Hi, I’m Ciara. I’m 22 and from North Dublin. I studied English and Sociology at UCD and graduated during the Pandemic. I’m a Climate Ambassador and teaching English online currently. I’m hoping that this time next year I’ll be teaching English in another country!
What sparked your interest in sustainable living and where did you start?
My family has always highlighted the beauty and importance of nature since I was a child. Sunday was always a day where we would go on walks in various parks and beaches in and around Dublin. These daytrips are some of the best parts of my childhood and I feel so lucky to have had parents that shared their love of nature with me.
However, it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve reflected on how my own decisions could be impacting the planet. Recycling, leaving no trace and all the other basic ideas were always implemented in my house but reusing and other sustainable habits were more recent.
Sociology taught me that so many social issues are connected but even still I didn’t reflect on just how connected environmental and social justice were until the end of college. I saw all of the different issues as separate problems which I think a lot of people do. However, once you start to see this, you end up going down a rabbit hole! (a very positive one).
I had a sociology class called “humans and animals in society” and I think this was the big push for me to make changes in order to live by my morals. The classes about factory farming and animal testing were definitely the most impactful.
Where did I start? I think it was with reusables. I had a reusable bottle and tote bag but I never thought to bring bags to town instead of always getting new paper bags when shopping. So, I started small which is the only way to do it without feeling overwhelmed. I also became vegetarian not long after which for me was easier than I thought because it was never the meat that I cared for anyway, it was the flavour. So as long as my meals have a sauce or spice, I’m happy.
What is a sustainable change you have made that makes you really happy?
Definitely becoming vegetarian. It’s made me fall in love with cooking and I always find it really exciting when I try out new recipes. We were never a “meat and two veg” kind of family but we were always making the same meals. But when I became vegetarian, we got to try lots of new food and cuisines.
Another one is reusing. I find it really fun to try and come up with new uses for things. We’re big G&T drinkers in our house and we use a lot of old gin bottles for storing lentils and as vases. I also childmind so I’m always trying to find ways of using cardboard etc. for art with the kids.
The last one I’ll mention is preventing food waste. It’s one of the biggest impacts you can make, and it saves you lots of money. Also, it gets you thinking more creatively in the kitchen like now there are lots of avocado stones in the freezer that I’m saving to dye some clothes. Also, who knew cauliflower leaves could be so tasty!
Are you tackling any sustainable changes at the moment you’d like to share or are planning to?
I still have so many sustainable swaps to make and do a lot of unsustainable things. One of my biggest challenges is getting removing single use plastic from my home. I know there are lots of great refill stations and you can save money in some areas, but it’s not as convenient as going to the local shop and I do find that it’s actually more expensive a lot of time.
We had a compost bin when we were kids but when we got an extension, there wasn’t enough space in the garden so we haven’t had one since. I’m going to ask some neighbours if they’d like to share one on our avenue which we could all use for our gardens.
There are so many sustainable changes I could be tackling right now but I think the best method is slow and steady so that the momentum stays.
What would you like to see in a sustainable future?
In the very near future, I want supermarkets to ditch unnecessary plastic. So many countries in Europe pack things in cardboard and don’t wrap produce in plastic so we should be able to do the same. I shouldn’t have to buy 12 carrots when I only need 2! This would also help with our food waste problem. I also want to see more refill stations in chain shops like Boots and Tesco because we need these things to be accessible to everyone. Eco shops are great but it’s only eco-minded people that shop there and that’s only a small percentage of the population which isn’t enough.
I want more compost bins in public and RTÉ and other mainstream media spreading knowledge on sustainable changes and teaching people how to dispose of their waste properly. There is no point having different types of bins in public if people are placing their rubbish in the wrong bins.
All of the greenways and cycle lanes being built is great but we need to keep providing more sustainable travel options so more charging points and electric public transport is essential. I would also like to see more public toilets, outdoor seating and water fountains like other cities have.
I could keep going but I think the big dream would be a circular economy where the Government puts money into community and local initiatives and small businesses instead of multinational corporations. Clothing and technology would be made to last and would be taken back at the end of their life and turned into something new. There would be more centres like the Rediscovery centre in Ballymun and there would be lots of reuse centres and swap shops. People would be considered citizens before being seen as consumers. Fingers crossed that we’ll get there someday!
If one of your friends told you they wanted to start living more sustainably, what would be your top tip to get started?
Firstly, I would say that’s amazing and that it will take time and you will never be perfectly sustainable and that’s ok! I think I have two top tips:
- Use what you have already and prolong their life as much as possible. Take a t-shirt for example. Wear it as much as you can. Mend it. Treat it with care. If it gets a stain? Try to dye it naturally or upcycle it in some way. If it no longer fits, you could use it as a rag or use it to filter homemade oat milk etc. Reuse things as much as possible and then dispose of things properly when you need to. Also, try to do as much research and reflecting as you can when buying new. Will I get enough use of this? What is it made of? Has it been made locally?
- Don’t judge others for not being sustainable. It’s easy to feel like you’re morally superior as soon as you start to make sustainable choices, but everyone will do things in their own time and in their own way. Instead, speak about how your sustainable choices have been beneficial, and it might inspire others to do the same. If not, something will eventually connect with them to make a change and you can use your anger and frustration with the world to email politicians and policy makers to do more instead.
What keeps you motivated?
I won’t lie, it can be really difficult and I’ve fallen off the bandwagon plenty of times. It can be really devastating to try your best and then see the amount of litter everywhere and the lack of action being taken by businesses and governments.
However, what always motivates me is hearing what actions other people are taking and all of the new solutions being thought of on a daily basis. It’s just as important to learn about the positive changes being made by people as it is learning about the problems themselves. You need hope.
Also, getting out into nature is a great motivator. It energises you and reminds you how beautiful the world can be and why it’s so important to protect it.
And For a bit of fun and… really find out about you…What was your first concert or your first CD/Tape/Record you owned?
So, I was quite late getting into music properly and I’m only 22 so this won’t be the most exciting answer! I think my first CD was Two Door Cinema Club’s first album which I still listen to now. I think the first concert was One Direction which I never actually liked but I really wanted to go to a concert. I have to say it was great! It was at the Croke Park and I didn’t know many lyrics but I loved the atmosphere. I can’t wait to go back to concerts!
Ciara’s favourite sustainable shop/brand/cafes
There are so many great sustainable shops like Reuzi and the Kind. I think everyone should download the OLIO app. It’s a free app which let’s you get rid of food and non-food items by passing them on to people who actually want them. This is so important because I volunteer at a charity shop and so many of the items donated go in the bin or don’t get resold! Also, I think everyone should support campaigns like the Conscious Cup Campaign and Sick of Plastic.
Connect with Ciara
Find her on Instagram @conscious_confessions