RSS Feed

Category Archives: Learning

Solar Powered Desalination

Posted on

Brilliant idea and I could NEVER understand why it isn’t normal policy anywhere near salt water. It;s been trailed in Israel for 5 years and Michigan Uni have working models for a decade I’m told – not just salt water! See further links below.

“The Jerusalem-based SunDwater, whose standalone system harnesses heat through concentrated solar power, now has two fully operational pre-production models purifying water in the Arava Desert. The hope is, according to CEO Shimmy Zimels, to market the relatively low maintenance system to small villages in South America, Africa and Asia, ideally by means of aid organizations.”

https://www.jpost.com/Business-and-Innovation/Environment/Israel-makes-strides-in-solar-power-water-distillation-system-for-remote-villages-468337

============================================================

University of Michigan

Up to now, dry areas close to the sea wells can see wells become so depleted that seawater leaches into the freshwater supply. A team from the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability has created a solar-powered distillation unit that can desalinate water.

The prototype distillation unit can distil 150 litres (40 gallons) of water per day and can scale up to 3,000 litres (793 gallons). That is around 5 truckloads of water. This is an eco-friendly game changer for those struggling depleted wells.

The team created the system for Tastiota. This small village in the Sonoran desert relied on transporting water over 62 miles via road from their nearest water source.

Distilling the water produces not just water, but salt that the village can now sell. This means that the system is not just eco-friendly by sustainable as it generates sellable byproduct. This gives the techs financial viability a boost.

This new solution could have far-reaching implications across the world. All the system needs to work is direct sunlight.

Solar-powered distillation unit to offer fresh water where wells run salty

Solar water purification system with solar heating principles.

=======================================================

 

 

Full PDF EBOOK here { https://soo.gd/irt2 }

 

 

 

 

==============================================

Archery in Museum of Medieval Treasures, Waterford.

Posted on
Deidre decided to be daring

Deidre decided to be daring.

Have a go archery at the Waterford Museum of Medieval Treasures.

Learn - or die

Learn – or die.    I’ve found teaching medieval archery to be a great way to meet people and help develop their self-confidence.

Getting a strainght-line.

Demonstrating ‘Tip – nock – hand – elbow’ to create a straight line to enhance accuracy.

 

 

 

 

 

Darragh bring home the bacon.

Darragh bring home the bacon.

Knuckles and fingers.

Knuckles and fingers.

 

Experience Medieval Archery has been launched within Waterford’s Museum of Treasures. Workshops on medieval crafts and archery. A hands-on active-display where various and changing working-craft areas will be established and the use of longbows (warbows) will be demonstrated and various arrows from bone-head to flint to drop-forged to tempered armour-piercing warheads. After demonstration visitors will be offered the chance to pull a long bow and loose real arrows.And buy bows and accessories.
This will be facilitated by the Museum and supported by various other state bodies. The workshop will also continue to tour medieval (Heritage) days, folk-festivals, schools and corporate events that help senior staff bring focus and fun to their work.
The whole workshop can be easily moved and set up in an open space where a medieval tent will add colour and protection with professional archery netting to provide safety.

Earth warming – some thoughts

Posted on

Signs of a Changing Climate – ‘Science has spoken’

FAQ2.2 figure2

The aims of the IPCC are to assess scientific information relevant to:

  1. Human-induced climate change,
  2. The impacts of human-induced climate change,
  3. Options for adaptation and mitigation.

See: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Intergovernmental+Panel+on+Climate+Change

Some interesting radio shows on science subjects.

Posted on

          Some interesting radio shows on science subjects.

 

Player Image

Click on:  I have a WHAT?

 

===========================================================================

How do you know you are dreaming.

An interesting discussion on the facts, act, benefit of cognitive-dreaming.

http://www.newstalk.ie/player/podcasts/Futureproof/Highlights_from_Futureproof_with_Jonathan_McCrea/56023/1/how_do_you_know_you_arent_dreaming/cp_2

========================================================================

Player Image

I have a what now?!

Show: Futureproof

In this week’s ‘I have a what now’ it’s the ‘Suprachiasmatic nucleus’ which controls circadin rhythms. In partnership with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

========================================================================
I have what? – coccyx – via the skull.
 
========================================================================
 

 

Leave a lighter footprint: green funeral and burial tips

Posted on

Leave a lighter footprint: green funeral and burial tips

Worldwide, more than 50,000,000 people pass away each year. Traditional burial and cremation practices can have significant negative environmental impact, but green funerals and eco-burials are one way to lessen the impact. While death can be a difficult subject, keeping ethical beliefs and environmental convictions in mind while tending to end-of-life arrangements can create a meaningful send-off–not to mention a lower-impact one. After all, if you gotta go, why not go green?

Top Green Funeral Tips

  1. Seek Good Advice
    Not long ago, the idea of green burial was unheard of by most funeral directors, and today, for a variety of practical and emotional reasons, many people still resist the idea. However, there are signs that the industry is awakening to the concept, especially since many people with environmental sympathies wish to leave the world as they have tried to live in it. A growing number of products and services can help them do just that. Key points to think about include: 

     

    • Funeral Director: Ask your funeral director about more sustainable options, or seek out a funeral home that offer green practices (more on this below).
    • Green Burial: Likewise, green burial specialists can help you explore greening your final resting options.
    • Literature on Green Funerals: Read one of the books that can guide you through the process. (See our “Where to Get this Stuff” section below for suggestions.)
  2. State Your Intentions If you are reading this guide with an eye to what happens to your remains when you are gone, it would make sense to talk to your loved ones about it or make arrangements ahead of time. Death can be a difficult process and, unless prompted, those left behind may not think to consider the environment in making arrangements. Even if they do, they may not have a grasp of the best and greenest courses of action to take. 

     

    • Define Your Wishes: Add a clause in your will or create an advanced funeral wishes document that stipulates your green funeral concerns. Consider including a copy of this guide with your instructions.
  3. Cremate Your Remains On the face of it, cremation doesn’t seem like a particularly green idea. Burning anything creates pollution, especially if there are toxic substances present (via embalming, for example), and returning nutrients to the ecosystem via decomposing matter is a core tenet of environmental thinking. That said, modern crematoriums have made significant reductions in emissions. Plus, as many cemeteries, particularly in the U.S., have rules and regulations stipulating the use of concrete vaults, coffins, and other such requirements that use significant resources and space, becoming one with nature isn’t as straightforward and simple (or quick) as it may seem. Cremation, therefore, may make more sense from a green perspective, after all. If it seems like the right choice to you, you can ask the crematorium about what they are doing to reduce emissions. A previous TreeHugger post also discusses more about efficient and green cremation. Another option that has been explored in Sweden involves freezing the body with liquid nitrogen, which breaks the remains down more rapidly. This method has been very controversial.
  4. Bury Your Remains Ultimately, our remains are part of the food chain. Unfortunately, many of the trappings of modern burial–such as embalming, hardwood coffins, and concrete vaults–are designed to delay the natural process of decomposition. Though these ideas have become modern standards, the truth is that anything we can do to return to the earth more easily will lessen our impact on the environment. See our previous article, The Green Goodbye, which explores new trends in eco-burials. Key ecological points include: 

     

    • Preservation: Embalming slows the decomposition process. For those whose tradition does not designate embalming as part of the burial practice, consider skipping this step, and opt for a closed casket and rapid burial.
    • Coffins: Cardboard, bamboo, or jute coffins, shrouds, or biodegradable urns are all dignified ways to unite with nature more rapidly.
    • Green Burial Grounds: The Green Burial Council and other organizations are taking strides to develop and identify sustainable burial and cremation practices, locations and companies.
  5. Leave a Living Marker It can be important for mourners to have somewhere to go to remember their loved ones long after the funeral is over. Natural or living memorials can be wonderful alternatives to quarried headstones or marble mausoleums. Consider planting a tree or a bush that will carry on in honor of the deceased. Online memorials are also becoming increasingly popular. For inspiration, New York’s New School and the The U.S. Forest Service have explored visions of the living memorial through their project, Land-markings: 12 Journeys through 9/11 Living Memorials.
  6. Give Gifts of Sympathy Cut flowers have a short shelf-life; besides, flower-farming can be a resource-intensive endeavor. It’s already common practice to ask for donations to charity in lieu of flowers; after all, what better way to remember the dead than to create a better world for the living? From organizations that provide solar power to the developing world to others that provide bicycles for AIDS caregivers, charity-giving is a magnificent way to honor the passions of deceased friends or relatives.
  7. Deliver a Just Tribute So much of what we hold dear about a person includes their ideals and convictions. It is fitting, then, to commemorate the life of a departed fellow TreeHugger with a memorial ceremony that touches on the subject of the environment. We are not suggesting a 10-hour lecture on Gaia Theory, but a joyful remembrance of a passionate green life well-lived. With more and more faiths and denominations fromCatholicism to Judaism and beyond embracing stewardship of the environment, it shouldn’t be hard to find a minister with sympathies for your cause. Green funeral providers and any funeral director will also be able to offer advice on how to create a unique, personalized ceremony.
  8. Green Your Funeral Service As with any event, much of the environmental impact is in the details. Even if you don’t opt for any of the ideas above, you can still make a funeral greener by incorporating the following practices into the gathering. 

     

    • Programs: Use recycled paper for programs or hymn sheets.
    • Flowers: Source any flowers from organic, local growers.
    • Procession: Make arrangements for carpooling from location to location during the funeral.
    • Refreshments: If the deceased was an environmentalist, the chances are they enjoyed local, organic food. If refreshments are being served, it makes sense then to look closely at where they come from. TreeHugger’s How to Green Your Meals provides helpful tips and guidelines for selecting the refreshments of your choice.
  9. The Ultimate Recycling We’ve already suggested that using biodegradable coffins or urns, and avoiding concrete vaults, can help reduce our impact by returning our remains to the earth. However, some folks are taking this even further by finding safe ways to literally compost human remains.
  10. Return to the Woods The woodland burial movement, which started in the UK, is widely credited with the birth of interest in natural funerals in general. Not only do woodland burials involve low impact ceremonies, they also aid in the return of a piece of land to a natural forest. Trees and native wildflowers are often planted above a grave, and because the location becomes dear to the families of the deceased, chances are good that the site will remain protected for years to come.

 

Cremation ceremonies in Varanasi, India || Dennis Jarvis/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Funerals: By the Numbers

    • 56.5 million: The approximate number of people that die each year around the globe.
    • 50 million: Trees that are cut down in India each year for funeral pyres. This releases 8 million tons of carbon dioxide.
    • 270: The number of green and woodland burial sites in the U.K.
    • Up to 16 percent: Mercury emissions in the U.K. that come from crematoria because of the fillings in teeth. This percentage is expected to increase to 25 percent by 2020.
    • 1.6 million: Tons of reinforced concrete buried in the U.S. each year in the construction of vaults.

Sources: Yahoo!TreeHuggerDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural AffairsGreen Burial Council

Green Funerals: Getting Techie

Embalming became popular in the United States during the Civil War and is still a significant source of groundwater pollution today. Arsenic gave way to the less toxic formaldehyde as the favored embalming solution around the turn of the last century. However, formaldehyde poisoning can still be fatal and it is classified as a human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Some estimates say that one million gallons of formaldehyde are buried in embalmed bodies each year in the United States. Almost all of this will eventually make its way into our water supplies. Efforts are underway to gradually replace formaldehyde with glutaraldehyde, which is considered less toxic.

 

Cremation causes nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, heavy metals and particulates to be released into the atmosphere when a body is cremated. If a body has mercury-amalgam fillings, the mercury will almost certainly become air pollution unless the fillings are removed first. Burning a body inside a coffin also creates significantly more pollution than burning the body by itself. Modern crematoriums often have ‘clean smokestacks’ that ameliorate the associated emissions, at least to some degree, and the cremation industry has claimed that reports of pollution have been greatly exaggerated.

Books
Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love
Exit Strategy: Thinking Outside the Box
Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial
The Natural Death Handbook

============================================================================================

Deep-Frozen Woman ‘Denied’ Eco-Burial

 A.K. Streeter (@april2462) Living / Health March 2, 2012

Promessa AB/Screen capture
“Think About Death” the inscription at the Gothenburg cemetary reads.

Remember the story a few years back about an environmentally-friendly form of burial that sifted the toxic and valuable metals from corpses and put resulting nutrient-rich dust into biodegradable caskets to replenish the earth as compost?

OK, maybe you haven’t heard. But this type of eco-burial was the passion of researcher and business owner Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, who formed a company, Promessa Organic AB, to help dead people that wish to quickly return to the earth. According to Wiigh-Mäsak, her method is much more sustainable than our current embalming in caskets, or cremation. Traditional casket-buried bodies are deeply buried, rot slowly and release methane as they do so, Wiigh-Mäsak has said. With Promessa’s process, powdered bodies will be shallowly buried and break down much more quickly.

Except that in Sweden, the freeze-drying and shallow burial of corpses has no precedent, so this new form of eco-burial has yet to go forward.

Thus the body of Jane Günther, who had herself frozen upon her death in 2009, is still waiting (thus far in vain) for the Swedish state to comply with her last wishes. Recently, the Swedish Tax Authority threatened to force conventional burial of Günther’s body against those wishes, as it seems there’s a legal limit for how long corpses can remain unburied.

Gunther is one of 12 Swedes to undergo the deep-freeze in anticipation of a Promessa-style eco-burial, while Wiigh-Mäsak waits for approval of her technique.

The main problem is that Swedish law only allows for two forms of burial – cremation, or burial in a casket. At Promessa, a body is first chilled down to -18C. Once she’s obtained permission for her process, Wiigh-Masäk’s clients will be dunked in liquid nitrogen (obtained as a byproduct of the medical industry) which freezes them to -196C. Wiigh-Mäsak says this makes a body very brittle, and subsequent agitation causes the body to break apart and eventually disintegrate. Heavy metals are then filtered out by means of magnets, and the remains put into a biodegradable corn casket and buried in a shallow grave. Wiigh-Mäsak says in 6 – 12 months the body will be rich compost.

“Whether we burn our body or bury it six feet under, we neglect the possibility of bringing our organic remains back to nature, thereby becoming part of a balanced process.” – Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak

Researcher Bengt Johansson isn’t convinced that the method will work. Wiigh-Mäsak has said she’s tested the method on hundreds of pigs, but she hasn’t publicly shared her research findings.

Johanssom, a professor of anatomy at Sweden’s Sahlgrenska Academy who has worked with freezing technology, told a Swedish newspaper he doesn’t believe bodies will react in the way Wiigh-Mäsak says they will, and wants further scientific, peer-reviewed proof.

So it’s a fight to the death, or beyond.

Wiigh-Mäsak is planning to build a Promessa facility this year to handle more burials with her method, which she calls promession.

 

From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

Posted on

From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

Original article: treehugger.com//how-to-go-green-babies

From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

tiny baby foot photo

A new baby entering your life can create an enormous number of unexpected changes. Along with the little one comes a whole new category of things to purchase — not only the obvious large items like furniture and diapers, but also all the unforeseen extras that seem to accumulate. While having a baby is consumer heaven, the key is to not be gulled into an unnecessary buying frenzy. In truth, a baby has very minimal needs. On the flip side, there is more to a sustainable life with your baby than cloth diapers, organic baby food, and fair-trade clothing…read on for more.

Top Green Baby Tips

    1. Choose the right diapers
      Studies are divided on the subject of environmental impact of disposables vs. cloth. But knowing that your baby will use approx 6,000 diapers before toilet training, and that disposable diapers take 200-500 years to decompose, this is certainly a key issue to ponder. Washing cloth diapers takes water and energy (not to mention time), but it’s a great way to avoid chemicals. Use natural laundry detergent then set it out in the sun to bleach out any stains. You could also consider the benefits of a laundering service. One study has found that home-washing cloth diapers has only 53 percent of the ecological footprint of disposables, and if you use a diaper laundering service that impact is halved again. Another plus is that the same cloth diapers can be passed down to future babies.

       

      Cloth diapers: Reusable diapers aren’t what they used to be and the days of diaper pins are all but bygone. Go for fitted cloth diapers with Velcro or snap closures for convenience, made from an eco-friendly material such as hemp, bamboo, or organic cotton. Use an organic wool cover that is both warm and breathable, minimizing diaper rash and cold bottoms at night. Use either removable or flushable liners and when washing either use a laundering service or wash at home at lower temperatures. With a new baby around you’ll probably notice a lot more laundry piling up, so make sure you’ve optimized your setup with an efficient machine and non-toxic detergent. If you can line-dry, that is ideal, but don’t bother ironing.

      Biodegradable diapers: Made with plant-based plastics (also known as bioplastics), these diapers are non-petroleum based and are compostable. While these have been found not to break down under landfill conditions, there are other options to compost them such as using a composting toilet, an earthworm system, or a highly active and properly conditioned composting area. Hybrid diapers, like gDiapers, have removable inserts that can safely biodegrade when flushed. But be careful, some so-called ‘green’ diapers, like Seventh Generation, can contain petroleum gels,so make sure to do your research first!

    1. Feed your little one: From breast or bottle?
      This one’s a no-brainer: breastfeeding is best. It’s free, has health benefits for mother and baby, has no environmental impact, and is a precious bonding experience. However, in our commerce-driven society there are products for everything, and breastfeeding is no exception. For breast pads, ditch disposables and try re-usable organic cotton or wool felt pads. While there are many great, organic nipple creams available, some locally produced olive oil or organic lanolin does a great job. If bottle feeding becomes a necessity, pumping your own is the first choice. Beyond that, using a fair-trade organic infant formula is preferable. If this is neither affordable nor accessible, then the next best thing is to ensure the brand of formula you buy is from a company not profiteering from marketing their product to developing countries. These companies disregard or try to get around the marketing code set by The World Health Assembly.

    1. Chow down on solid foods
      At about six months, babies starts to eat real food. Rice cereal and mushy veggies turn to combinations of fish, meat, eggs, legumes, and vegetables–yep, a regular person’s diet. Buying jars of food is sure convenient, but as an adult you don’t live out of jars, so why should your baby? For those occasional situations,purchase organic or fresh frozen baby foods. Otherwise, make your own. Cook up veggies, casseroles, or tofu and lentils, whatever is your thing, and freeze it in tiny containers or ice cube trays ready to take out and defrost when needed. (Be sure you discuss any concerns over dietary requirements with your health professional)

    1. Dress your baby in smart green clothing
      All those designer baby clothes are cute and oh so hard to resist in their fruity colors. But be careful. Not only does a baby grow out of clothes amazingly fast, they are constantly sending bodily fluids flying onto those precious outfits. The baby couture might be better replaced with convenient one-piece suits in practical white terry cloth. Choosing organic hemp or cotton, bamboo or wool fabrics made without toxic chemicals are best against a baby’s sensitive skin and last longer with the constant washing. Second-hand clothing is the cheapest and most sustainable option. Get hand-me-downs from friends and family or look in thrift shops, Craigslist, or Freecycle.

    1. Lather up with natural skin care
      It’s very easy to get sucked into the constant advertising of baby powders, creams, and lotions, but avoid soap on a baby’s delicate skin – less is more for their skin care. The best baby lotion is plain old olive oil or coconut oil–cheap, natural, and un-perfumed. As for other products, keep it as natural, organic, and fragrance-free as possible. Weleda diaper creams and lotions are great. For more on this, take a look at our guides for How to Go Green: Women’s Personal Care and Everything you need to know about natural skin care.

    1. Wash up: Green laundry and washing
      It’s quite possible that our war on germs is actually making things worse. Studies have shown that children brought up in over-cleaned houses are more likely to develop allergies, asthma, or eczema. The best thing you can do for sensitive baby skin is not to cover it with synthetic chemicals. Wash nappies with pure soap and warm water. Make your own non-toxic cleansers with simple ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar. For more, see How to green your cleaning routine.

    1. Make play-time green-time with greener toys
      Get back to basics and try old fashioned wooden toys and organic cotton or homemade teddies. Because babies put most things in their mouths, go as natural as possible, then when baby is a little older, get hold of second-hand toys. Also aim for toys that help build a child’s bond with nature and the natural world. The sad truth is that the average American kindergartener can identify several hundred logos and only a few leaves from plants and trees.

    1. Rest easy with green furniture and accessories
      Babies don’t need much–a secure place to sleep, a car seat, a high chair, and a way to be trundled around. Go for second-hand furniture, everything except cot mattresses (some research suggests a link between second-hand cot mattresses and sudden infant death syndrome) and car seats, (which can have invisible accident damage). If you buy new furniture, purchase high quality, durable pieces made of sustainable, low-toxicity materials. Think about some alternatives to the regular old wooden baby bed; try using an organic cotton baby hammock or a cot that extends into a bed and lasts 6-7 years. The most ethical option for stroller (pram) is recycled. For more on furniture, see our guide for How to choose green furniture.

    1. Improve your indoor air quality and maintain a healthy household environment
      It goes without saying that alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking while pregnant are bad for a baby. But it is also very important to avoid exposure to the synthetic chemicals contained in everyday products such as paints, carpet, furniture, bedding, and pesticides which make up Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)in the air you and your baby breath. When decorating the nursery, use natural and low-VOC paints and don’t lay new carpet before the baby is born. Suspicious new items should at least be left outside to off-gas for a few days before bringing inside.

  1. Wipe out chemical cleaners and disposable liners
    Diaper wipes and liners commonly include propylene glycol (a binder also found in antifreeze), parabens (a family of compounds commonly used as preservatives) and perfume, which can be made from up to 600 different chemicals. Try using good natural organic cotton wool and water and avoid disposable changing mats and perfumed diaper bags.

 

Babies use A LOT of diapers every day by Sean Dreilinger/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Babies: By The Numbers

    • 6000: The number of diapers the average baby uses before potty training.

    • 200 to 500: Years it takes petroleum-based disposable diapers to decompose.

    • 49 million: The estimated number of disposable diapers used per day in the United States; Australia uses 2.2 million, Japan uses 6.7 million, and the U.K. uses 9 million.

    • 53 percent: A home-washed cloth diaper has only 53 percent of the ecological footprint of disposables, and a diaper laundry service has a mere 37 percent of that footprint.

  • $1.4 billion per year: The estimated amount of money Americans spend on complicated births due to smoking while pregnant.

 

Josh Dubya/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Babies: Getting Techie

Toxic chemicals can have great impact in babies’ lives since they do so much growing and developing early in life, so it can be more important to keep them out of our youngsters’ systems. Here are some of the worst:

 

Bisphenol a is an endocrine disruptor — meaning it mimics hormones in our bodies, upsetting the delicate natural balance and changing the way babies develop — used often in polycarbonate plastic water bottles. When it’s done in baby’s body, it enters the water system, where it effects the hormonal development of fish and other aquatic life. TheFDA acknowledges it’s risky for youngsters.

Lead, which was used in paint for many years, and still pops up in some kids toys even today (yikes!), is a banned neurotoxin that can disrupt your child’s brain development. Learn more about getting the lead out of your home.

Attachment parenting, involving sleeping with and wearing your baby, while not for everyone, is said to promote a strong bond leading to a sensitive, emotionally aware child. It is based on the theory developed by Dr. William Sears that babies are born with a need for nurturing. Attachment parenting has been a controversial parenting method in the media and the extent to which it can be considered ‘green’ is debatable. Many parents who are opposed to attachment parenting feel that letting the baby sleep alone or not responding every time it cries teach a baby independence. Find out what feels most natural and go with it. Trust your parenting instincts.

Elimination communication is a technique of timing, signals, cues, and intuition to help baby/infant express his or her poo-related needs; using it may help you not use diapers at all. This is best begun before six months of age, and while it is most commonly used in third-world countries where parents are in constant contact with their children, it has been used in the West with some success.

With reporting by Manon Verchot

Irish Radio Treasures

Posted on

New Natural History series on RTE 1 and Cape Clear courses

Subtitle for your message

IWDG were once again delighted to be invited to contribute to a Crossing the Line natural history production and the “whale” show recorded off Dunmore East on Martin Colfer’s MV Rebecca C back in Jan 2012 will air on Sun 9th June on RTE Radio 1 at 7:00 pm.  A full schedule of this 10 part series is given below.  For those of you who have missed the first two shows, they are available at:  

NATURE ON ONE 10 x 30min Natural History Radio Documentary Series STARTS SUNDAY 5th MAY 2013 on Radio 1 at 7pm Bringing the sounds of Ireland’s natural world to Radio 1 listeners This ten-part radio documentary series sees Emmy award-winning wildlife cameraman and television presenter Colin Stafford Johnson turn his talents to radio. Colin travels across the country on the hunt for some of our most remarkable animals and wild places. Tune in and allow yourself to be transported to Skellig Michael, with its noisy storm petrels, manx shearwaters and puffins; or into the midst of a grey seal colony on the windswept Inishkea Islands; venture below ground and imagine yourself being surrounded by swarming bats; or experience the sounds recorded inside a starling roost under a Belfast bridge. Over the course of ten weeks, Colin will guide his audience on an intimate tour of Ireland’s natural world. A Crossing the Line Production on behalf of RTÉ Radio One & BAI Sound & Vision   EPISODE 1  A Night on the Skellig Rocks In 600AD early Christian monks chose Skellig Michael, 11km off the Kerry coast, as a location for a monastery ‘on the edge of the known world’ which they believed would bring them closer to God. In this episode Colin Stafford Johnson spends a night on Skellig Michael, to record the wild sounds to be heard at this World Heritage Site – introducing the puffins, storm petrels and manx shearwaters who also choose to make their home on this rocky outcrop. In addition to meeting its wild inhabitants, Colin talks to OPW guides who spend the summer living on the island, and tourists who have made the day trip; as well as a local diver who describes the Skellig landscape below the surface.   EPISODE  2  The Burren: a special place for bumblebees, plants and people Colin Stafford Johnson visits Slieve Carron Nature Reserve in the Burren, Co. Clare. The Burren is unique and is known throughout the world for its vast limestone pavements, but far from being a barren landscape, as Dr Brendan Dunford explains, the Burren holds a diverse flora, a mix of Mediterranean and alpine plants found nowhere else in Ireland. It is also home to some of Ireland’s rarest bumblebees. When you hear Ecologist Dr Jane Stout’s take on bumblebees you will never see a passing bee the same way again, but as furry, endearing creatures! Colin learns about the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme and meets local farmer Pat Nagle. We also meet 13-year-old Jack McGann, graduate of Ecobeo, a course for young people on the natural, cultural and archaeological heritage value of this landscape.   EPISODE 3 The Seal Colony of the Inishkeas Colin Stafford Johnson joins grey seal expert Dr Oliver O’Cadhla on a visit to South Inishkea, off the Mullet Peninsula, home to one of Ireland’s largest grey seal breeding colonies. Having spent years researching the seals at this colony, Oliver is passionate about this place and these animals and explains their struggle to survive in this harsh environment. It’s mid-October and very cold. There are lots of pups on the beach, but they won’t all make it. The mothers are busy feeding their young, while the large dominant male seals protect their harem. On this remote wild island, we get a peek into the secret lives of the grey seals that are born there.   EPISODE 4  Species in Danger In this episode of ‘Nature on One’, Colin Stafford Johnson seeks out one of our most endangered species, the curlew. Searching across bog in Co. Mayo, Colin sets out to record the once familiar call of this iconic bird of Irish peatlands and Ireland’s largest wader. Anita Donaghy, from Birdwatch Ireland, explains why the curlew is in decline and their ‘Cry of the Curlew’ campaign. [see http://www.birdwatchireland.ie/Ourwork/CryoftheCurlewAppeal/tabid/1106/Default.aspx] Colin also wants to find out how some of our smaller, lesser known species – our snails and slugs – are doing. With a third of Irish mollusc species facing extinction, Colin is delighted to hear some good news for one species in Co. Longford as he meets up with Evelyn Moorkens to investigate a recently discovered site for one of our most rare animals, Desmoulins Whorl Snail, Vertigo moulinsiana.   EPISODE 5  Rise of the Pine Marten Historically widespread throughout the country, the pine marten suffered serious population decline due to habitat destruction, hunting for the fur trade; accidental poisoning and persecution by game-keepers so that, by the 1950s, it had become one of our rarest animals. But now the pine marten is on the rise once again and sightings are increasing across the midlands. Colin visits a small school in Co. Leitrim, in which a female pine marten chose to set up home and the pupils explain how they felt about this new addition to their school. Colin also explores the impact of this spread of the pine marten on other animals, meeting up with Emma Sheehy from NUI Galway in an Offaly woodland, where she is studying the interesting relationship between the pine marten, the red squirrel and the introduced grey squirrel.   EPISODE 6   Sunday 9th May, 7:00 pm Whaling off Hook Head Colin Stafford Johnson heads offshore with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, from Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, to try to find the second largest animal on earth, the fin whale. No less than 24 species of whales and dolphins have been recorded in Irish waters, ranging in size from the harbour porpoise to the blue whale, the largest animal that has ever lived. Will they manage to track down what is known as the greyhound of whale species, the fin whale?   EPISODE 7  The Secret Life of Irish Caves – from swarming bats to ancient bones Late one Autumn night, Colin Stafford Johnson heads underground to explore what wildlife might be found in Irish caves. Colin meets bat specialist Conor Kelleher in Dunmore Cave, Co. Kilkenny, where they hope to witness the autumnal swarming of Natterer’s bats. This phenomenon of Autumnal swarming in caves was only discovered in Ireland last year, and it is still not known why the bats do it – using up valuable fat reserves just as their winter hibernation approaches. In addition to this living wildlife spectacle, caves are also important repositories for our extinct fauna. To find out why this is and what has been found in Irish caves, Colin heads to the Natural History Museum to meet Nigel Monaghan, Curator, and to examine some of the ancient remains found in Irish caves.   EPISODE 8 The Wild Side of Belfast We tend to think of wildlife as living in pristine countryside, in woodland, rivers and bogs, but this week Colin Stafford Johnson heads to the bustling city of Belfast to find out what wild stories it might have to offer. The River Lagan flows right through the centre of the city. Ronald Surgenor, is a Wier operative, Department of Culture, Arts, and Leisure, and RSPB volunteer, who knows the river intimately and Ronald kindly takes Colin out in his rib, to visit Albert Bridge, the site of an amazing wildlife display, a starling murmuration, and they venture right under the bridge for a close encounter with the birds as they roost for the night. Colin also meets Lucille Coates and some children from ‘Watch this Space’, a Belfast City Council monthly nature club; as well as a team of volunteers who are hedgelaying, with the Laganscape Project, which works to manage Lagan Valley Park, with involvement from local communities, school groups, businesses and volunteers.   EPISODE 9        Birdsong – why do birds sing and what does it mean to us humans? Colin Stafford Johnson explores that wildlife sound we often take for granted – birdsong. At the Devil’s Glen in Co. Wicklow, he meets up with Animal Behaviour expert and Head of the Zoology Department in Trinity College Dublin, Dr Nicola Marples, to ask her why birds sing, and how they learn their tunes. Colin also travels west to meet with Gordon Darcy, Natural History author, artist and environmental educator, to discuss what birdsong might mean for human beings and how it may enrich our lives, whether or not we recognise it.   EPISODE 10        ‘An Amphibian Love Story’ – Singing frogs and Nattering Toads How does one attract the opposite sex? It could be good looks, physical fitness, a nice home, or even how you smell! But what about how you sound? In some animals it’s all in the voice. Toads and frogs have developed impressive calls to attract a mate. In this episode, Colin Stafford Johnson looks at two of Ireland’s amphibians, the common frog and the Natterjack Toad, and sets out to record their unique calls. In February he explored a mass frog spawning site at Glendalough in Co. Wicklow with Rob Gandola, from the Irish Herpetological Society; and in April, Ferdia Marnell, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and local conservation ranger Pascal Dower visit a Natterjack Toad breeding pond at Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry.     IWDG Cape Clear Whale-Watching courses There are still some places left on the 1st of our summer weekend whale-watching courses May 31- June 2nd on Cape Clear, Co. Cork. These courses are available for members at a discounted rate of €70.  Over the weekend participants will learn both practical field-skills during land and boat based watches, as well as attend a series of talks covering cetacean ecology/biology, species identification and whale watching.  Given reasonable weather conditions these weekends generally provide sightings of porpoises, common dolphins and minke whales and at this time of year, we can’t rule out basking sharks, although admitedly this has been a very poor year to date for this species, due to the lower than normal water temperatures.   Enquiries to email: padraig.whooley@iwdg.ie or Ph. 353 (0)86 3850568   Whale Watch Ireland 2013, Sunday 18th August 2013, 2:00-5:00 pm We are once again delighted to announce that Inis, Cologne www.perfume.ie are providing funding support for All-Ireland whale watch day on Sunday 18th August. As always this event requires watch leaders willing to lead and promote your local watch.  If you have land- based whale watching experience, are good with crowds and have some energy and time to spare, we’d appreciate your contacting us, so we can start to compile a list of sites that we can cover on this event, which is one of the largest events on the Irish wildlife calender.  Please contact event organiser on email: padraig.whooley@iwdg.ie or Ph. 086-3850568

Add-ons;- Lismore area; http://youtu.be/GizCoPx45_Q

St Declan’s Way

 

Short clip on Tramore’s Metal Man; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7cTcenRev0&feature=youtu.be

Swimming pool – au natural

Posted on
printlogo-1329425488189.jpeg
A Natural Swimming Pool That Works for You

By John Robb (Resilient Communities). http://www.resilientcommunities.com/?inf_contact_key=284fdcfb53503b6d362a75d5644c49bb571874cfb5a179fc85273259247b692e

Robb writes on all sorts of interesting topics – here he teams up with  Shlok Vaidya as contributer

When I was a pilot, I spent years surveying the built environment from above.

One thing that amazed me is how many people own swimming pools.  In some areas of the country, it seems that nearly everyone has a pool (in some cases, the pool is almost as big as the footprint of the home itself).

But things have changed.  We don’t have the luxury of allocating that much space to a sterile, unproductive pool of water that requires constant attention and financial support?

We need to put that space to work.

But are there any other options?  Is it possible to build a pool that does more than just support our playtime?

I believe there is.   It’s called a natural pool.

20130329-113853.jpg

The natural pool, doesn’t fight nature tooth and nail.  It embraces it in a very tangible way.

Instead of engaging in chemical warfare, the natural pool uses an ecosystem of plants to cleanse and filter your swimming water.  To do this, designers create a wetland in a shallow and distinct area of a pool to act as a biological filter.

20130329-114229.jpg

This include the following components:

  • Microorganisms. For example, zooplankton eat algae to keep your water clear.
  • Aquatic plants. They absorb the nutrients that the bacteria break down. Indigenous plants are used as much as possible. You can also grow edible plants, for example, rice, watercress, or wasabi.
  • An inert substrate. This way the plants are forced to draw their nutrients from the water itself, thereby keeping the water clean.
  • Retaining wall. Enables water flow between the two areas but prevents the plants from doing so.

In practice, the shallow water of the wetland area is circulated into the deeper water of the swimming pool.

This circulation enables your bio-filter to cleanse the water as it goes. Upkeep is minimal – one simply has to trim the plants as necessary and remove fallen leaves.

There are no chemicals to buy, minimal electricity costs (one pump), and no PH level monitoring. If needed, the bio-filter can be supplemented with an automated skimmer or UV sanitizer.

As an added bonus, because the wetland is a distinct area, it can be added to an existing pool in a retrofit with minimal additional digging.

Resiliently Yours,

 JOHN ROBB;- Resilient communities.

PS: Because the pool is designed for circulating water, the threat of mosquitoes is minimized.  Additionally, wildlife (frogs, dragonflies) will be attracted to the vegetation-filled part of the pool you don’t swim in. They’ll provide a free pest management service.  In contrast, when a chemically treated pool isn’t maintained, it can quickly collapse into a cesspool of larva (as we saw during the foreclosure tsunami a couple of years ago).

PPS:  I’ve been experimenting with aquascaped environments over the last couple of months, and I can attest that these systems can take care of themselves if you build the system correctly.

Resilient communities editor, Shlok Vaidya, contributed to this letter.

=====================================================================================

Natural swimming pools provide all of the fun of a standard swimming pool, but without the chemicals and the maintenance.    As you can see below, a natural pool system can turn a recreational pool into a productive asset rather than merely a chemically laced cost center.

Planted ponds

The secret to a natural pools is something called a biofilter.  To clean the pool, you pump water through the biofilter (images via Gartenart).

GartenArt

What is a biofilter?  It’s usually made with porous rocks or gravel.  Essentially, any material that has nooks and crannies that bacteria can breed in.  With a biofilter, you actually want the bacteria to grow because they eat the pollutants in the water, cleansing it in the process.

Make a solar garden lamp out of a jam jar

Posted on

Make a solar garden lamp out of a jam jar; http://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/gadgets/make-solar-garden-lamp-jam-jar/#slide-top

Megan Treacy
Technology / Gadgets
March 26, 2013

Intro

solar garden lamp

credit: Ugifer

Instructable user Ugifer put together this DIY project for a solar garden lamp for a science experiment that he was doing with his daughter and her friends and he’s given us permission to share it with you all. The skills and lessons taught would make it great for parents and educators to share with kids as an introduction to green tech, but it would also be a great beginner level project for those just getting into making their own electronics.

Ugifer says, “It’s simple and fairly quick to do so although it does involve some soldering I don’t expect that we will have trouble doing this with our small group of carefully supervised 7-year-olds.

The idea for this project was inspired by this article over at Evil Mad Scientist although the circuit is modified to be a little more efficient. Because it’s made up from a simple set of parts it would make an ideal beginner’s electronics kit.

This is a nice, sustainable-energy kit, with all the power for the lamp being sourced from renewable solar energy. It uses scavenged jam-jars as the enclosure but could also use some scavenged parts such as toroids from old CFLs.”

What you’ll need

solar garden lamp kit

credit: Ugifer

The parts that you will need are:

Kit:

5V 70 mA Solar pannel (around 60x60mm)
Twin AAA-size battery holder
2 AAA-size NiMH rechargable batteries (around 1000 mAh works well)
Circuit board (see last step for Eagle files)
2N3906 general purpose PNP transistor (or equivalent)
2N3904 general purpose NPN transistor (or equivalent)
1N5817 low forward voltage schottky diode (general purpose – e.g. 1N914 – diode would probably work)
Slide switch
Ferrite bead/toroid (scavenge from an old compact fluorescent lamp if you only need a few)
LED (high brightness – diffused ideally but I only had water-clear so scratch it up with sandpaper)
22K resistor*
4K7 resistor*
1K resistor
1nf ceramic capacitor (some parts of this ‘ible refer to a 2n2. Either seems to work fine)
30 cm 22-guage solid copper wire (from an old ethernet or telephone cable works well)

Optional items::

Old (empty) jam or pickle jar to house your circuit (we will assume you are using this).
Sparkly things (e.g. acrylic jewels) for the bottom of the jar (makes it look pretty)
Glass paints (could be included in kit)
Small double-sided sticky pad (optional but useful)

Tools:

Soldering iron & solder
Side-cutters
Drill press or punch
Hot glue gun & glue (epoxy would be fine but slower). I use low-temp hot glue with the kids.
Metal file
A little tape to hold things in place
Medium grade sandpaper (tiny bit)
Helping-hands type tool also very useful

* These resistors may need adjusting depending upon the performance of your solar cell and LED. The 4K7 and 22K make a voltage divider that controls the light level at which your LED comes on. Increase or leave out the 22K for darkest switch-point. Decrease the to switch on when it’s lighter. But be careful – depending on your solar cell you may need a pull-down to make the PNP switch on fully. A 100K trim-pot would probably work well if you wanted to control this.

The circuit

 solar garden circuit

credit: Ugifer

As indicated, the circuit was inspired by this article at Evil Mad Scientist. Thanks to Windell et al. for that.

The schematic is shown in the picture.

Essentially, the circuit can be divided into the charging part to the left, the light sensing part in the middle and the LED lighting part on the right.

During the day, the voltage across the solar cell is high and current flows through the diode to charge the NiMH battery. Charging at up to C/10h amps (where C is the capacity of the battery in amp-hours) is supposedly safe for continuous trickle-charge. So with 1000 mAh batteries we should be able to handle 100 mA. Our 70 mA solar cell in practice generates 50-55 mA in UK direct summer sunlight so we are safe by a factor of 2 there – pretty much ideal for fairly quick charging but keeping the battery pack in good condition.

When it gets dark, the voltage across the panel drops. This can consume significant current from the battery (so-called “dark current”, which sounds like the evil side of the force to me). Hence the diode. I have used a low vF diode to reduce how much of or energy we burn getting past it. We can tap into this voltage drop to turn on the light when it gets dark. That’s where the PNP transistor comes in.

By making a voltage divider between the solar panel and ground and attaching this to the base of the PNP, we sink a very small emitter-base current when the solar panel stops pulling a voltage. This allows a larger emitter-collector current to flow. The voltage divider between the solar cell and ground can control the switch-point voltage and thus the light level at which our lamp comes on.

Once our PNP turns on, a current flows to the lamp circuit on the right of the diagram (and board).

From here we have a “joule thief” circuit for the LED light. Explanation of this is rather beyond this summary but, once again, Evil Mad Scientist comes to our rescue: see here for a great Joule-thief articleand here on Wikipedia for a more in-depth explanation. The overall effect is that we light a 3V white LED from a 2.4 V rechargeable battery and can continue to use the battery as its voltage drops. The capacitor is not an essential part of the circuit but it’s great for efficiency. Without it I was finding 100mA being drawn from the battery! With a 1nf capacitor that drops to around 18mA but the LED is just as bright.

Finally, the switch isolates the joule-thief part so that we can continue to charge the battery but have the lamp turned off. If you turn this off then the 5-10 mA that are generated in the shade might just allow you to charge the battery in the winter to give you light about one night a week!

Add the panel to the jar lid

 solar garden lid

credit: Ugifer

As a first step, we need to attach the solar panel to the lid of the jar and pass the connecting leads through. We want to do this in a way that will seal the hole so that we can leave our lamp outside without it filling with water or bugs!

We are starting by putting a hole in the jar lid. To do this, I’m using a small drill-press but that’s as much to get small girls comfortable with using power-tools as for any real need. A punch into a block of wood would work well too, I’m sure. However you do it, you’ll want to clean up the hole with a file and thread the wires from the solar panel through.

Next, cover the solder points on the panel with hot-glue or epoxy and then glue the panel to the jar. I’m using blue-sparkly glue so that you can see it but normal glue is fine!

Finally, make sure you fill the hole with glue to keep out those bugs!

Lay down some components

 solar garden board

credit: Ugifer

Next, we want to start populating the board.*

Since my group will be taking turns at the solder station, we’ll do several components at a time. On your own you might prefer to add them individually:

The resistors are easiest and can go in first – either way round. Bend the legs out a little to hold them. I am not using the 22K resistor to ground but if you include it then your light will come on at slightly higher light levels.

The diode is equally easy but needs to go with the stripe at the end shown on the board.

Then add the two transistors. The PNP (marked 3906) goes to the top left and the NPN (marked 3904) goes to the bottom right. Make sure the case goes the same way around as marked on the board (flat edge towards the bottom).

Finally for this step, add the LED. You can leave as little or as much lead length as you wish but the longer lead (positive / anode side) goes nearest the right hand edge of the board. I was expecting that to be marked on the boards but it didn’t come out. It’s on the current version.

Now, for each component, carefully solder the leads to the bottom side of the board and clip them close with side-cutters.

*Throughout this ‘ible, the pictures of the board are of my first “proof of concept” board which had a track missing (long story) and lacked the 1 nf capacitor. The final board design is shown in a later step and is very similar but I haven’t actually had them fab’ed yet.

The Toroidal transformer

solar garden toroidal

credit: Ugifer

The Joule Thief part of the circuit requires a small hand-wound toroidal transformer that we will make and add in this step.

I’m using ferrite beads around 9.8mm wide by 7.5mm deep with an 6.5mm diameter hole. Whatever the size you use, you’ll want enough wire for 6-8 turns. For beads the size of mine, take about 20-30 cm of a pair of insulated 22-gauge solid copper wire (I use wire from an old 3-pair telephone cable). Contrasting colours make life easier. Push the wires through your torus leaving around an inch (2.5 cm) sticking out at one end. Now loop the long ends round until you have made 6-8 loops spread evenly round your bead. My beads are pretty much full after 8 turns of this wire.

I have made a few joule thieves and in my experience the ferrite bead is the most likely part to cause a problem. Some types of beads work and some don’t and I have not yet devised a way to tell before trying them.

Cut down the leads to an inch at most (say 2cm-ish) and strip the ends. At this point it’s handy to use a small sticky-pad to hold the torus in place.

Now take a wire of one colour from one end of the torus and the other colour from the other end and put them into holes 1 and 2. The other ends go into holes 3 and 4 so that the hole in the torus now points across the board. It should fall naturally so that the wires connect from holes 1 to 4 and 2 to 3, but check or it won’t work! Bend the wires out a little to hold them, turn the board over and solder it.

Power connectionssolar garden power

credit: Ugifer

All that is left to attach is the power switch, the battery and the solar cell. These go in the marked spots towards the edges of the board.

Place the switch in its holes and hold in place with a little tape. Turn over the board and solder. The switch has much more thermal capacity than anything else we have soldered in this project so the solder tabs will take a moment to heat up – don’t panic!

Same with the two power sources: Red to the + terminal, black to the -, tape in place and solder.

You now have the complete circuit. If you insert charged batteries and cover the solar cell you should see the LED light up.

Final assembly

solar garden final assembly

credit: Ugifer

Finally, hot-glue the board to the back of the battery holder with the LED pointing as you wish. For a very wide-necked jar you could glue the battery holder flat to the underside of the lid and leave the LED sticking “up” (really down) from the board (not pictured).

For most jars you will have to bend the LED past the end of the battery holder and glue the end of the holder to the lid of the jar (as shown).

If you used a water-clear LED you may wish to scratch it up with some medium grade sandpaper at this point to diffuse the light a little.

You can put some acrylic jems, pieces of metal, shiny plastic or glass (or indeed 10 carat flawless diamonds if you wish) into the bottom of the jar to scatter some of the light and give a pleasant effect. Once they are inside, screw up the jar.

Finally, take some glass paints and paint a stained-glass effect onto the jar. Or have your 6-year old do it.

A day of full UK sunshine should provide more than enough charge for one night’s light, and a full battery should hold enough charge for several nights, so in summer you might keep alight every night. In winter that’s not so likely, at least in the UK. There is a surprising difference between the charge developed in shade (5-10 mA) and in full sun (50 mA+) so find a sunny spot if you can.

You now have a pretty, self-charging, LED garden light.

ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL – GET local.

Posted on

All for one and one for all

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

GET Local is a new platform to help small businesses tap into nearby resources, says Oliver Moore

By Oliver Moore

FOUR ‘green’ entrepreneurs are empowering communities racked by austerity to start new businesses. Their initiative is called ‘GET’Local (Generate Enterprise Together).

Launched last year, GETLocal has had an impact in Borrisokane and Lower Ormond, in Tipperary, with more places due soon. The idea is simple: provide a platform to help communities develop new local enterprises in crucial areas.

“Our mission is to reverse the outflow of wealth from the Irish economy, which will reduce energy, food and transport costs, and redirect spending power for the benefit of the local community,” they say.

GETLocal focuses on the localised, low-carbon economy. They aim to help unemployed people create their own enterprises, by sharing information, coaching, niche skills, start-up capital, back office services, and customers.

The focus has been on food, energy and transport. The GETLocal social franchise is the brainchild of Aidan O’Brien and Ross Rabette, who live in what is fast becoming Ireland’s eco-business hub, Cloughjordan.

Rabette, 37, wanted to set up bioenergy villages in Ireland. “I moved to Cloughjordan, knowing that I would meet like-minded people to work with there. Aidan O’Brien brought a distinct jobs focus.”

O’Brien specialises in construction with natural materials, and has built many of the houses in Cloughjordan’s eco-village. The two have been joined by Alice D’Arcy and Dave McDonnell. D’Arcy supports food enterprises, while McDonnell fund-raises.

D’Arcy has a PhD in environmental science, specialising in the environmental impact of food and farming.

“My work in ecology, environmental sustainability, and research made GETLocal attractive to me. I like the fact that it has joined up a lot of economic areas, and that empowering communities to run things themselves, using their own resources, is a key part of it. The ethos of collaboration is important,” she says.

McDonnell is fundraising in the US, capital which GETLocal will make available to new enterprises, in partnership with a lending institution. Rabette is a biosystems engineer, and has designed and installed district heating systems and renewable energy technologies.

Cloughjordan’s eco-village has a district heating system powered, each year, by 200 tonnes of woodchip, while eco-villagers and residents of Cloughjordan own and operate a community farm.

Rabette said of his experiences in Germany: “The bioenergy villages in Germany were certainly inspirational,” he says. “In Juhnde, for example, they use fermented energy crops and farm slurry for gas capture, which provides heat and electricity. The community ownership model is key to the success of over 50 bio-energy villages there.”

Rabette says there are sustainability issues with bioenergy villages — many plant and then cut the growth to generate energy. He says it’s possible to take the best of the energy-capture technology without destroying the locale. “With, for example, food waste composting for energy capture, or more sustainable woodland management practices, to thin, rather than clear-fell, the forests.”

Community ownership of resources is growing in Germany, where 50% of renewable energy is owned by individuals or communities. This provides one fifth of all of Germany’s electricity.

Rabette cites the sharing economy. How often does anyone use all their power tools? Pooling those tools into an easy-access library would be savvy.

Rabette says communities import massive amounts of energy through their food, transport and houses. Energy is money. “The average household consumes about 90,000kw hours of imported energy, and food is the biggest category of fossil-fuel dependence, at over 40,000. Transport is second, and in-house costs, such as heat and electricity, are third,” he says.

Borrisokane, a few miles from Cloughjordan, is the first town to which many of these eco-business ideas have diffused.

There was resistance to the idea initially. “Because of the potential green agenda. But most of the best business opportunities lie in the green economy anyway, so money talks.

“We mapped resources, found gaps, helped develop business models and sought out the right kind of people to deliver them. We put on collaborative start-your-own-business courses, which created lots of synergies”.

Rabette says people interested in retro-fitting can use materials sourced from the materials bank, to also make chicken coups, or wood-log stores. “So just by putting on these courses, we supported people, but they also supported each other.”

At the GETLocal office in the town, they have built back-of-house supports, including developing software systems for purchasing products and services, a database of customers, training, contracts, sites and innovative fundraising techniques.

The latter, spearheaded by McDonnell, is vital in an economy where banks are not lending significantly. These services are part of how GETLocal will generate its own income, after the start-up phase.

Concurrently, a range of connected, nascent businesses is developing. These include libraries — tools, arts and materials — and a community food compost service.

Is there space for such initiatives to blossom? Maybe it all comes back to the price of potatoes, as Rabette says. “Borrisokane is a big potato-growing area. Middle-men pay farmers here €200 a tonne. After the potatoes are driven to Belfast and then Dublin, for processing and packaging, the consumer, even in Borrisokane, pays €1,300 a tonne. Why not form a consumer hub and approach farmers with a price just over €200 a tonne? Or, approach a hub member to start growing potatoes for that price?”

D’Arcy says: “A lot of friends and colleagues have emigrated, there aren’t huge opportunities in my area. After my PhD, I was unemployed. I’m hoping to help create employment, to help people establish businesses, so people who don’t want to leave the country don’t have to.”