How environment-friendly is Ireland?

The Irish are proud of their beautiful nature, but how much do they care about the environment? In this article, we’ll check what the environmental situation is in Ireland and what the attitudes are. From reading this article, you may also learn about more ways to change your behaviour in a positive way. Let’s dive right in.

Current environmental situation

Global warming is a serious problem for Ireland as an island nation, as the temperature rise directly affects sea levels and may cause floods. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the estimate of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland was 0.1% lower in 2018 than in 2017. Emissions also decreased by 1.0% in 2017 compared to 2016.

Does it sound like we’re moving in the right direction? Well, not exactly. The decrease in emissions was only noticed in three sectors: energy industries, waste and F-gases. In other sectors, such as agriculture, transport and residential, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in fact increased.

Ireland had the fourth-highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the EU. One of the reasons is that Ireland contributes to agriculture more than any other EU member state, and agriculture is the sector that had the most emissions in 2018 in Ireland (33.9%).

In November 2019, the Irish government decided to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. But for rural areas, this seems to be unfair because the government puts too much pressure on farmers in combating climate change. Meanwhile, people feel free to use big cars although transport also contributes a lot to emissions (20.1%). Indeed, it should be everyone’s responsibility to take part in improving the situation, not only farmers’.

With regard to other ecological factors, Ireland also could have done better. In 2016, poor air quality caused 1,180 premature deaths, according to the EPA report. One of the major reasons for this is the emissions of particular matter (PM2.5), which might soon exceed the WHO benchmarks.

Attitudes vs. behaviour

The National Dairy Council asked 2,000 Irish consumers to complete a survey, which showed that 94% of the participants believe in climate change and feel afraid of the world’s condition left for their children. 77% thought that changing the way they produce and consume foods can save the planet. Also, 71% indicated themselves as having the greatest responsibility for more sustainable Ireland.

However, though many people feel responsible for addressing environmental problems, most of them do not know where to begin. Only four out of ten consumers felt informed about sustainable living, while others did not quite understand even general advice.

Another research was conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes, and it also observed that there is a backlash between understanding the problem and trying to solve it. Though 83% of the Irish participants pointed out that sustainability is a global issue and needs to be addressed, only 51% actually choose sustainable products.

Our feelings about the environment

The problem is, sometimes our behaviour does not match our values. This phenomenon is described in social psychology and environmental psychology. Sometimes what we believe is not consistent with what we do: we can strive for an eco-friendly world and forget our reusable cups all the time.

Though it doesn’t mean everything is bad and we cannot change our behaviour. We can, but there are more factors than simply our beliefs that can create the change. For example, if you are always in a hurry and forget your reusable cup at home, try not to take it out of your bag. Another aspect is direct experience, which means that you can change your behaviour if you’ve gone through something relevant on your own. And, of course, it matters how hard you believe.

The B&A study also found out that the topic of sustainability makes the Irish feel guilty. People in Ireland feel they are not doing enough, and many also think they are not able to change anything about issues like global warming.

So, environmental problems become our source of guilt, despair, fear for future generations, feeling lost and useless. And that’s the first thing that needs to be changed.

Positive effects of coronavirus

Where should I start?

If you don’t know where to start, simply start from the beginning. Think about the habits that you can change now, without pushing yourself to the limits. Try to replace guilt with a more positive feeling, and do not diminish your efforts. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know!

Educate yourself. For example, here is a guide to recycling rules in Dublin. Ireland is doing quite well with recycling, compared to other EU member states. We’ve recently had an article on colourful recycling bins installed in Dublin city centre. We mentioned there that the Irish recycle 73% of all cans and 70% of plastic bottles every year, which is a pretty good result.

When something stands out, like these colourful bins, it’s easier to see and remember. You can use the same approach in your everyday sustainable life. Make your reusable cup and shopping bag stand out, put them into an easily accessible place. 

We saw the dangerous emissions rates, so it makes sense to revise your habits with respect to agriculture and transport. Choose your transport wisely, preferring public transport and bicycles. Drive your car when it’s absolutely necessary.

Step by step, try to lower your meat intake to once per day, then a couple of times per week. Stop whenever you feel comfortable. While choosing food products, consider the factor of sustainability. In a survey conducted by The National Dairy Council, only 12% thought about sustainability as the major factor when buying dairy products!

Most importantly, be motivated even by the small change you are bringing to the environment! Our actions matter and everyone’s contribution is counted!

What is your attitude towards these global problems? What do you do to help the environment? Share with us in the comment section below!

Kamila Mushkina
Kamila Mushkina

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