60 years of TidyTowns

Schull County Cork2018 sees the 60th anniversary of the launch of Ireland’s TidyTowns initiative.  TidyTowns is Ireland’s best known local program dedicated to the environment and sustainability. The competition is organised by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and sponsored by SuperValu. Its aim is to inspire communities to improve their local environment and make them better places to live, work and visit. While it is a competition, each place that participates will benefit as the work put in will improve the whole community. The initiative promotes both short- and long-term projects. It’s not just about planting flowers!

Michael Ring TD, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, has announced a €1.4 million grant scheme to mark the 60th anniversary. Local committees have been able to apply for grants of between €1000 and €4000 to support their work. But what exactly do TidyTowns groups do?

TidyTowns basics

When you first think of TidyTowns you probably think of volunteers lifting litter and this is definitely an important aspect. Unfortunately, not everyone disposes of their rubbish responsibly. Litter and fly-tipped rubbish are an eyesore first and an environmental disaster second. Volunteers will often agree to look after a particular area or stretch of road and aim to keep it litter-free. In Environment the Musical, one of the minor characters, Uncle John, is a TidyTowns volunteer. The children learn about the concept of environmental volunteering- in this case, picking up litter. The goal is to show kids that the environment is everyone’s responsibility and looking after it benefits us all. Find out more about Environment the Musical here: https://www.annettemcnelis.ie/

Hanging backetsOther obvious TidyTowns activities are weeding (or as some call it, Spade Patrol!), planting and maintaining flower beds and other gardening activities. All of this work can go a long way to making an area more visually-appealing and is a core part of the TidyTowns vision. However, there’s so much more to the initiative than that. As well as the main award categories, there are also special awards. Most of these are in conjunction with other bodies, like the Tree Project Award in association with the Tree Council of Ireland or the Local Authority Pollinator Award in association with Biodiversity Ireland. You can read more about these special awards here: http://www.tidytowns.ie/special-awards/

Innovative Projects

Here are some projects that illustrate both the creativity of TidyTowns groups and the positive impact they can have:

-Glaslough in County Monagahan developed a Tree Trail through the village featuring more than 20 species of tree. They won the TidyTowns Tree Project Award in 2013.

Bee on f-The Buncrana TidyTowns group in County Donegal has worked with the local council to create pesticide-free zones to protect the environment and improve biodiversity. They have also installed bee boxes for solitary bees as part of their Pollinator Plan. Find out more on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BuncranaTidyTowns/

-In Greystones, County Wicklow, local schools worked with the TidyTowns group on a project called ‘Stream of Conscience’. Its aim is to raise awareness of our need to care for our waterways individually and as a community.  It is an education and community-based art project with a strong focus on pollution and personal responsibility. You can read more about the project here: https://greystonestidytowns.ie/projects/stream-of-conscience/

-In 2014 Swinford TidyTowns in County Mayo undertook a project to harvest rainwater. Their six tanks and butts collect enough rainwater to water all of the groups hanging baskets, flower beds and planters. This saves a huge amount of tap water- over 13,000 litres, in fact! This is something that you could do in your own garden, to gather enough water to wash your car and water plants in the warmer months. Their website has more information: https://swinfordtidytowns.com/project/rainwater-harvesting-project/

Getting Involved

No matter where you live, you’re likely to be near a TidyTowns group. You can find out where your nearest one is and get in touch with them here: http://www.tidytowns.ie/get-involved/find-your-local-committee/. Another good site to check is https://www.volunteer.ie/

The 60th anniversary of TidyTowns this year is sure to bring more keen and energetic volunteers into the initiative. On top of that, National Volunteer Week in Ireland is 14th-20th May 2018.

This is the perfect time to sign up to make your community an even better place to live- for you, for visitors and for the local wildlife!