Handy Hints to Make Your Community More Sustainable

Posted on
24 Sep 2019
by Johnny Sheehan

We hear more and more about sustainable development, sustainable communities and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but what do these all these terms mean and why are they relevant to local communities and the organisations that support them?

Back in the 1980s, the UN defined sustainable development as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ They recognised the interrelatedness of social, environmental and economic development. Three decades later, on 25 September 2015, the UN formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. At its core are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a roadmap for achieving peace and prosperity for the world’s people and for our planet.

At The Wheel, we see sustainable communities as being socially resilient, environmentally healthy and economically thriving. We believe that every community and voluntary organisation, at its core, seeks to address some aspect of sustainability – social, environmental or economic. And because the SDGs are interconnected, they make visible the connections between the work of communities and organisations at all levels – local, national and international.

The Wheel has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a series of ‘Sustainable Communities’ resources. These resources, include a Sustainable Funding Handbook, Good Governance Resource Book and Sustainable Communities Toolkit.  

Last year, we launched Spark Change - a collaboration with Trinity College Dublin, supported by the EPA. The project aims to measure the contribution communities in Ireland are making to the SDGs. As part of the project, we challenged community and voluntary groups across Ireland to take on sustainability projects. Sixty-eight answered the call by entering Spark Change Challenge. Thirty-five of these groups successfully completed the challenge, and 11 projects have now been shortlisted across 6 categories for the Spark Change Awards at Dublin Castle on 18 October. You are very welcome to join us for this event.

To whet our appetites, on Friday 20 September, The Wheel is teaming up with St. Patrick’s Cathedral to mark the European Day of Sustainable Communities. We are celebrating the great work of the local community around the Cathedral in Dublin 8 to improve community health and wellbeing. Through showcasing what can be achieved when the local community works together, we want to inspire other communities to take small steps that add up to big changes. Across Europe, the European Day of Sustainable Communities takes place on 21 September.  Organised by the European Network for Community-led Initiatives on Climate Change and Sustainability (ECOLISE), it is a celebration of local communities taking action for a better, more sustainable world.  

Practical things you can do

Explore the Spark Change Story Database to see what communities around Ireland are doing to become more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. Do you want to replicate any of these projects in your community? You are welcome to contact the projects directly for advice (their contact details are listed at the end of each story).

Attend National Spark Change Awards on Friday 18 October at Dublin Castle. 

Be inspired by the videos in The Wheel’s Sustainable Communities Toolkit and download the accompanying activity booklet to develop your sustainability actions. The toolkit covers five themes addressing different but interrelated aspects of sustainability – ecological integrity, health and wellbeing, participation and engagement, culture and heritage and economic resilience. It contains loads of ideas to promote or enhance sustainable communities locally. Here are just a few of them:  

  1. Develop a Food Waste Charter for your community - www.galway.ie/en/services/environment/wasteandlitter/foodwastecharterforireland/
  2. Find out how you can be trained as a community walk leader on the Irish Heart Foundation’s website – www.tinyurl.com/y47akmfn
  3. Organise a local event for National Bike Week- www.bikeweek.ie
  4. Create opportunities for individuals to engage with one another through activities that nurture sustainability – www.localprevention.ie
  5. Contact your County Heritage Officer to find out about upcoming events - www.heritagecouncil.ie/our-work-with-others/county-heritage-officers
  6. Read The Wheel’s Sustainable Funding Handbook – www.tinyurl.com/y3uzb7r5
  7. Forge stronger links with the people who grow your food - www.communitysupportedagriculture.ie
  8. Check out some great examples of how communities across Ireland are taking action to become more sustainable - www.sparkchange.ie/success-stories/