Welcome to the blog of the course and textbook Facing up to global warming: What is going on and what you can do about it. This course is run by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin.

Friday, December 5, 2014

World Soil Day - December 5

Land as a Finite Resource

Land is now considered to be a finite resource under significant threat from farming, industry and development.  The basis of land is of course soil which provides us with our food, fodder for livestock, fuel, fibre, building materials, and much more.  It is key to all ecosystem services and to human wellbeing.  Soil also harbours a significant portion of global biodiversity and is a key component in the carbon cycle and the storage and sequestration of carbon dioxide. World soil day has been celebrated each year since 2002 to raise awareness and to support action to protect and enhance soil quality.  The FAO are now the key organizers of events all around the world to celebrate World Soil Day.

Here is a message from FAO Land & Water Division Director, Moujahed Achouri

For more information about FAO World Soil Day contact Professor Nick Gray (nfgray@tcd.ie)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Strange Weather Exhibition at the Dublin Science Gallery

The latest exhibition at the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin is STRANGE WEATHER.

The exhibition runs from the 18th July until the 5th September and  is curated by Catherine Kramer and Zack Denfeld of CoClimate; Lynn Scarff, Director of the Science gallery and Gerald Fleming, Head of Forecasting at Met √Čireann.  Like all these wonderful exhibitions at the Gallery it is most informative and very much hands on. So you can have a try at forecasting the weather yourself, create your own micro-climates and learn just how predictable the future of weather is.

Nick Gray

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A new approach – Friendly Fashion and ‘Ecotoure’ !

A load of Rubbish!
Since a young age, I have adored fashion. Seeing models promote beautifully structured, eye catching clothing both captivates and excites me. So of course when I was asked to take part in the “Junk Kouture fashion show”, I was instantly overwhelmed with a flurry of ideas on how to dress these models in fabulous recycled material! The aim of this annual event is to ignite a passion for sustainable fashion in second level students across Ireland, while simultaneously educating them about the importance of recycling and reusing. Essentially the idea is to turn garbage into glamour!

 I began by meeting with art students of a local secondary school. We sat down and discussed materials that would be appropriate to use to create an outfit suitable for a runway show. By the next day the students had already gathered their “junk” and had started work on their designs. The materials ranged from plastic bottles, electric cables, wire tubing, tinfoil, newspaper, broken glass, wine corks, bin bags and the list goes on! Together we set to work and after weeks of hard work we had successfully assembled some terrific examples of Eco Fashion. Three of the outfits have made it into the final rounds of the competition which everyone is extremely proud of, but we could also have the winner for 2014 so keep those fingers crossed!
Here are some pictures of contestants from both this year and previous years, taking part in the fashion show. Visit the website http://www.junkkouture.com to learn more about this innovative idea and get inspired and excited about sustainable fashion!

Friendly fibres and fabrics
Although I promote this fantastic competition, I am not completely unaware that it is completely unreasonable to expect people to stroll about town wearing clothes made out of their old Chinese food containers! There is in fact, a more subtle approach to sustainable fashion.                
Recycled or reclaimed fibres are those that are made from scraps of fabrics collected from clothing factories, which are processed back into short fibres for spinning into a new yarn. There are only a few facilities globally that are able to process the clippings, and  variations range from a blend of recycled cotton fibres for strength to recycled cotton fibres/virgin acrylic fibres which are added for colour, consistency and strength.
The good news is that designers say that they are trying to incorporate these sustainable practices into modern clothing, rather than producing "hippie clothes."  In particular, designer Stella McCartney has recently drawn attention to socially conscious and environmentally friendly fashion, by promoting "Portland Fashion Week", which annually showcases sustainable apparel. It has also attracted international press for its efforts to sustainably produce a fashion
week that showcases 100% eco-friendly designs.
However here is the bad news, due to the efforts taken to minimize harm in the growth, manufacturing, and shipping of these products, sustainable fashion is typically more expensive than clothing produced by conventional methods! Let us not be disheartened, there are still plenty of ways we can improve the sustainability of our wardrobes!

Here are the main factors to bear in mind when considering the sustainability of a material:

·         The renewability and source of a fibre
·          The process of how a raw fibre is turned into a textile
·         The working conditions of the people producing the materials
·         The material's total carbon footprint    
When shopping, look at the clothes labels and keep an eye out for fabrics like organic cotton, naturally coloured cotton or those made from soy, hemp or bamboo fibres.   These are all examples of excellent sustainable fabrics.

They may still be a little bit hard to come by in our local shopping centres but I have included a link to one of my favourite online shopping websites “Reformation”. They are an environmentally sustainable fashion brand that repurposes vintage and surplus materials to create a chic, limited edition collection.

So start your fashion revolution now!   http://thereformation.com/

Fiona Molloy

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Glaring signs of active desertification and the hopeful yet strategic words of a wise man

A recent report entitled UN report: one-third of worlds food wasted annually, at great economic, environmental cost sparked in me a concern over land usage and destruction caused by our very own food wastage. Our wasted food accounts for a staggering 28% of the worlds agricultural area or 1.4billion hectares.  All of which ends up in our bin. The article discusses a recent report published by the FAO on our Food Wastage Footprint. With the drastic spreading of desertification, we simply cannot afford to allow 28% of our fertile land produce to be thrown in the garbage. As the diagram below indicates, areas surrounding now desert land (marked in red) are at high risk of desertification, these areas often belong to small countries who are highly dependent on their agricultural use and whose desertification will only cause a ripple effect of increased dependence and indebtedness on agricultural land belonging to more economically wealthy countries.
Copyright: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Desertification_map.png

The results of a study undertaken by A. Challinor in 2010 suggests that for China, climate change will result in increasing spring wheat crop failure in northeast China due to increasing extremes of both heat and water stress. Now according to this quotation, that study correlates with the image above, where North-east China is at high risk of desertification. There has also been a lot of coverage on rice crop failures in China and the millions of tonnes of GHGs released as a result of this. Although there are ideas being developed to create heat-resistant and drought-resistant crops, the real answer is right in front of us and within reach. Following the FAO report cited earlier, the FAO provided a free toolkit on reducing our food wastage footprint.

Copyright: http://www.rmaf.org.ph/userfiles/

Another view of desertification which I would like to touch on is that of Masanobu Fukuoka. I recently read a book of his, One Straw Revolution which spoke of his system of natural farming where crops could be grown without plowing his fields, using no prepared fertilisers or agricultural chemicals and did not flood his rice fields as farmers in Asia continue to do. A method which he himself developed and lived by for over 65years and in fact yielded greater quantities of crops than the most productive farms in Japan. This book is highly relevant to the individual and although delves into some technicality, Fukuokas book serves a far greater purpose than farming methods. However it is his second and last book which I find so relevant to this topic of desertification, called Sowing Seeds in the Desert. Although Fukuokas influence has been only marginal so far, the increased rate of desertification begs us to look at alternative possibilities, which include a return to simple but effective methods of farming. Fukuoka reminds us that the present state of our land is not natural but rather a result of our own destructive actions, his silver-longing however, is it can be remedied and perhaps eventually reversed. HIs aspiration was to achieve global food security by natural farming which he practiced and preached in Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Europe and the United States.  Fukuoka offers us an opportunity to put aside our guilt as we face this earths degradation and take a step forward in the right direction.

Una Quinn

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ecotourism...creating a positive change

Ecotourism is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (TIES, 1990)  The International Ecotourism Society is a non-profit organisation with members in over 120 countries. They promote awareness of sustainable practice in the tourism sector, and provide guidelines on standards, training, technical assistance and educational resources. In the decade between the Earth Summit in 1992 and the International Year of Ecotourism in 2002, a web of over 100 certification and award programs appeared, (most of which are of varying quality).

The World Ecotourism Summit (WES) is organized by UNEP and the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) aiming to strengthen ecotourism as a tool for sustainable development and conservation. Separately, the World Ecotourism Conference aims to provide a networking platform for businesses and policy makers, but with little apparent impact. The European Ecotourism Network (EEN) and the European Ecotourism Labeling Standard (EETLS), which is co-funded by the European Commission, has been recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and in comparison with WEC and WES, there is more focus on certification and standardization. However, there is no single ruling body for global ecotourism certification, and this has inevitably led to considerable controversy and uncertainty. As it stands, the GSTC appears to be the most credible.
The Green Globe Standard was one of the leading certification bodies to come out of the Earth Summit in 1992 and is based on the following international standards and agreements: GSTC, Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism Criteria (STC Partnership), Sustainable Tourism Certification Network of the Americas, The ISO 9001/14001/19011 (International Standard Organization) and Agenda 21. EcoAustralia, in conjunction with Green Globe, has proven to be a successful international standard and has also employed in India.

Basic ecotourism principles:
  • Sustainable management e.g. design and construction, health and safety and communications.
  • Socio-economics e.g. supporting local community initiatives such as education, fairly traded goods and securely integrated local employment.
  • Cultural heritage e.g. protection of historical, archaeological and spiritual sites and respectful incorporation of local culture.  
  •  Environmental e.g. sustainable management of water, energy, waste and protection and awareness of biodiversity.

Case Study – Lapa Rios Eco-lodge, Costa Rica
In 1993, a professional couple from Minnesota liquidated their assets and bought 930 acres of rainforest in the south west of the country. In 2013, they signed an agreement endorsed by The Nature Conservancy and CEDARENA that perpetually protects the land as a primary forest. It neighbors a National Park, which is home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity and acts as a migration corridor.

Although Lapa Rios eco-lodge is a leading example of ecotourism, it has not been certified by organisations such as Green Globe. Instead, they are certified by the Costa Rican tourism board agency known as the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST), following similar principles outlined above. The CST has been recognized and approved by the tourism ministries in every country in Central America, as well as Mexico, Belize and many countries in South America have expressed interest in developing similar programs. Learn more about Lapa Rios here.

It is evident that ecotourism can and does create real positive change, even when it operates outside of well-intentioned conferences, however, many resorts will often use it as a buzzword to attract gullible travellers, so beware!
Conor Dolan

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Eating Insects To Save The World, Don’t Let It Bug You!

Source: http://www.ibtimes.com/cupcakes
Minestrone with buffalo worms and mealworms (grasshopper garnish optional); termite porridge; ‘land shrimp snack’ made of grasshoppers or locusts with hot pepper oil, lime and salt and protein bars made with cricket flour. These are just a handful of recipes from “The Insect Cookbook: Food For a Sustainable Planet” published by Dutch entomologists Arnold van Huis and Marcel Dicke, along with cooking instructor Henk van Garp[1]. The books main aim is to open our eyes to the fact that our aversion to insects as a food source is senseless and outdated. Unlike livestock and other forms of animal protein, insects are plentiful and nearly everywhere. Whilst, culturally we tend to overlook the possibility of caring for ourselves by insect means, they are a nutrient-rich and sustainable food-source that deserve consideration.

Jon Foley, head of the Institute for the Environment at the University of Minnesota, recently referred to the global food crisis as ‘the other inconvenient truth’ stating that he believes we are at a ‘critical crossroads’. Currently, the population of the world increases by about 75 million people each year. According to the United Nations Panel on Global Sustainability, the world will need at least 50% more food and 30% more water by 2030[2]. As developing countries adapt to modern needs and their economies grow, their demand for meat will increase and to meet this we will need to triple our food production. Unfortunately with current agricultural practices this is an impossible goal.

Source: http://finedininglovers.cdn.crosscast-
A recent report issued by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) promoted human consumption of insects as an environmentally sustainable means of feeding the planet. Although it was met with disgust and tossed aside by many, others such as food expert, Ruth Reichl, former editor-in-chief of Gourmet and award winning author recently told the New York Times that “We should all be eating insects, and we all will be eating insects. They are a perfectly reasonable source of protein.”   Like it or not, eating insects (or entomophagy) provides a far more sustainable source of protein than our existing consumption of meat and animal products. Also, most edible insects are very protein rich while being comparatively very lean. For example, a cricket has all the essential amino acids that beef contains but is far higher in iron and calcium. Other insects can provide other micronutrients such as B-vitamins, beta-carotene, and vitamin E.

Not only are insects often more nutritious but they are also a potential solution to the current inefficient food system because of their marginal environmental impact. In general, insects are extremely inexpensive and relatively safe and only require a fraction of the feed, space, water and maintenance of conventional livestock. The current livestock industry is estimated to be responsible for 17-18% of greenhouse emissions and accounts for 70% of all land cleared for agriculture[3]. Almost half of global water is used to produce animal-based foods. Insects, on the other hand, can live off agricultural byproducts such as food waste (e.g. fruit peels) and only a tiny portion of them produce methane, with those that do only producing very small amounts. Also as insects are poikilothermic (i.e. their body temperature remains the same as their surroundings), they are much more efficient at converting nutrition into protein. For instance, crickets need 12 times less food than cattle to produce the same amount of protein and unlike the cruel practice of factory farming, crickets and other bugs actually thrive when they are packed on top of each other[4]. Convinced yet?

With an estimated 1417 species of insects being regularly eaten by over 2 billion people across 3,000 ethnic groups in 80% of countries around the world, it seems it is the Westerners who will suffer most in the long run. But why are we so squeamish when it comes to the idea of chomping down on nice slice of crittle (a cricket and peanut brittle hybrid)?

Most of the Western world readily eats prawns and shrimp, which are arthropods-just, like insects, spiders and millipedes! Therefore, we need to get over this idea that insects are disgusting and stop trying to live in an insect-free world where everything is sterile and clean (after all we wouldn’t be here without the pollinating insects!). But before you get too excited and run down to the local park with a homemade pooter, take heed of the following advice. Like plants, some insects are good for you and some are toxic, aswell as the fact that you can never be sure that wild insects haven’t been exposed to pesticides, therefore, only farmed insects should be consumed. There are also several ‘pestaurants’ opening up around the world with a variety of insects to suit every palate. Experts also caution that we must be careful to develop sustainable cultivation and harvesting methods, as there are examples of human overconsumption that has led to the collapse of some insect species.

Jakub Dzamba, a man who’s researching radical approaches to urban agriculture, is working to build insect farms that can go right into the walls of an apartment building. The idea is that families could feed their food scraps and leftovers to the crickets, and then eat those same crickets, thus solving the dual agricultural problems of production and distribution.  It would therefore seem that these six-legged critters might just find a spot at our table in the not-so-distant future. If we can just start to accept and overcome our fear of munching on food that creeps and crawls, the future looks a little brighter for us humans. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure the same can be said for the future of our possible new food source, who have more of a reason now than ever, to stay away from the ‘light’!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Trinity College Dublin participates in first Intervarsity BioBlitz

On 1st and 2nd of May four teams of scientists, in four different universities, will race against time to see how many plants and animals can be recorded on their campus in a 24-hour period. TCD is one of four universities taking part in the event, which also includes DCU, NUI Galway and UCC.
But anyone around campus can join in by visiting the BioBlitz Public Lab upstairs in the Science Gallery. The Lab will open at 9.30am on Friday, 2nd of May and provides a great opportunity to meet the scientists involved and find out about the plants and animals that inhabit the TCD campus. Visitors can join in one of three different plant walks at 9.30 which will survey TCD’s gardens, or find out about bugs, birds and moths at the Lab.
One of the key aims of BioBlitz is to raise awareness about biodiversity. As part of the TCD BioBlitz public engagement programme 4th class from St. Mary’s Boys school will visit the Gallery for a workshop on pollinators with Green Bee Education (www.greenbeeeducation.com). The class will make nests for solitary bees which will positioned around campus and will be revisited with a primary school class at next year’s BioBlitz.
Students and staff are being encouraged to get involved by raising awareness of Irish wildlife and the BioBlitz event through social media. Different species flyers created by @daveendangered have been distributed across the campus with specific social media contact details. This is an opportunity for everyone to support the BioBlitz and get involved by creating a SpeciesSelfie through e-mail, twitter and facebook.
For more information about the BioBlitz or how you can get involved please contact Dr Rachel Kavanagh at tcdcbr@tcd.ie.

Visit the Science Gallery on Friday, 2nd May to join in the fun.

The BioBlitz is an initiative of the National Biodiversity Data Centre and An Taisce Green Campus.  This initiative is supported in Trinity College by Trinity Centre for Biodiversity Research, the School of Natural Science, The TCD Green Committee and the MSc students in Biodiversity and Conservation and Environmental Science.

 Dr Rachel Kavanagh

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day 2014

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated each year on April 22nd where events are held to support a sustainable world.  Started in 1970 by John McConnel, a peace activist, and Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator, Earth Day celebrates the first day of spring in the Northern hemisphere by inviting individuals and groups from around the world to get involved.  Link

Each year there is a new focus and this year’s theme is Green Cities.  Climate change fuels migration into cities where well over half of our global population now resides…this means that cities will have to adapt and evolve as they grow.

Nick Gray

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ignorance is Bliss, but Knowledge is Power – the importance of education in the move towards sustainable living

I had always considered myself a relatively ‘eco-friendly’ person, enjoying time spent outdoors, despising litter and pollution, growing up in a countryside household that values the environment. I reassured myself that by recycling plastic bottles, walking short distances and by availing of public transport as opposed to driving a car that I was able to justify endless of television and laptop use, recreational shopping and an occasional flight to Europe for a holiday in the sun. In recent years I have since come to accept that I can no longer engage in the same consumption practices of the past without a sharp pang of guilt. The ‘you-should-know-better’ voice inside my head (that developed as a result of four years of environmental and sustainability-related lectures) now lingers when I queue to pay for a heavily packaged pair of shoes, or a box of fruit that has been transported thousands of miles from its source of origin. Education has indeed opened my eyes to the reality of my contribution to increasing carbon emissions and the associated consequences.

As suggested by the title of this blog, to me, ignorance was bliss. Although I was aware that my energy consumption practices far outweigh those of people my age in other parts of the world, it was a thought that rarely crossed my mind. Thus, for several years I was blissfully engaging in the unsustainable mass-consumption economy I was born into. Taking a rather Orthodox Marxist perspective, I would argue that the environmental issues at hand today are inherently interlinked with this capitalist system and that the current crisis of the situation necessitates a demand for scientific, technological and other developments to improve our current understanding and the methods employed for resolving these issues. This information then needs to be distributed to and understood by people of all ages, across all levels of society, in both the public and private sector. In short, we need education.

As my awareness of the extent of the global environment issues grew, I must admit the temptation to adopt a despondent, existential attitude was there – after all, given the magnitude of the situation, if nobody else was making changes what difference could I make? However I ultimately believe that knowledge, particularly knowledge pertaining to the effects of an individual’s lifestyle and personal choices, has the ability to empower and inspire meaningful action. The role of education in this regard has become increasingly recognised by actors and organisations across multiple spheres. Departments of Education worldwide and multinational organisations such as UNESCO and the WWF run programmes in support of sustainability-based education. Such courses aim to promote sustainable lifestyle choices and often take a particular focus on the education of younger generations. In August 2013 for example, the Irish Department of Education and Skills launched a plan to develop the ‘National Strategy onEducation for Sustainable Development in Ireland’. This strategy expresses the significance of education. It aims to establish sustainable development learning at all levels of the education system and to promote public awareness and create support for education for sustainable development. I strongly believe the implementation of such strategies, as part of a wider movement that recognises the importance of education, is the first step in the long road to sustainable living.

Claire Quinn

Further information:
Nevin, E., 2008. Education and sustainable development. Available at: http://www.developmenteducationreview.com/issue6-focus4
Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 2013.  Available at: http://jsd.sagepub.com/

Friday, March 28, 2014

Eco Living, Ahoy Mate!

The idea of living in an 8 by 20 foot steel box is enough to get you a few raised eyebrows and ‘are you mad?’ comments. But what if that box was spacious, homely, fully transportable, cheap, fire and flood proof, fully functional and designed to your own taste whilst keeping your ecological footprint to a minimum? If that sounds a bit better than maybe you are in the market for the latest green home, a converted shipping container.

Taking reuse to a new level there has been an upsurge in the use of old, disused containers in to modern, quickly assembled and environmentally friendly homes throughout the globe. It has been estimated that there are up to 24 million containers that will never be used to transport cargo again and not only do these make great temporary homes for those in crisis (they were used as emergency accommodation for people after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia) they also make excellent contemporary office and living space (there’s even one down the road from me being used as stables!). One important aspect is that they are cheap to acquire in the first place. A quick scan of buyandsell.ie shows some for sale for as little as €1,600 + VAT.
The fact that these homes are making use of a discarded material already makes them smart ecologically but many of them have incorporated features to make them that bit more sustainable. Some containers sport solar panels angled on the roof and others have small wind turbines and energy efficient windows. Another eco-friendly aspect it that it takes very little time for the setup of these homes which facilitates less disturbance to nature and also that they are transportable meaning they are not permanent in that area. Timber is also not required in the way that it usually is for many other house builds. One company has designed an ‘ecopod’ container to show just how sustainable you can make them. The ‘ecopod’ has recycled flooring, a solar powered fridge, a compostable toilet, wall sockets and 12v lighting that is powered by the roof mounted solar panel.


If you think you need to compromise on the design aspect of the house in order to gain all these benefits think again. The containers can be piled high on top of one another, or fused together creating a manipulated masterpiece. They can be changed past the point of recognition or left in their original state bringing an urban renewal feel to the place there are also ones designed to disappear in to the natural background. The architectural possibilities are endless once you remember to think outside the box (a steel one in this case!).

Have a look at the links below if you want to see some globally inspiring uses of containers from skate parks to student housing: http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/shipping-container-homes-460309#slide-1

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Potential of Geothermal Power

The development of more sustainable, cleaner and cheaper sources of energy is being driven by the depletion of fossil fuels and their impact on our environment through release of greenhouse gases. Geothermal energy is one of these upcoming new sources that today is relatively untapped but its potential can be seen in countries such as  Iceland where 25% of its electricity and 90% of its heating is obtained from geothermal power.[1] This energy is derived from the thermal energy beneath the earth's surface that resulted from the original formation of the earth as well as the radioactive decay of elements uranium, thorium and potassium. On average one kilometre of depth corresponds to a rise in temperature of about 20oC. The temperature inside the earth melts rock and also heats up water trapped in cracked and porous rock to create geothermal reservoirs of hot water and steam. Geothermal power plants rely on these reservoirs to harness the heat energy to produce electricity by drilling deep wells into the earth and piping steam or hot water to the surface and using it to drive generator turbines.[2] This water is then piped back into the reservoir through injection wells to be reheated and thus with careful management to maintain the viability of these reservoirs  makes this process of obtaining energy, sustainable. Geothermal power plants emit approximately 1% of the sulphur dioxide, <1% of the nitrous oxide and 5% of the carbon dioxide that is emitted by a similar sized coal-fired power plant.[3] Geothermal energy has an advantage over other renewable energy resources such as solar or wind energy in that it can provide us with  a consistent and more reliable supply of power. There was 8,933 MW of installed capacity in 24 countries with geothermal power plants in 2005 and this has risen by almost 20% to 10,715 MW which generates 67,246 GWh/year  in 2010 according to a report by the International Geothermal Association.[1]               

The United states leads the world in the production of geothermal electricity with an installed capacity of 3,086 MW which is equivalent to the electricity obtained from burning 60 million barrels of oil.[1,4] This 3,086 MW relates to only less than 0.5% of the United states total electricity usage and shows how much of an untapped resource it is today. However there are a few problems that need to be overcome to promote the development of geothermal power plants. One of these problems is the high costs of drilling wells which can be between $2.3-4.0 million for a depth of 1500-3000 meters.[5 ]Another problem is the limited areas in which the conditions are suitable, which was normally  an area near the boundaries of tectonic plates. Although this problem is currently being resolved with the development of Enhanced Geothermal Systems technology that allows us to create our own geothermal water reservoirs. With most governments know realizing the effects of green house gases on our environment, geothermal energy will definitely be considered as a potential sustainable energy resource and may even be considered better option in countries such as Ireland where the development of a nuclear power plant will most likely be met with a large opposition.

Michael Rooney

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Recycled Art

The other day, while heavily procrastinating in order to avoid learning about Newton’s Laws of Physics, I came across an image when perusing my Instagram feed that grabbed my attention. The image was created by an artist known as Erika Iris Simmons who specialises in creating art using non-traditional media. This particular piece of art was a portrait of Michael Jackson and was produced using the inside reels of a cassette tape. I was honestly astounded by how recognisable and precise it was but the fact that it was made from such an accessible household item is really what got me thinking.

I proceeded to Google search ‘Recycled Art’ and was, again, blown away by what I found. More masterpieces including a chicken made from egg shells, a collage of a young boy made from newspaper clippings and even a portrait of Barack Obama made from old buttons and brooches greeted my laptop screen. Now don’t get me wrong, I know what you might be thinking. But I can assure you that I am not some kind of an art junkie who finds beauty in everything. The fact I am saying that this type of art is cool is definitely saying something! So, with further examination of the different sources of Recycled Art on the internet, I discovered an article on its benefits which again sparked my interest. I had not realised there were any benefits until I read this article which is my reason for sharing it in this blog post. I feel more people need to become aware of this amazing form of art that has been revealed to me and I’m going to try and expose it to you too while you’re here!

Anyway, in this article outlining the benefits, they talked about how using household items in art is not only
a fun thing to do but it also reduces your energy consumption. So let me ask you this: when you throw something into the bin, do you think about where it’s going? All waste must go somewhere; be it a landfill, incineration centre or a recycling centre. Classic recycling may be better than all waste being dumped into a landfill but that doesn’t mean it has a positive effect on the environment. It still consumes not only space but also man power and money. These types of artwork take all the non-toxic junk and make useful items out of them which gives something back to both the environment and the economy.

But, the prime benefit we can acquire from this is that it saves a lot of energy. The re-production of recycled materials always requires consumption of new resources which in turn, results in more pollution and less resources. By adopting this strategy of reusing household junk, we are minimizing the energy spent on new production which directly impacts positively on climate change.

So, if you’re in any way artistic (or even if you’re not!), why not try dabbling your hand in Recycled Art? It’s fun, unique and most importantly, eco-friendly. I’ll make sure to share a new blog post with you guys showing my attempts. Don’t hesitate to share yours in the comments below. ‘Til next time, happy sustainable living!

Aoife Mullally

Image Sources:
Image 1: http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/recycled-art-masterpiece-made-from-junks/
Image 2: http://www.wikihow.com/Live-a-More-Environmentally-Friendly-Lifestyle
Image 3: http://www.corvallisadvocate.com/2013/0131-corvallis-landfill-filling-up/

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Seminar: Is biodiversity a driver in the health benefits of green space?

A  Special Seminar will be held on Friday 14th February 2014, 2-3 pm in the Botany Lecture Theatre  by Dr Jenny Roe, Senior Research Leader for Health and Wellbeing, at the Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York.  The talk

 'Is biodiversity a driver in the health benefits of green space?'

examines the effect of green space on wellbeing which is a hot topic just at present. Find out more about Jenny’s research  at  http://www.york.ac.uk/sei/staff/jenny-roe/


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New look for Our New Climate website

Even in a remote part of rural Ireland you are never far away from contarils
Another year and another start to the Broad Curriculum course Living Sustainably.  This year we have altered the format of the website ournewclimate.com and hope to expand it further to support the course in a more direct way.  This year the 84 students on the course will be producing a wide range of exciting and challenging posts for the blog.  This year will also see the publication of a support course textbook for the course as well. So it’s going to be an exciting 2014.

Nick Gray