Jennifer McAree of Transition Monaghan was one those selected by the Tipperary Energy Agency for a green trip to Bursa in Turkey. The trip took place last month. Here Jennifer reports on the background to the project as well as the trip itself, which she describes as a “brilliant experience”.
On a Green Trip to Turkey were: (L-R) Alex Hamilton, Tipperary Energy Agency, Trisha Purcell, Drombane Village Group, Cemal Yagci, Turkish representative and guide, Jennifer Mc Aree, Transition Monaghan and David Phelan, RPS.
This exciting programme gave people involved in sustainable community projects the chance to travel to other countries around Europe to experience first-hand what is being done elsewhere and to share ideas. It was the last of several trips facilitated by the Tipperary Energy Agency and associations from various nations that came on board for this programme. These were Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Romania and Turkey. A group of Belgians driving sustainability in their local region came up with this idea originally. Through receiving funding under the EU’s Grundtvig ‘Lifelong Learning Programme’ they could make it happen.
The strides being made in Belgium and The Netherlands regarding energy are especially impressive. For example in Emmen, Holland, there is growing government support for community-led energy projects, as well as strong buy-in from most local citizens. This has allowed the Dutch group to influence plans for 200m high wind turbines and a solar panel park the size of 32 football fields. It’s hard to imagine this happening in Ireland due to the current energy policies and national grid structure.
Our own Tipperary Energy Agency made us stand tall among the Northern European trailblazers due to its enlightened projects. These include guiding the completion of Ireland’s first community owned wind farm at Templederry, Co. Tipperary and working towards making the Aran Islands energy self-sufficient. (See http://www.tea.ie for details). The Italian representatives also brought some innovative ideas to the table, such as an air pollution monitoring scheme using bees, a ‘green labyrinth’ for encouraging growing local food creatively and the ‘3Little Pigs’ project which teaches people how to build straw bale houses.
Turkey is not the first country that springs to mind concerning green initiatives, but there are great projects being led by particular parties. It also has some beautiful protected natural sites like Uludag Mountain National Park and Cumalikizik Village, a 700 year old preserved Ottoman settlement (and UNESCO heritage site), both of which we visited. We travelled to Saitabat Women’s Solidarity Centre, where a presentation was given by the founding lady. It is a stunning building in the heart of the mountains where local women are employed to prepare locally sourced foods. We were served a delicious meal prepared on site which included honey, breads, cheeses and olives. This successful rural development model has been adopted throughout Turkey and beyond.
At the Bursa Energy Efficiency Association we learned how they have been educating citizens about energy sustainability through targeted programmes like ‘Energy Lady’ and ‘Energy Kids’. There were also examples of prototype pilot projects like a passive ‘Green Restaurant’ and impressive designs for solar farms. Beforehand we toured the Bursa Energy Museum, housed in a huge old textiles factory, but were disappointed that a planned trip to Marmarabirlik Olive Agricultural Sales Co-Op has been cancelled, where they will soon produce energy from olive waste. A nice touch was a stop off to see an inspirational man with cerebral palsy who has developed an idea for a solar powered wheelchair which he can use. His creation will eventually be manufactured in large numbers, for which he will gain some financial profit.
Notably, many of the green projects we saw that were rural based had some unwelcome surprises. The Mountain Park was surprisingly littered and the Ottoman Village held heavy traffic and commercial stalls, despite its fragility. The cities have some beguiling sites, but are huge and sprawling (especially Istanbul) with unbelievable traffic. Turkey is still developing in many ways. We may look up to the Dutch and Belgians of this world in sustainability terms, but on meeting the Italians, Turks and Romanians, they give the impression of admiration for the Irish because of agencies like the Tipperary Energy Agency. Overall, the trip was fantastic and a once in a lifetime opportunity. The culture is rich, the food delicious and most people we encountered were lovely. It was great to meet and discuss ideas with such diverse and knowledgeable people from both here and abroad.