Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Much of local government infrastructure in Ireland and across the EU is outdated and energy inefficient, with few funding resources available to remedy the situation. For example, fire stations function as both a place of work and home - housing firemen overnight in order to keep staffed at all times - and therefore consume far more resources than most buildings. Additionally, the job of a firemen itself is very resource heavy - fire engines eat up fuel while putting out fires that require mass amounts of water.
EU member states have made a commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 20% by 2020, with Ireland making a bold commitment of reducing emissions by 33%. However, with a struggling economy and every sector battling for funds, Ireland has stalled. The government has made an ambitious commitment to carbon emission reduction without a financially feasible strategy. Government, particularly local government, is often slow moving, risk averse, and bureaucratic.
Climate change is daunting. Vast problems engender passivity, at the community level as much as the governmental, with the size of the problem squashing the hope that small actions can make a difference overall. Managing a household’s energy consumption can appear simple enough. Turn off the lights. Unplug appliances. Use the heat and A/C sparingly. However, the process of greening can become confusing, with a litany of different products and approaches, from types of light bulbs to appropriate insulation. This information is not readily available to broad communities, and there is no designated body educating people about how to use less and thus cut costs.
Furthermore, publications on climate change are often dense and scientific, making them inaccessible to the general public. Moreover, said publications often lack realistic and simple recommended actions for those who want to start doing something about climate change. Environmentalism, perhaps because it is often discussed among academics in high brow terms, is seen as a luxury of the upper class, though the pressures of environmental degradation fall far more heavily on the poor and working class.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Neil McCabe is utilizing the existing infrastructure of firehouses, a locally oriented and trusted arm of government, to provide a local, national and international example for green transition. A firefighter by trade, Neil is using the institution of the fire station as an entry point to bring sustainability into communities around Dublin and across Ireland. Neil realised that fire stations have profound potential to serve as exemplars for greening, as they use a tremendous amount of water and fuel, are in operation 24hrs a day, and are often based in older structures. More importantly, they are also based in nearly every neighborhood, have vast existing infrastructure, and are integral to communities. Thus they provide an opportunity to build leadership in transitioning to sustainable practice and modeling enhanced community participation.
Neil has created The Green Plan, an initiative originally implemented in his first pilot within the Kilbarrack Fire Station, which became the first carbon neutral fire station in the world. Neil’s Green Plan is a clear methodology outlining strategies and procurement approaches to move towards sustainability, from using wastewater in fighting fires to setting up social ventures that manufacture retrofitting equipment. With an emphasis on the sustainability and replicability of the Green Plan, Neil prioritizes refurbishments that are cost-saving and channels those cost savings into further efforts in a virtuous cycle. Neil identified the power of local procurement as the most effective entry point into the problem of wasteful energy consumption, as locally sourced materials cut costs while also reducing the carbon footprint. In encouraging local production of previously difficult-to-source tools and parts, Neil seeded 20 new local businesses with guaranteed markets. Neil uses the fire station as an example for the communities that surround them, expanding green initiatives into homes and institutions through the fire house model and conducting educational workshops in communities and schools on fire safety, biodiversity and sustainable development. Working in conjunction with the city and corporations, Neil has designed the Better Energy in the Community programme, allowing fuel-poor households to utilize credits for greening technology while also providing a financial resource for government to realize their energy goals.
Neil’s Green Plan has become a template strategy for all fire stations in Dublin and is being applied to other institutions across Ireland, such as business parks, hospitals, and library systems. Integrating his work with fire stations to affect change at the policy level, Neil is working within the system to transform it in practice from the most local level of government through to the top. The Green Plan has become the basis for Dublin City Council and County Dublin’s sustainability strategy, is being applied across Ireland and in Scotland and is helping guide initiatives at the European Union level.
Neil has created the Green Plan, a strategy originally implemented in the model Kilbarrack Fire Station, making it the first carbon neutral fire station in the world. Neil’s Green Plan outlines strategies and procurement approaches--from using waste water to fight fires to setting up social ventures to manufacture retrofitting equipment-- to move towards sustainability, prioritizing those refurbishments that are cost-saving, and channeling those cost savings into further efforts in a virtuous cycle. Neil uses the fire station as an example for the communities that surround them, expanding green initiatives into homes and institutions through the fire house model and conducting educational workshops in communities and schools on fire safety, biodiversity and sustainable development. Neil’s Green Plan has become a template strategy for all fire stations in Dublin, and is in the process of being rolled out across Ireland. Neil is integrating his work with fire stations to affect change at the policy level, working within the system to transform it in practice from the most local level of government through to the top--his example and the Green Plan has become the basis for Dublin City Council's and County Dublin’s sustainability strategy, and his model is helping guide initiatives on the European Union level and in countries across Europe.