Sustainability Month: Buy less and buy better

Thinking about the long-term value of what we buy not only helps the environment but keeps essential skills in product making alive, and the micro-economy thriving, writes Carol O’Callaghan.

Sustainability is the buzzword of the moment, and rightly so, as we try to get to grips with how our avid consumerism is choking our oceans, killing our sea-life and creating masses of waste which ends up buried out of sight in landfill.

It may be unrealistic to think we’re simply going to stop buying, but thinking about the quality of what we buy and the materials used can have a positive impact on our environment and help a small local business stay in employment at the same time.

The Scandinavians are especially good at this, buying things for their homes which are well made, using good quality durable materials, while having a timeless quality so they don’t date. Just think about the popularity of furniture designed there in the 1950s and ‘60s, how it’s still in demand today, and will by now, in many cases, have been handed on to the next generation.

To get started, consider furniture, pottery, ceramics, textiles, lighting, metalwork and glass, especially if gift-giving, but also for personal use.

The Trio Sand Ripple night-light holder by Amanda Murphy offers a sculptural quality in addition to practicality (€60).From

Like everything nowadays, crafted products, well designed can be bought online as well as in regular retail outlets.

The Design and Crafts Council of Ireland has a comprehensive list of makers under various categories, with locations, product descriptions and price ranges, and on their website you can search under any of those categories. Members of the Council are carefully vetted so you know you’re getting quality too.

Check out this link

Kilkenny has long been associated with Irish crafted design going back to the 1950s when the Scandinavians came over to teach us how to get our act together and create a design culture.

Do look at for who’s who in craft in the county, and for announcements of some of the events they organise around the appreciation of craft and the opportunities for buying, including some excellent pop-up shop experiences.

Here’s an interesting one for research and retail: has a list of categories and makers, plus prices and other places to buy, including online retailers and on foot.

Donegal based Michi’s colour cushions add fun and vibrancy to an interior (€75)

If the latter is your preference, Cork Craft and Design is a proper shop in the home interiors enclave of St. Patricks Woollen Mills. Run by a collective of designer-makers based around the city and country, there’s a chance to browse in the old-fashioned way with all the retail therapeutic value of picking things up to examine them before committing to a purchase.

Staffed by some of the makers themselves, they’re on hand for explanations, chats and offers of general helpfulness, and to make something to your taste and specifications if you’re in the market. Products start at €5 for little ceramic dishes, scaling upwards to hundreds of euros and beyond for furniture.

If you’re traipsing around Dublin, Drury Street is home to the chic, yet wholesome, Irish Design Shop selling things which are easy to transport home, even if they have to be lugged on the Aircoach.

Owned and run by the lovely Laura and Claire, they offer Irish craft with a modern aesthetic, so no rustic pottery mugs to skin your lip, but elegant glazes and modern colourways.

Check out Alljoy’s lattice felt placemats (€12.50), or 29 Bride St’s plant pots with graphic ink-style patterns, which double up as pen pots and a place to deposit trinkets (€18.50).

Alljoys lattice placemats are more than just functional and offer an eyecatching three-dimensional optical illusion (€12.50 p/pair at Irish Design Shop).

If you blink while driving through Leap, Co Cork, you might miss The Old Mill Stores, so keep eyes peeled for this unexpected treasure house of crafted design located in what was actually a house at one point. It makes for a relaxing browsing experience as you move from room to room.

Among some of the fun things they sell is ceramicist Hannah Turner’s take on the vintage favourite of three ceramic flying ducks on the wall. Her amusing version is of three toucans, and for added virtue they come in a recycled cardboard box (€125),

Craftek’s Lamp Man collection echoes architectural forms (from €250), at

Another find west of Cork City is Chalk & Easel putting the town of Ballinspittle firmly on the home interiors map. Big on textiles, tablewares, and candles by local maker La Bougie, owner Emily Connell made a sustainability commitment recently to dispense with her fancy packaging as it wasn’t recyclable, in favour of eco bags made in Ireland.

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