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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 12°C

Opinion Five changes you can make to guide your children to a greener life

David Maher from SOLAS in Co Laois shares his tips on how we can teach children to live sustainably.

TO QUOTE MARK Twain: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

Well, when it comes to our climate, the unfortunate truth is that as a species, humans are very much changing what is normal in terms of weather patterns – but unfortunately, not in a planned or positive way.

We have to do something about it.

I was determined when I began to develop a new centre in Portarlington that it would be a model for absolute best practice for how to live a greener life. I am trying to make a difference and lead by example. I have invested €2 million into redeveloping what was an abandoned steel works in my home town into a beacon for a new greener age.

The four-acre outdoor plant and food zone is constructed entirely from end-of-life 40ft containers. From the kitchens, to the seated area, the toilets and the 13m high light tower, everything is built from recycled materials. I am so proud that just one solitary waste bin was needed for the entire build. Absolutely everything else was recycled.

Central to the green theme at SOLAS is the education and training programmes, especially those designed for children to show how to make everyday changes in their lives and gardens to allow them live a green life.


I am absolutely passionate about teaching children and empowering them to do their bit towards a greener life. Small, individual and consistent actions add up to real meaningful change.

Having ignored scientific warnings for decades of the danger of pumping unprecedented quantities of Carbon dioxide into the air, across the world, we are seeing the equally unprecedented consequences of our rash atmospheric experiment in terms of floods, fires and droughts.

I truly believe that this is only the trailer for what is to come, a bit like Scrooge having lived a selfish and irresponsible life getting a warning of what ‘Climate Future’ might bring.

My best hope is not so much that the penny has finally dropped that we need to change our ways, but that our willful blindness to the truth can simply no longer be ignored: climate change is here, it is manmade and only by changing our ways can we hope for mitigating the worst effects of what might be coming our way.

But where to start? ‘What can little old me do?’ The truth is probably not that much, but we do have a moral responsibility to at least ensure we are part of the solution rather than part of the problem – this is the least we owe future generations.

Here are five things you can teach your kids which will make a positive difference:

1. Compost your food waste and green garden waste

Food waste accounts for 8% of global carbon emissions, compared to only a little over 2% by the airline industry. So, reduce food waste by shopping regularly and buying only what you need.

Apart from minimising waste, ensure you divert food and garden waste from landfill to compost. Composting is easy, effective and turns a waste product into something useful which can be used to enrich soil or grow organic vegetables.

2. Chickens - convert food waste into eggs

This is most likely the most fun and rewarding thing you can do your back garden. Chickens are inexpensive to buy. Although the chicken you see in the supermarket is only from about seven weeks ago, hens have a life expectancy of 7-10 years and will happily give you an egg a day for the first 5-7 years.

3. Grow your own vegetables

Growing and eating seasonable herbs, salads and vegetables is a great way to pass a skill onto your kids, save money and learn to live in harmony with the natural cycle of nature.

There is no need to worry about air miles when you can dig spuds in your own back garden. By investing in glass houses you can extend the salad season to almost 12 months a year, and allows you serve up new potatoes for Christmas dinner

4. Grow Irish wildflower seeds

Encourage wildlife (especially bees) into your garden by dedicating a section of your garden or your locality to native Irish wildflowers. Not alone does this support bio-diversity, but it brings a wonderful splash of colour to your garden and saves on a huge amount of labour involved in needlessly cutting the lawn every week when a wildflower meadow will thrive and flower until well into the autumn.

5. Teach your children to choose the path less trodden

Actions speak louder than words, so reflect and make the green decision before mindlessly jumping on a zero-carbon tax flight to spend the weekend in Spain. Don’t default to opposing allocating road space to promote walking, cycling and public transport. Don’t allow yourself to believe global warming is not happening or demand that someone changes their ways so you can continue as before.

Actions have consequences, and people must at least try to lead by example and speak up, even when it is hard to do.

The SOLAS Eco Garden Shop opened in Portarlington, Co. Laois in May 2021 as an eco garden and food destination. SOLAS hosts a farmers’ market every Saturday from 10am-2pm. A full range of upcoming eco training courses can be found on


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