by Rick Pruetz, Vice President, Ecocity Builders
That’s the good news. The bad news: Limerick’s Green Leaf Award is for 2020 and the pandemic has forced many of the events planned in conjunction with this honor to be altered or postponed. Nevertheless, that doesn’t change the fact that this Irish city of 94,000 people richly deserves recognition for its many sustainability efforts.
Limerick, located 200 kilometers west of Dublin, is perhaps best known for its historic character, with landmarks like 13 th -century King John’s Castle, 800-year old St, Mary’s Cathedral and the uniformly-designed John’s Square, dating from 1751. But, while preserving its past, Limerick is also planning for a planet-friendly future, with ambitious goals for energy, climate action, mobility, biodiversity and acircular economy.
Limerick is Ireland’s first Lighthouse Energy Positive City, which involves the development of a Positive Energy Block, Ireland’s first Community Electricity Grid, capable of generating 2.1 gigawatts of power from renewable resources. A
home insulation program has upgraded energy conservation in 25 percent of the city’s homes, the highest percentage in Ireland, creating annual energy savings of 78 gigawatts. The Limerick City-County Council was also the first jurisdiction in Ireland to install photovoltaic panels on its public buildings.
Limerick has steadily been improving pedestrian, bicycle and public transportation infrastructure. The city center and the 17,000-student University of Limerick are now linked by a shared walkway/cycle way that follows the canal
system and crosses the River Shannon on the Living Bridge, the longest pedestrian bridge in Ireland. The Limerick bike share system has 23 stations and cyclists can use secure bike lockers at downtown locations.
A pilot rewilding project is one of several ways that Limerick is implementing its biodiversity strategy. The city’s Invasive Species App, with over 1,000 downloads so far, uses technology in the battle to protect native ecosystems. “Living Limerick” uses community events to promote public learning and engagement in all things environmental. In 2008, Limerick joined the International Green Schools Program and has since won green flags in waste management, energy conservation, water, and travel. The city also became a partner to the All Ireland Pollinator Plan, a program that supports bee keepers, raises awareness of the threats to bees and promotes pollinator-friendly landscapes for public and private lands including farms.
In pursuit of a circular economy, Limerick manages 17 recycling points that annually divert 72 tons of textiles and 864 tons of glass, aluminum and steel from landfills. In Limerick’s Glad Rags challenge, contestants compete to create date-
appropriate outfits using vintage clothing bought at second-hand stores. The city recently launched a popular campaign reminding runners and others to hydrate with reusable water bottles instead of disposables. Limerick also motivates
residents to clean up their neighborhoods by offering prize money in the city’s annual Going for Gold contest.
Unfortunately, COVID19 has changed the way Limerick originally planned to celebrate its European Green Leaf 2020 Award. The city was forced to reschedule some events to 2021, including Green Travel Day, the River Restoration Conference and Ireland’s Buzzing, an international conference on pollinator conservation. But you can still virtually experience many events online, including workshops on climate action, green procurement, upcycling, slow fashion, biodiversity, and more. For a guide to these events see https://www.limerick.ie/european-green-leaf-city/about/event-guide.