On the 24th March 2014,28 students from 2nd, 3rd, TY and 5th year travelled to the Susliving Demonstration Centre, Kingsriver in Kilkenny to experience three different workshops on how to live sustainably.
Biodiversity is the number or abundance of species living within a particular region. This has a lot to do with horticulture. Elmer was our mentor for this. First we went through different types of food all of which could be grown at home for example carrots, parsnip and lettuce. He showed us another food that was the only one with packaging on it, it was garlic. The garlic had come all the way from China so if we could grow it locally in Ireland we could save a lot of “air miles” and cut down on air plane emissions into the atmosphere.
A small basket of left overs from Elmer’s dinner was on the table. It included things like egg shells, tomato vines and tea bags – all of which could be put to good use. We were shown how to use these in a compost bin and how to build up layers in a compost bin for it to work properly and break down the food more easily. We learned that there are many types of compost bins and that you can even make your own. Elmer showed us one that had been made from scrap material such as pallets. He said as long as it keeps a high enough temperature it will work just as well as any other.
For the Renewable Energy part of the workshop we were with Zaki and Kevin. In this workshop we began looking at how many watts are need to power household appliances such as a hairdryer and a toaster. We then showed this on an exercise bike and could only generate a fraction of the energy needed. This showed us that it takes a lot of energy just to power something as simple as a toaster.
We then moved on to fossil fuels and discussed the difference between them and renewable energy such as wind, hydro, solar and geothermal and how there is a lack of renewable energy sources in Ireland. After we looked at fossil fuels we moved on to insulation. We learned that there are many types of insulation, one is made of sheep wool and is very expensive as it must be sent to France to be cleaned. The other type of insulation was cellulose insulation which is made from shredded newspaper.
Finally we moved on to solar energy where we looked at the two different types of solar panel. One type produces energy while the other hot water. We then carried out an experiment on the use of solar panels using a small solar panel connected to a light.
In this section of the demonstration our group went into a small room with mentors Gary and Lewis. This room had a table with all sorts of different materials like mud bricks and insulators on it. There was also a sheet on the ground with a mixture of mud, sand and straw on it. We used this to plaster the wall and he explained how the mixture keeps heat in whens it is winter and leaves it out in the summer. We also got to see how wattle and daub works by sticking this mixture to woven sticks. Gary explained to us the positives of straw houses as straw is a very good insulator and has no negative effect on the environment. Lewis showed some of our class how to make bricks from mud by putting them into moulds.
We feel this demonstration was very well done and that the whole class benefited from it.
- Colm Fleming, John Mulcair and Matthew Sheehan