With over 66,000 followers across Facebook and Instagram, Eco NI is a fantastic source of inspiration for those of us looking to play our part to help the planet. Local dad, Russell - the guy behind Eco NI - took a few minutes out of his day to answer some questions...
Q. Tell me about Eco NI and what inspired you to set it up.
A. Eco NI was set up after I noticed all the single-use plastic waste left behind at all the races I participated in. Their use is indicative of a massive throw-away culture, including t-shirts dumped at the start of races. The amount of gels thrown at the side of the road, plastic bottles and cups used. I felt I needed to do something about this and came up with Eco NI to try and highlight the problems and get like-minded people on board with some simple steps to reduce plastic waste. This has grown over the years and now covers lots of different environmental issues.
Q. What are some of the most pressing environmental issues that you believe the world is facing today?
A. I believe the shift should be placed on industries to improve their sustainability and not placed as much focus on the consumers.
Q. In your opinion, what role can individuals play in addressing these environmental issues?
A. There are lots of ways you can address environmental issues such as:
Reducing plastic waste
Reducing food waste
Reducing carbon footprint
Use public transportation
Only buy what you need
Buy second hand
Eat less meat
Use what you already have
Learn to repair items
Support local eco shops
The most simple thing you can do is use what you already have.
Q. How do you stay informed about the latest developments and news related to environmentalism and sustainability?
A. There are lots of great ways to stay up-to-date on the latest developments on social media platforms but one of my sources of information is from my boys who attend a school which is recognised as an Eco School.
Q. Can you tell us about a specific project or initiative that you have worked on or supported that you feel has made a real impact?
A. An issue that I am passionate about is reducing the amount of single-use nappies that end up in landfill every year. It was estimated that around three billion disposable nappies go to landfill in the UK each year. On average, it is estimated that disposable nappies can take several hundred years to decompose completely in landfill conditions due to their composition of synthetic materials, plastics, and superabsorbent polymers.
I received funding from Power NI to purchase sets of reusable nappies to rent to families in Northern Ireland for free. This has been going on for a number of years and has been a great success so far.
Q. How do you think technology can be harnessed to support sustainability and environmental protection efforts?
A. I think social media platforms are a great way to support sustainable and environmental issues as they offer a space for free speech and offer the ability to share ideas and news to some people that otherwise are unable to see it. It’s a great way to connect with like-minded people.
Q. How do you balance advocating for environmental protection while also acknowledging and addressing the needs of industry and economic development?
A. It’s a great question as some of the posts receive negative feedback back, especially anything to do with reducing milk and meat. I try to focus on simple changes that anyone can do.
Q. In your experience, what are some common misconceptions people have about environmentalism or sustainable living?
A. I get asked a lot if I’m a hippy but I’m just a dad of two trying to do my bit, educating others in the process. It’s not about lots of new sustainable items, it’s more about using what you have and making things last.
Q. How can we promote more sustainable and eco-friendly practices in our daily lives, and what are some simple changes individuals can make?
A. The simplest change you can make is to use what you already have. Think before you buy and make items last.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who wants to become more involved in environmental advocacy or activism?
A. There are lots of great social media platforms you can follow and connect with. Think about what you believe in and make your voice heard.
Q. Where can people find Eco NI?
Q. What’s next?
A. I'm currently working on a few projects to source funding to give away free reusable sanitary wear.