The towering Munster second row said he was delighted to help the students of Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh girls school in Bishopstown, Cork, launch its Walk on Wednesday (WOW) “walking bus” initiative.
He told the students, including his niece, Rachel O’Callaghan, that walking is good for their physical and mental health, and he threw down the environmental gauntlet to the nearby boys’ school, where he was taught.
“The girls are a step ahead now. The boys will have to catch up,” he joked.
The project is part of the school’s bid for a fourth Green Flag under An Taisce’s Green Schools Travel flag programme which aims to encourage students, parents and teachers to walk, cycle, park and stride, use public transport or carpool instead of using the private car on the school run.
The programme helps cut down on traffic congestion around schools, promote exercise, and lower fuel costs for parents.
At the launch of the RSA walking bus at Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh, Bishopstown, Cork, Donnacha O’Callaghan with fifth class pupil Saoirse Brazil Kearney. Pic: Dan Linehan
The school’s green schools co-ordinator Ber Lynch said: “Hopefully parents and children will enjoy the WOW days so much, they will build active travel into their daily journey to school.”
Principal Claire O’Sullivan said: “With most schools in the Bishopstown area working on the travel theme as part of this programme, we expect the impact on the wider community to be immense.”
An Taisce Green Schools travel officer Sandy McGroarty said the percentage of journeys to school by car has increased from 19% in 1991 to 54% in 2011.
“As the effects of climate change become more and more apparent, the need to reduce our carbon emissions has never been more important,” she said.
An Taisce has been working on the Department of Transport-funded green schools travel programme since Sept 2008, with over 1,300 primary and secondary schools countrywide signed up.
Since 2008, 724 schools have been awarded the Green Flag for Travel. The programme reached record levels last year with over 90% of schools in Ireland — up to 800,000 students and teachers — involved.
An Taisce said the participating schools saved over €€8m in waste, energy, water, and transport fuel costs during the last school year.
- Carrigaline, Co Cork: Edmund Rice Schools Trust and Educate Together (two schools of 600 students each);
- Midleton/Carrigtwohill, Co Cork: Cork Education and Training Board (ETB)/Catholic Bishop of Cloyne (1,000-student school);
- Balbriggan, Dublin: Educate Together (700 students);
- Ballinteer/Stepaside, Dublin: Educate Together (1,000 students);
- Kingswood, Dublin: Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB (1,000 students);
- Celbridge, Co Kildare (2015 opening): Educate Together/Kildare and Wicklow ETB, subject to confirmation of enough parental support (up to 1,000 students);
- North Wicklow: Educate Together (1,000 students);
- Kingscourt, Co Cavan: Cavan & Monaghan ETB (400 students).