In the window of Noms, an organic food shop on North Circular Road, hangs a tote bag with the slogan “Phibsboro Going Green”.
Those behind it want to encourage businesses and customers to make the neighbourhood more environmentally friendly, says store owner Naomi Sheridan.
The idea of Phibsboro Going Green is simple: businesses sign up to a number of goals and work to achieve them.
For Noms, this is about trying to cut down on the packaging that they use in store, as well as figuring out a way to reuse food waste to ensure it doesn’t end up in landfill. But other local businesses are working on other issues.
“The bags are a great signpost for it,” says Sheridan, and a good conversation-starter for people who want to know more about reducing waste.
The Birth of the Idea
When local resident Sean McCabe was running as an independent candidate for a seat on Dublin City Council earlier this year, he helped lead a community workshop.
Called a “design sprint”, it was a six-week thing he facilitated along with Dublin-based social enterprise The Ladder, at the Back Page in Phibsboro.
The design sprint was meant to help local residents identify problems they wanted to work on locally, and settle on solutions they’d want to pursue.
There were 10 to 20 people at the sessions most weeks, McCabe says. They looked at three areas: strengthening communities, supporting biodiversity, and reducing waste.
“The waste project turned into Phibsboro Going Green,” says McCabe. “It’s really a reflection of the community’s interest in general.”
People often see climate change as too big of a problem to confront, McCabe says. With Phibsboro Going Green, they wanted to bring change to a more local level, making people feel they had some power over it.
There’s no packaging on the fruit and vegetables in Noms. Rows of jars filled with spices sit on shelves, and customers can pour some out to top up their own containers.
At the back, there are large containers of washing-up liquid, toilet cleaners, and kitchen sprays, which people can pour into their own containers too.
Sheridan brings out a translucent bag of rubbish from the back of the store. That’s the store’s total waste for the week, she says.
Since the amount of waste they were producing was already low, when Noms joined Phibsboro Goes Green and set their goals, Sheridan wanted to be more ambitious.
Their first goal was making their own almond milk, so they weren’t buying in and selling on loads of Tetra Paks of almond milk.
The second initiative was to find a way to use the fruit and vegetable pulp from their juicers.
“At the moment it’s going into a brown bin but it’d be great if we could actually put it to some use because essentially it’s still really good,” says Sheridan.
Rothar, a bicycle shop in Phibsboro, has also signed up to Phibsboro Goes Green.
Founder and director Anne Bedos says Rothar has been encouraging more sustainable living already by minimising waste and getting people out cycling.
“We’ve been encouraging people to go green for the past ten years, selling bicycles and reusing as much parts of the bike as possible,” she says, speaking at the back of the shop “and to ensure people fix their bikes.”
Out in the backyard of Rothar, two of the shop assistants are getting to work putting together a pair of bikes. It’s coming into summertime, says Bedos, their busiest time of the year.
Under Phibsboro Goes Green, Rothar has set new goals. The first is to minimize the air miles on their products.
“It means that the bikes that we sell have their manufacturing in Europe,” says Bedos. “We sell Spanish bikes and German bikes mostly.”
“The ‘going green’ thing means you just concentrate more on those areas that you would otherwise,” says Bedos. “It just kind of keeps you in check.”
Bedos says she would also like to reduce the amount of packaging Rothar uses. But she hasn’t figured out how just yet.
“I’m also trying to put something together that their waste tubes get used as some kind of vegan-leather-type stuff,” says Bedos, of the inner tyre tubes that people generally discard once they burst.
“Vegan leather” is a name given to a range of materials used as substitutes for leather in products like wallets, boots and jackets.
For McCabe, Sheridan and Bedos, Phibsboro Goes Green is about community pride, too.
“It’s really good because I think the area needs a little bit of self-care because […] the care trickling down is not happening,” Bedos said.
Sheridan reports a steady stream of customers coming into the shop and wanting to know more about the initiative.
All the tote bags have even sold out, she says, with the proceeds going toward tree-planting projects in the area.
“It’s a social thing as well as everything else, but it gives people an opportunity to work on global issues locally,” says McCabe.
For McCabe, the plan now is to make sure those who have signed up stick to their pledges, and to get other businesses on board.
Two other local businesses have signed up – a café, Bang Bang, and a restaurant, Woodstock. McCabe says he’s still working out the details with them.
Noms is “pushing boundaries, whereas the Woodstock commitment will be more of a general commitment to reducing their waste and their energy consumption,” he says.