Communities working towards Zero Waste

The Conscious Communities Programme is an initiative to support communities to further their journey toward sustainable living. The initiative, run by the environmental charity VOICE Ireland, has run in towns across Donegal, Cavan and Wicklow, and now thanks to funding from Cork County Council, it is coming to Cork. Abi O’Callaghan-Platt of VOICE Ireland explains.

The Conscious Communities Programme is a tailored training programme for your community. The programme addresses the issues of responsible consumption and waste management. Helping your community to take the next step. Working hand in hand with your community to reach the sustainability goals that matter to you.

The programme works with communities to develop action plans with the aim of reaching localised sustainability goals. The programme starts with activation, and proceeds with an action. The community activation workshop will highlight some successful waste reduction actions and campaigns. The audience gets the opportunity to voice the issues that matter to them and the Programme identifies a specific action that addresses the needs of your community. From there the Programme will work with you to take that action, and support you in reaching that goal.

Objectives of the programme:

1. Raise awareness about waste and sustainable consumption campaigns which communities can engage with.

2. Meet communities where they are at and support them in moving forward on their sustainability journey

3. Assist in planning sustainability journeys and support in achieving specified actions.

The Conscious Communities Programme works with a variety of groups, from those who are at the very start of their journey to groups who are on their way but are looking for support to achieve some of their aims.   

“The most rewarding part of the programme is seeing groups achieving their aims, getting more organised, and you know you’ve left them with the tools to keep going in their own.” – Aoife Britton, Programme Manager  

The concept of ‘Zero Waste’ has really taken off in Ireland in recent years. There has been a huge change in the tide of public opinion against single use items, in particular plastic, and towards more sustainable options. We still have a long way to go, but this public awareness helps build momentum and put pressure on the Government to implement better policies and enable change. VOICE Ireland is the Irish member of the European wide body Zero Waste Europe and for 20 years VOICE has successfully campaigned on waste reduction and sustainability. Now we want to bring that expertise to communities across West Cork.

“We worked with Aoife to draw up action plans. Aoife helped to motivate the Board and get us to understand how we could progress, at a time where the amount of work to be done seemed daunting.” – Dunkineely Development Group, Co Donegal. 

The best way to deal with waste is not to generate it in the first place. People are starting to realise that the way we consume is not sustainable, but this needs to filter through to all levels, from the manufacturers to the retailers, consumers and legislators. Much-needed legislation is being implemented, such as the EU ‘Single-Use Plastics Directive’. But public pressure is key, there is a great opportunity to improve our efficiency, reduce waste and remove very damaging pollution from our seas and countryside. 

“It enabled us to formulate a Sustainability Plan for area, a plan which we worked from and still continue to use” – Máire Uí Bhaoill, Falcarragh Tidy Towns. 

An impressive amount of work is being done in communities across Ireland through Tidy Towns groups, Local Development groups and many others. The Conscious Communities Programme supports groups and allows them to reach their full potential in terms of tackling waste issues in their locality.  

In 2020, the Programme plans to work with four communities in County Cork. If your community group wants some fresh ideas and support in moving forward on your journey towards sustainable living, then this is the initiative for you! The Programme will work with your community over a period of four months, from January to April 2020. A workshop will be held within your community, following this you will be assisted in developing or further developing a sustainability action plan for your community, and offered ongoing support and advice. Send an email to express your interest now in scheduling a workshop. Contact 

WCP Staff

WCP Staff Writer

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