Parents for the planet: Hitting the right note for the environment

Parents for the planet: Hitting the right note for the environment
Katrina and Ed O’Leary with their children Fionn, Cuan, and Shay. The Munster family keep waste to an absolute minimum in their home and everything is separated and recycled.

Music promoter Ed O’Leary is one half of events company The Good Room, along with Joe Kelly, he organises events and festivals including It Takes A Village music festival and Cork Podcast Festival, as well as venues Live At St Luke’s and the recently re-opened Kino on Washington St, where music trail events will take place throughout this weekend’s Guinness Cork Jazz Festival.

Ed and his partner, teacher Katrina, live in Rochestown on the outskirts of Cork City with their three little boys, Cuan, 5, Fionn, 3, and one-year-old Shay.

“I really fell into this line of work. When I was 21 and in college, friends of mine were DJs and we decided to put on a night in the old FX club in Cork. We did a Halloween House Music night and that was it; the bug bit. Seventeen years later, I’m still doing the same job.

“The environment is hugely important to us and we’re really conscious of it. I’ve been on this buzz for years to be honest, but Katrina has completely adopted it now. Everything is recycled and separated at home, and we keep the waste to an absolute minimum. I’m obsessed with compost.

"We make sure the boys know, even this early, what goes in the waste bin, what goes in the compost bin, why it goes in the compost bin. We’ve been instilling that since they’ve been able to put things in bins. Even in The Kino, we have exactly the same bin system that we have at home and all of our cups are compostable and we try to avoid disposable plastic in the building.

“I walk to school and childcare with the kids every morning. We live a ten-minute walk from school, so I actually head off with all three of them. Rain, hail or shine, we do it. If it’s lashing, we get out the brollies and raincoats and just go for it. And they actually love it. Cuan has just started primary school and he drew a picture of himself walking to school.

"I like it too. It wakes me up before work. After I drop the kids, I drive into work in Cork City. I park my van up and then I use the Coke bikes if I need to get around the city during the day. We get an organic veg box every week and it’s mostly locally sourced Cork growers, with some imports. It’s a cardboard box with unpackaged veg and it arrives on our door every Monday or Tuesday and it pretty much lasts the week.

We do the supermarket run too, and we try to get stuff that comes in cardboard or compostables and to avoid the single-use plastic packaging, but it’s really tough. Supermarkets haven’t made it easy to be sustainable and they still don’t seem to have copped on to how necessary it is to get rid of the plastic so it’s unavoidable unfortunately.

“There really needs to be a massive shift: Everything should be compostable and made of paper and board. Plastic isn’t a necessity anymore, but it’s just seen as convenient.

“If there’s one area I’d love to change, it’s nappies. They’re the biggest problem in our house.Eco-nappies aren’t readily available and are unfortunately are very expensive. We only have one left in nappies now, so we’re moving out of that phase, but I hate seeing them going into the bin.

"I’d love if there was a more robust, cheap option widely available because they’re unfortunately a necessity. We looked at reusables, but when you’ve three kids it’s a lot of work and seems really messy. Cuan wants to be a zoologist when he grows up: All the kids are insanely interested in everything to do with nature and animals. They can identify different trees by their leaves and they’ve been interested in sea life from a very young age.

"I try to impart to them that it’s our job to mind nature and be gentle to animals, and the whole circle of life: That animals go back to the earth when they die, that things that come from trees should be composted so they can go back into the ground.

“I try to be optimistic about the boys’ future but I see a lot of government inaction and an unwillingness to tackle the 100 companies that are causing 70% of all the carbon emissions: I think they’re focusing on the wrong thing and until they change I do worry that my kids won’t get to have the same quality of life that I’ve had.

"Are they going to have the same freedom and opportunities, are they going to be able to travel in their 20s? I just don’t know. I try to be optimistic, but the powers that be don’t seem to care. I think lobbyists are a huge problem when it comes to the industries that are the real offenders and that we need a huge shift before we see real action. Corporations must change.

"What everyday people like you and I contribute is tiny and yet all the onus is put on the individual, it’s like, ‘you need to be recycling, you need to be using a metal straw,’ not ‘we need to stop investing in fossil fuels and subsidising these areas.’ It’s quite frustrating sometimes. It feels like people are walking around with blindfolds on.

“Individuals that I know around me, all our staff and the people I work with, are trying to do the right thing. They’re all carrying around reusable coffee cups and water bottles and while these are small things, they do make a bit of a difference and they show how much the general population really wants to make an effort and do the right thing. I think the disconnect is further up the food chain.”

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