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It's a Wonderful Time of the Year

Strategic Intervention Tactics: walking the line between wonder and waste

As the Christmas season approaches, the CoDesRes team are beginning to look at how we can embed the Sustainable Development Goals 4 - Quality Education, 11 -Sustainable Cities and Communities, 14 - Life Below Water and 15 - Life On Land within the celebrations. The festive season can mean a lot of waste, with wrapping paper, décor and consumption; and the tightrope between the wonder of Christmas with the waste and stress can be a difficult balance to achieve.

However, with a bit of imagination and creativity, the festive season offers a great opportunity to embed the Sustainable Development Goals in our daily lives and as part of our research we are exploring tangible methods for all of us to contribute to achieving the goals by 2030. One of CoDesRes's aims is to promote a circular economy by considering the potential of waste as a resource.

The Circular Economy

Since 2000, the EU's central objective has been to move towards a sustainable and innovative economy reinforced in 2015 with "Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy" and a legislative package for the transition to a an EU wide circular economy. The circular economy aims to move away from the ‘make use dispose’ approach by keeping materials in use for longer, therefore maximising their value as well as recovering and regenerating materials. The key aims of Circular economy systems are to:

  • keep the added value in products for as long as possible and aim to eliminate waste.

  • keep resources within the economy when a product has reached the end of its life, so that they can be productively used again and again and hence create further value.

At the core of CoDesRes is an arts / design-led methodology, an intervention that embeds social economic and environmental justice in its methods. Our projects, actively reconsider amongst other factors how we can re-use waste materials such as plastic, bottles, and packaging. Festive activities such as Halloween, St. Patrick’s day and Christmas become occasions not only to explore these ideas further, but also to raise awareness of the issues surrounding waste by gathering materials locally and sharing ideas for reuse and curbing our consumption by adding value to materials we may other wise send to landfill.

Sharing the SDGs through research, local engagement and cultural events

From late Nov - early Dec we popped up at various Christmas markets in Iveragh, S.Kerry to share information about our projects and fun ideas about re-using plastic and packaging to bring creativity into the holidays and keep these materials in circulation for longer. This also enables us to exchange information with local residents, gathering local knowledge and building our micro-ecology, important aspects of the the pCr methodology.

Ellie and Anita at Sneem Christmas market sharing ideas for up-cycling marine plastic waste as part of the SS Net re-use project in partnership with Sea Synergy - more news coming soon

As part of our efforts we also created Santy’s Grotto for Cahersiveen’s 8th Dec. 2018 event, using recycled and upcycled materials. Cahersiveen has been hosting an event on 8th Dec. for a number of years, evolved from the traditional start of Christmas and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. These days, the 8th December in Cahersiveen is also an opportunity to celebrate communally while encouraging sustainable practices such as shopping locally and a social family event.

After Spookemon, we were asked to create the grotto by the Cahersiveen Traders' Association, which we agreed to if we could use recycled / up-cycled materials. The event takes place in the Community Centre, the old Carnegie library, and with at least 200 children and their families visiting Santa we thought this was a great opportunity to draw attention to the potential of re-using waste materials and raise awareness of the issues surrounding plastic and creating waste at Christmas.

We set about gathering materials from local businesses; cardboard from Casey's Cycles, plastic containers and fishing net from Iveragh Fisherman's Co-Op, plastic bottles and milk cartons and even shredded paper from Siopashoo all contributed. Slowly, things began to take shape over the weeks with ideas evolving as materials arrived, some of which inspired us to change or evolve our ideas. Our bears began as gingerbread people, who became bears and with shredded paper from Siopashoo, our bears were no longer bare.

Work in progress, creating the decor for the waiting room; cardboard, paint and two artists

We had two rooms and an entrance area to play with and were looking forward to creating a beautiful, magical grotto with waste materials as part of the message of connecting with the season, our planet and each other. We developed the concept of oversize Christmas symbols for the main room and waiting area, a gingerbread cabin for the entrance area and a 'North Pole' theme for the grotto complete with sleigh, reindeer, penguins and an iceberg.

Corrugated plastic mountains, plastic containers, bubble wrap, plastic bottles and old fabric

We used the fixtures of the space e.g. the mirror, the window and an old seat to inform the design of the final grotto's North Pole theme. We painted the mirror using a flat-design style and created mountains out of corrugated plastic sheets that local supermarkets use to display promotions that are replaced every three weeks. This, and adding solar lights threaded through an old suspended fishing net to lower the ceiling made the space feel more intimate.

Our North Pole grotto, complete with cardboard reindeers, upcycled bench seat sleigh, corrugated plastic mountains, starry sky and suspended milk carton houses

Cahersiveen 8th Dec, 2018:

The day’s activities, all of which are free, include the chance to visit Santy’s Grotto with a free gift for children. Once his work is done, Santy leads a parade through town with the Holy family and donkey towards the Community Centre and the countdown for Santa to turn on the Christmas tree lights. Hot chocolate and non-alcoholic mulled wine is served to keep the winter chills at bay and keep everyone glowing from the inside out.

  • Santy in the Grotto 11.30 – 5pm, Cahersiveen Community Centre, includes arts and crafts to create décor for the parade.

  • 6pm Family light parade through town with Santy and the live Nativity 6pm

  • Christmas Tree Light countdown immediately after parade with refreshments to follow

On the day, we set up a table for any last-minute letter writing to Santy, with a large Christmas crafting table in the middle for making snowflakes and stencilling Santy's table cloth, which we will use next year, along with everything that was made this year. Over 250 selection boxes were given out, added to that, mums, dads and grandparents, we could say at least 500 people saw the decorations and the grotto. Articles in the South Kerry Advertiser (circ. 5k), The Kerryman (circ. 20K) and images of the day in the Kerry's Eye (circ. 25K) help share the event and its aims to an additional 50,000 people. Although our aim is to embed the SDGs in daily life and develop a theory of change to support action, opportunities to share ideas and show alternatives to what exists are very valuable, even if they won't yet save the planet.

Elfin aherm helper, Paudie Garvey and photographer Rebecca Thompson & Jodie Thompson

After the event, the decorations got another lease of life on their way to decorate Sea Synergy's window in Waterville and the little houses to Waterville Early Years Centre as part of their Christmas celebrations. The plastic drums that formed the basis of the ice berg will also be up-cycled with synthetic rope found on the beach to make beach cleaning buckets - keeping the plastic out of landfill and in circulation for longer. These are just a few of the small things we have been exploring that enable people to get involved and start to change how we do things. We hope that it inspired them to have a go and make some small changes in their Christmas.

Until next year and wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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