The Eco Hero Award, brought to you by Craghoppers, recognises individuals that have taken environmental action within their chosen sport or outdoor pursuit, and encouraged others to follow their example.

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If you’re a nominee, consider yourself cordially invited to our annual awards ceremony on the evening of Wednesday 1 February 2023 in the Sugar Club, Dublin. We are thrilled skinny to announce that our fab sponsors are on board to help us celebrate all that is great and good about the Irish adventure scene, so it’s guaranteed to be a good party. Our hugely generous title sponsor is Sport Ireland. And our other supporting sponsors are #2MinuteBeachClean, #2MinuteStreetClean, CraghoppersLeave No Trace, Hiiker, Salewa and Collen Construction.

For everyone else, a limited number of tickets are on sale here. Subscribe to our email newsletter on our homepage to hear more about the Outsider Awards 2022.

We were bowled over by both the quality and quantity of the stories you sent us. So sit down, make yourself comfortable and read the spine-tingling and inspirational stories of these extraordinary people who are now officially on the long list of nominees for the #OutsiderAwards.

Cindy Doyle and Ronan Mullen, Adventure.ie

Small business owners of Adventure.ie, Wicklow-based Cindy Doyle and Ronan Mullen have been running their company since 1999. The company’s mission is to provide a range of high-quality, professionally run outdoor activities and training courses to adult and youth groups. 

Cindy and Ronan became members of the EOCA (European Outdoor Conservation Association) and did an annual fundraiser for them, but they knew it wasn’t enough. So, they joined Sustainable Travel Ireland for support to do more and Cindy says this organisation has been wonderfully supportive in terms of training and guidelines. The duo started measuring their impact on the planet as opposed to going by feel…and they are now on a pathway to go from intermediate to gold membership. 

One recent dilemma they faced was when they opened their retail store in 2017. “We were so green (excuse the pun!),” Cindy says. “We had no idea the sheer volume of waste generated in terms of soft and single-use plastics.” So they leveraged their naivety and just kept asking what they could do to improve things. Actions that they have implemented both in their store and their adventure business include: a zero tolerance policy for single-use plastic drinks bottles, hiring out expedition and camping kit, reselling used rental equipment while it is still in excellent condition or donating what cannot be sold to reputable charities and reusing packaging.

The couple has always tried to make a difference—to be mindful of what they buy, use, do. “That’s not always easy, but even small changes in your life can have an impact.” 

Flossie Donnelly, Flossie and the Beach Cleaners

At the tender age of 15, Flossie Donnelly has already achieved a lot. A TY pupil of St. Andrews school in Booterstown, Dublin, she started a beach cleaning club when she was nine and in 2018 she did two fundraisers to get the first two sea bins installed in Ireland. The same year, she organised a march for the oceans where 500 people attended and also gave a Ted Talk in Dun Laoghaire. Inspired when she heard a speech by Greta Thunberg, she started climate striking weekly in Ireland. 

The following year Flossie spoke in front of 12,000 people at the global climate strike and, together with her mum Harriet, started Flossie and the Beach Cleaners as a charity. The charity’s aim is to educate junior school students all over Ireland about beach cleaning and climate change. 

So what prompted all this activity? “When I was eight years old, I went on holiday to Thailand with my parents. My mum and I went kayaking and all I could see was plastic floating on the surface…so I decided to fill the kayaks up with rubbish.” When she got back to Ireland, she thought it would be different, but whenever she went to the beach she would end up picking up rubbish. 

“I’ve always loved the sea and knowing that there is a whole world underneath the water has always fascinated me. Ireland is rich in marine life so knowing that the sea is choked in plastic breaks my heart.” Her charity travels all around Ireland to deliver school workshops about plastic pollution and it organises an environmental trip to Indonesia every year for TY students.

 

Ian Davis, The Pure Project 

The Pure (Protecting Uplands & Rural Environments) Project was established more than 16 years ago, and has proven to be a very successful environmental initiative. It’s the first regional partnership initiative established in Ireland to combat fly-tipping/illegal dumping and was officially launched in September 2006.

The Pure Mile, an environmental, community and heritage initiative, was established by the Pure Project, of which Ian is director. The initiative encourages communities and groups living in rural areas to adopt a mile, or miles, of road, and keep this area litter/rubbish free. As well as the Pure Mile, Ian has initiated a diverse range of projects to create environmental awareness.  

In the first year of the Pure Mile, he had 5 areas involved. Over the years, the project has grown extensively, and now there are thousands of Pure Mile Volunteers, with more than 200 communities, individuals and groups from all over Wicklow, South Dublin, and Dun Laoghaire. 

“The Pure Mile is the perfect opportunity for communities and groups who want to make a positive contribution to their locality and environment,” says Ian. 

Ian provides all groups with Pure Mile signage, bags, high-vis vests, gloves and litter pickers. And the Pure Truck removes the rubbish collected by groups.  

The Pure Truck is on the road every day and since the project was established, 3,700 tonnes of rubbish has been collected from more than 13,500 illegal dumping sites in the Wicklow/Dublin Uplands. “If you lined up all these bags on the road, they would stretch all the way from Dublin to Dingle.” Wow…that’s a lot of rubbish. Kudos to Ian and all the volunteers for this fantastic service. 

 

Peter O’Donnell, Clean Coasts

Peter has been involved with Clean Coasts since 2012 and this year took the honour of Individual of the Year in their Ocean Hero Awards. He originally joined Clean Coasts because he felt there was an unsightly volume of pollution on our shores. Visitors to Arranmore Island, Co. Donegal, where Peter lives, would regularly comment on it, so he felt he should do something about it.

Every year, Peter hosts at least six big beach cleans and encourages the schools and locals to get involved. He has set up litter stations at the beaches, which include pickers and bags to encourage anyone using the area to do a five-minute clean. The goal is to keep Arranmore tidy at all times. Weekly the litter is moved to an area for collection by Sharkeys Waste/Recycling, whose support along with the local council make it all possible. 

On Arranmore, Peter walks a different beach every day with his dogs to monitor and pick any rubbish that is there. When he does the Big Beach Clean, local radio station, Highland Radio, give a big shout out for people to come along and join in. He’s hoping that by getting the schools involved that the younger generation will take pride in their environment and community and continue to do so into the future. 

Seán Ferguson, Clean Coasts 

For the past seven years, Seán Ferguson has been cleaning beaches along the Wexford coast every morning all year round and has become a huge #2minutebeachclean supporter.

Seán has cleaned more than 400 beaches, rivers, street, forests, etc, and, this year, he was interviewed by RTE. That turned out to be great exposure as it made it onto the national news and RTE also posted the interview across their social platforms, with a reach of just over 1.6 million views. He was also a guest speaker at the Electric Picnic sustainability stage.

Seán does all this environmental work because he’s proud to be Irish and loves his country! He hopes to inspire others and feels he has encouraged many people over the years to think differently about what they buy, what they use, and how they use and respect nature. This year, Seán won Campaigner of the Year in the Clean Coasts’ Ocean Hero Awards. Well deserved for all that hard work.

 

Martina Healy, Clean Coasts 

Martina Healy, AKA Leitrim Litter Picker, was nominated in 2022 for Clean Coasts Campaigner of the Year award. She is consistently busy cleaning up her local area and raising awareness on social media to her more than 3,000 followers. In January 2022, she was featured by RTE in their Climate Heroes segment on their website and across their social media platforms. Her message in that feature was simple—she made a call out to ask people to “do their bit”.

Leitrim may have a short coastline, but it has many waterways that lead to the sea. Martina has been working hard to fight pollution and waste for these waterways. Because the Shannon flows through Lough Allen and then down to the Atlantic Ocean, when she sees litter, she thinks of the ocean and her deep-rooted passion for it—that’s what drives her on. She enjoys what she does because she takes pride in her area. As well as constantly picking up litter when she sees it, Martina organised a hugely successful Clean Coasts Big Beach Clean along Tullan Strand back in September.

Padraic Creedon, Leave No Trace

Hailing from Westport in Co. Mayo, Padraic is an environmental educator and consultant. With his BSc in Marine Sciences, he went on to pursue his speciality of environmental and science education, delivering resources and training to people of all ages.

An experienced aquarist, ecologist, consultant and accredited trainer, he worked as a consultant for Leave No Trace from September 2021 and was appointed to the role of Education Officer in 2022.

“I have always loved science, with a particular focus on the marine and maritime. The link between science and the environment is indisputable and teaching both topics together is only natural,” he says.

Padraic started his career educating people about the incredible marine life found around Ireland…and discovered quickly that he had a voice and manner that suited this type of interaction. 

Padraic is enthusiastic about all things marine and is always keen to bring groups to our shores and coastlines to explore the ideas of Leave No Trace in the context of Ireland’s largest and most important neighbour—the ocean. He never passes up an opportunity to visit the outdoors, even if it is more inland, particularly our woodlands and forests. Each Leave No Trace course he has been a part of has been a unique and fascinating experience.

He’s clearly passionate about what he does and believes there’s a real joy in teaching a group about his passions or by creating an activity, game or piece of media that you know will help inspire people to seek more knowledge.

 

Michael Kane, Director of Outdoor Education for MSLETB

Originally from Monaghan, Michael Kane has been living on Achill Island for more than 25 years and works as director of Outdoor Education for Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim Education and Training Board (MSLETB).

Michael has worked in the area of outdoor education, recreation and environmental conservation from many years and finds it extremely rewarding. “To be able to see the difference first hand of what a positive outdoor experience and environmental education can make is the most amazing feeling. It really feels as if you are giving something back.” 

At Achill OETC there is a strong environmental programme across all their outdoor education training courses as well as in their residential and day groups within MSLETB and further afield. Michael and his colleagues work closely with Leave No Trace Ireland, LAWPRO, Climate Action, Clean Coasts and others.   

Michael has always felt passionate about protecting our natural heritage. As an avid outdoor enthusiast and most importantly as a father of four, he truly believes that while enjoying the beautifully wild and wonderful outdoor environment, it is ultimately most important to protect it for generations to come. 

“I am very lucky to be in a position to share my love and respect of nature and biodiversity. By exposing those with an interest in outdoor activities to the wonders of the natural world, it becomes possible to nurture positive environmental stewardship of our green and blue spaces.” 

As well as doing his bit to protect our natural environment and educate others on it, he says that surfing changed his life!

Outsider Awards – Judging panel categories

Public Vote Categories!

 

By Matthew McConnell

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