Galway, Ireland has seen an increase in the number of buildings, especially homes, that are designed to be environmentally friendly. These homes can be termed "green homes." However, they are more often called "passive homes." The Irish government is committed to increasing the number of homes that have little or no carbon footprint. Numerous schemes including the Greener Homes Scheme and the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme have been launched in the past ten years.
An increase in oil prices has encouraged people to look for cheaper and more environmentally friendly ways of building their homes and reducing operating costs, all through efficient house design. Advances in building products, such as insulation, have greatly helped reduce the carbon footprints of new homes.
The demand for green and passive homes is so large that construction companies dedicated solely to passive homes have been created in recent years. These include Scandinavian Homes, a company that has completed just under 300 homes in the past 20 years.
Urban farming is another sector which has seen a rapid increase in popularity in Galway. Ireland has a rich agricultural history, however this tradition was mostly concentrated in the rural parts of Ireland. In recent years, the influx of people from rural to urban areas has helped launch the urban farming boom. In Galway, most urban farms tend to be community based gardens.
Community groups can avail gardens and grow produce to consume or to resell. There are several community gardens in Galway City, and almost all are run by volunteer organizations. Urban farms are not limited to community gardens, however. There are many private, mostly small urban farms. These private urban farms are usually a small vegetable patch located in the back garden in an housing estate.
Ballinfoyle is an area located on the North Side of Galway City. A community garden was established here in 2010 and has proven to be a major success. The site is roughly half an acre and contains raised vegetable beds, poly tunnel, orchard and soft fruits, herbs beds, schools, and a youth garden. There are courses in organic gardening and woodland crafts and plans for the future include a pond, sensory garden and reflection area.
There is no doubt that the current green planning phenomenon has helped change the attitudes of people in relation to the environment and their surroundings. Through its green home construction an urban farm development projects, Galway is proving to be a model not only for Ireland, but Europe.
What initiatives has your city launched for green houses or urban gardening. Share your stories in the comments below.
Credits: Images by Alan Bannon. Data linked to sources.