biodiversity management plans for its own regional parks, how can it expect other organisations to take biodiversity seriously? If funding is an issue please see our point on engaging with the government and NPWS above.

Actions 37 & 38, which cover social and council housing and associated parks and infrastructure, must be prioritised. Again, there are aspects of these actions that are low cost if some imagination is applied. If staffing resources were made available and some ways were found to involve residents directly the plans would be far more successful.

In the cases of privately owned property, altering planning restrictions to make it easier for people to make changes to their own properties in order to build for biodiversity would be welcomed. Furthermore Fingal County Council must be making sure that all of the items mentioned in these actions form part of any new building schemes in the county, as part of the planning process. Where planning of a new estate is with An Bord Pleanála, Fingal County Council must make submissions highlighting these needs.

Actions related to agriculture including overall targeted awareness raising in Fingal are underrepresented in the draft plan. Fingal County Council must do more to engage with farmers, many of whom are well aware of the biodiversity emergency we are witnessing. Fingal County Council itself could support farmers making changes by adopting an “Organic First” policy when purchasing food (for catering etc.). This should be an additional (and implemented) action.

Agroforestry, combining forestry and agriculture, is very promising for biodiversity and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Action 48 (Acquire sites for woodland planting at St Catherine’s park and Ardgillan Demesne and prepare masterplans for the design of these woodlands) should be extended to include a “model farm” scheme.It could be combined with Action 61 (Develop a 400ha demonstration Agri-Environment EIP Scheme with local farmers in Fingal targeting farmland birds and habitats and water quality improvement measures).  A demonstration of regenerative agroforestry would enable farmers to see for themselves how regenerative agriculture can sequester carbon. The biodiversity crisis, after all, cannot be separated from climate change.

We were pleased to see the inclusion of a proposed education centre in Turvey Nature Park and nature education programme for primary and secondary schools. In order for the objectives of this plan to be met and sustained we believe education will play an essential role, otherwise these actions will be misunderstood or poorly prioritised across communities in Fingal in the future. In order to create, design and deliver such nature-based learning for schools, significant resources should be allocated to ensuring that this becomes embedded in curricula across schools in Fingal as soon as possible. Such education programmes should ideally go hand-in-hand with school’s management of their grounds to increase biodiversity and attract wildlife which in turn will create an ideal “classroom” / field site for such education programmes. The creation of education officer roles who liaise with schools directly in coordinating and delivering such programmes is vital to the longevity of this plan. The creation of an education centre in Turvey Nature Park would further embed such learning and act as an ideal site for school field trips / school tours to allow children and adults alike to immerse themselves in wild native Irish landscape and learn hands-on about what they can do in their communities.

Many of the Target KPI’s identified relate to preparation of guidance documents or production of reports.  Given the life-cycle of the Plan, the KPI’s should be extended to include the demonstrable implementation of the guidance measures or report recommendations.   Acknowledging some measures may require additional funding, it is suggested the KPI could commit Fingal to the swift implementation of no/low-cost measures/recommendations,  or the identification of funding routes for more costly or longer-term measures.

In summary, while we have some suggestions for changes, overall, we welcome this plan – and are shocked that only so few of its suggested actions are currently due to be implemented during its lifetime, due to staffing and financial constraints. With a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency declared in the Dáil in 2019, we need to do better than implementing only a fraction of actions deemed necessary.

From the draft Fingal Biodiversity Action Plan, title: Fingal Ecological Network by Jeroen Helmer, Ark Natuurontwikkeling. Wouldn’t it be great if Fingal was looking like that…?

If anyone here has kids in St Pat’s, they will probably know that some parents have taken the initiative to save torn, worn, and / or scruffy uniform items from the bin.

They are sharing the below message in class WhatsApp groups.

REQUEST for old uniforms destined for the bin – Dear Parents,

As we finish up this year many will be passing on old uniforms to friends or family and many will be donated which is great.

For those uniforms and tracksuits that are torn, worn, have holes or scuffs that you plan to throw into bin after this week can we ask that you instead donate them for a uniform upcycling workshop over the summer and next year?

Even those that seem well worn and beyond repair can be used as material for other ones.

You can either

1) hold onto them if you and your kids are interested in attending a fun repair cafe over the summer and message ….. to stay in the loop,

2) donate them now for the repair cafe once they have been washed.

You can drop them to…[address redacted]… where we will take them anytime. Thank you so much. 🧵🧶👍🌍♻️

This went out to the parents of St Patrick’s National School, Skerries.

If anyone has kids in Realt Na Mara or even Skerries Community College and wants to do similar collection and / or do repair cafés together, send an email to sustskerries@gmail.com and we’ll put you in touch. (The same applies if your kids do go to St Patrick’s and you somehow missed the WhatsApp messages!)

The parent in question, committee member Sarah-Jane, says: “Just throwing out the requests now to save what we can from the bin this week – we will organise the event then based on how much interest and donations we get. Thanks 👍”

Brilliant idea, don’t you think?

And thank you also to committee member Helen, who kindly provided us with this picture. We think that does certainly come under torn, worn, and / or scruffy!

Can’t wait to see what this will look like post-repair café!

For any outgrown uniforms not in need of repair, or for anyone looking to pick up a second-hand uniform, all three charity shops in Skerries are accepting donations and already have a growing stock of great quality uniforms for all schools in Skerries available throughout the summer.

By now we all know that we are living in a double emergency (if not triple or quadruple), given the situation of climate change and biodiversity loss. Wouldn’t you love to come along to the ecovillage in Cloughjordan and learn from them what we in Skerries could do about these emergencies? Sustainable Skerries have organised an eco course for anyone who wants to be involved locally in tackling the problem.

Join our blended course this autumn!  Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

💚 Six weekly classes (online) addressing the most relevant aspects of climate action, how to deal with biodiversity loss, resilience, project management and community building: Tuesdays 8 pm from Tue 20 Sep to Tue 25 Oct

💚 Weekend session in Cloughjordan Co. Tipperary on Sat 24 / Sun 25 September: Eight classes in an existing ecovillage (immersive learning) to experience what is possible in real life, including learning from those who are actively involved in the development of the eco village

💚 Cost involved: €75 per person including the weekly sessions, multi-occupancy accommodation and most food in Cloughjordan.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the EAFRD
– The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas –
and the Irish Department of Rural and Community Development.

FAQs:

I’m not in any community group. Can I still do the course?
Yes, of course, as long as you’re willing to consider getting involved in some way after the course. Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

I can’t come for the entire weekend. Can I still do the course?
Ideally, everyone would be there for the weekend as well. This immersive learning from an eco village is invaluable. However, if you can only come for the Saturday or the Sunday, let us know in the comments of the form. Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

I already know a lot about biodiversity / climate / sustainable energy… Can I skip that weekly session?
The weekly sessions are no mere information-transfer sessions. They are about sharing what we already know, and applying what we are learning to our life and community in Skerries. Ideally, everyone would attend each session, the weekly ones as well as the weekend. Oh, and: Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

How much does this cost?
We’re glad you asked. It will cost about €350 per person, based on 20 people attending. Luckily, we have secured LEADER / EU funding for this, and each participant only pays €75! That covers the weekly sessions as well as some of the meals in Cloughjordan and the accommodation in shared rooms. Great value. Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

 What is the accommodation like?
We have full use of Django’s B&B (formerly Django’s Hostel) in the ecovillage of Cloughjordan. We have a number of triple rooms (including double beds and bunk beds), twin rooms and a double room. As we’re writing this, there are also three rooms available on Air BnB, so if you’d prefer not to share, or want to bring along a partner / family member who is not doing the course, secure one of them for yourself. Make sure to register all the same! We need to know who is coming as soon as possible, and:  Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

I want to bring my partner / child / dog…
That is fine, but you’ll have to arrange your own accommodation as we don’t have any extra spaces in Django’s…

Will I get a reduced rate if I’m staying elsewhere / not coming to Cloughjordan?
The €75 per person will apply in all cases. If that is not affordable for you, please send an email to Sabine in confidence via sustskerries@gmail.com and we will see how we can help. 

How will we get there, and when does the “weekend” start and end?
We hope to be car sharing as much as possible (travel costs will have to be met by participants themselves). We’ll probably leave around 8, 8.30 am on the Saturday and be back around 7, 7.30 pm on Sunday.

So what is expected of participants?
1.  Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!
2. Participate in the weekly classes (normally 90 min on Zoom or similar, with a strong participatory element). Extra reading / study is possible and is encouraged, but not “mandatory.”
3. Participate in the weekend in Cloughjordan, unless that is impossible.
4. Participate in a final event, format and date and time to be decided in the group, where we will bring our learning together and then share it with the wider community.

Will a lot of basic information be covered? Will the content be relevant to Skerries, or general in nature?
The Cloughjordan course team is going to tailor the classes to where we are. We are preparing inputs and will ask participants for their contributions, too, describing what is already happening in Skerries and what isn’t. We also will assume a general awareness around climate change, biodiversity loss, etc., and there will be pointers to good online material (short videos, texts etc.) for a refresher / basic introduction.
Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

I have another question that is not covered here.
Great! Please send it ASAP to us via sustskerries@gmail.com

Last updated on 22 June 2022 by SMcK

The Skerries Bee Map was the result of a collaboration between members of the biodiversity team of Sustainable Skerries and local artist/illustrator Kristina Keegan.

The purpose of the map is to plot the locations (as known to us at this moment in time) of the Large Carder Bee habitats in Skerries, to invite members of the community to build bee corridors to connect these locations and to encourage recognition and conversation around the native Irish wildflowers that the Large Carder Bee and other pollinators feed off.

This map is part of the Large Carder Bee Action Plan. Watch out for more actions!

By studying and illustrating the distinct differences in these species (both flowers and bees) we hope that the Skerries Bee Map will serve as a learning tool in schools and public spaces and spark conversation around sightings of these beautiful plants and insects.

It looks even better in print, and we hope to have copies available at our future events, and we are delighted that it is included in the Skerries News edition of 24 June 2022!