Our house is still on fire but where is our extinguisher?

people gathered at climate protest with globe on fire
Orla Leahy

11th June 2021


It’s been over two years since Greta Thunberg stood before the World Economic Forum and declared that our house is on fire. Over those two years we, the housemates, the world’s population, have begun to overcome several challenges, Covid-19 being one of them, Brexit another, but yet, our house fire still rages. Emissions may have decreased slightly, thanks to lockdown and improved environmental practices, but where is the true extinguisher that will quench the ever-threatening fire?


Scientists widely acknowledge that the continuation of current emissions will result in a crisis point of irreversible damage to our house by 2030. Consequently, it is imperative that we act, and that we extinguish the growing flames with haste.


“Accepting that our house is on fire is naturally the first course of action, but solutions are the next, most integral part of extinguishment, and current, viable solutions must not only be explored, but implemented by us citizens.”

The following five solutions are often overlooked but pose a strong starting point.


1. Eco-bricks

While Covid-19 has seen reduced transport emissions, landfill waste has increased dramatically. Rather than let our non-biodegradable, non-recyclable waste pile up and slowly decompose, a new innovative alternative is on the horizon. Irish indigenous business, Reuzi, have suggested filling unwanted bottles with such waste to create an “eco-brick.” Companies and groups are currently striving to create eco brick banks, where citizens can drop eco-bricks in Ireland. The bricks will then be used to develop contemporary furniture. In the meantime, why not start filling some bottles, in preparation for the launch of Irish eco brick banks? 


2. Improved Refrigeration

Have an open-door refrigerator at home or work? Did you know that “Project Drawdown” have identified open door refrigeration as the greatest cause of greenhouse gas emissions and that 105 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions were released from such refrigerators in 2017? Installing a door on a refrigerator is well worth the investment, both to your pocket, in terms of long-term energy bills saved and more importantly, to our planet. 


3. Join the Bike to Work Scheme

Though not feasible for everyone, if cycling to work is an option for you, why not check out Bike to Work and register today to avail of tax-free bikes to cycle to work? Transport emissions, which are classified as energy emissions under the SEAI, amount to almost 60% of all Irish emissions. Hence, not only is the Bike to Work Scheme kinder to your health and pocket but actively contributes to the reduction of our Irish emissions. 


4. Recycle Electronics

In 2018, the United Nations recorded 50 million tons of electronic waste accumulating in landfill on a global scale. The effects of electronics rotting in landfill can be detrimental to human health, as harmful toxins are released which are known to exacerbate tumours and cancers when leaked into water and soil. Around the country, WEEE (Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment) collection sites function, at both shops and local authority civic amenity sites to avoid an accumulation of WEEE at landfill and incineration. Apple offers a recycling service with free credit upon purchase of a new device, or charities such as Jack and Jill recycle mobile phones in order to offer free nursing hours to ill children. There is no reason for WEEE to be thrown away and added to our fire’s kindle anymore. Taking the extra step by recycling is rich in positive environmental consequences.  


5. Education

As with any fire, to effectively extinguish it, one must understand its composition. Effective education regarding climate change has the power to encourage more swift and impactful action by society. For example, the Cool Planet Experience based in Wicklow offers an interactive, enjoyable learning experience for all ages. Visitors have the opportunity to calculate their carbon footprint and receive tailored advice on how to actively reduce it. Alternatively, podcast series, such as Mary Robinson and Maeve Higgins’ “Mothers of Invention” make great listening, or publications like “Project Drawdown” make expert reading. There exists a multitude of fantastic resources that provide well researched, valuable information. 


Thunberg’s speech at the World Economic Forum gave us cause to pause and listen. We can no longer deny that our house is on fire, but will we take meaningful steps to release the extinguisher before the fire escalates beyond control?




Featured photo by Simone Buzzoni on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND Environment Editor Anastasiya + Programme Assistant Rachel


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