In 1997 our journey began, with the gift of starter funds from Greenpeace Ireland.
On the 4th of November, Sean McDonagh (Chair) and Iva Pocock met the former Minister for the Environment, Noel Dempsey. Together with Dick Warner, the Irish environmentalist and patron of VOICE, they formally presented our letter of introduction and an acorn from the Glen of the Downs.
We were instrumental in bringing in Ireland Plastic Bag tax in 2002, launched a comprehensive national recycling ambassadors programme, fed 5,000 people with food that would have been rejected by shops to highlight food waste and ran numerous well-known campaigns such as the Conscious Cup Campaign, Sick of Plastic, Picker Pals and Return for Change.
In fact, we are the only non-governmental charity in Ireland that has worked consistently on waste management issues over the years.
Using up the earth’s resources poses considerable risks to the environment and human health e.g. pollution of air, water, soil and climate change and loss of bio- diversity. VOICE has been working hard to highlight the nexus between resource use and exploitation and climate change.
We have been convincing industry, government and the people of Ireland that we need to extend the lifecycle of products by adopting and promoting measures such as sharing, leasing reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and moving away from our current ‘take, make, waste’ linear models.
We know that our work makes a big difference to Ireland and its environmental wellbeing. We are proud of the incredible achievements we’ve made as a small environmental charity. It is however, our collaborative work with local authorities, schools, government agencies, communities, media, supporters and volunteers that has allowed us to be so successful. We feel that all of the above really is worth celebrating and we thank all our members, supporters and colleagues for the friendship and alliance we have shared over the past 25 years.
Previous VOICE Coordinator
The scholar-philosopher-feminist-permaculturist and activist Vandana Shiva came to Ireland in 1998 campaigning against the bio-patenting of seeds by agrochemical corporations, a fight she continues to this day. Here she is speaking in the European Parliament conference room in Molesworth Street, D2, alongside me whilst I was VOICE coordinator.
My name is Iva Pocock. I am a journalist and communications consultant. At the tender age of 25 I took up the reins of VOICE, which had emerged from the ashes of Greenpeace Ireland. We were small and nimble and creative and led campaigns on diverse issues such as the plastic bag tax, water quality, biodiverse forestry and biopatenting. I learnt so much during my time there, and was constantly inspired and honoured to work alongside many, many passionate activists.
Protest to end use of plastic bags
This photo was taken outside the customs house (where the department of the Environment used to live) in May 1998. VOICE had been campaigning for an end to plastic bags, with the help of Earthwatch and the Waste Action Group.
This photo is VOICE's Earthday Ritual of Respect for the Earth in the Iveagh Gardens, Dublin. Standing together around a circle of gorse flowers, representatives of several religions each spoke words of respect for the Earth.
My name is Gay Brabazon. I served on the board of Greenpeace Ireland. When Greenpeace International closed the Irish office, a few of us felt that the work which we were doing in Ireland was too important to walk away from, so we formed VOICE and continued the quest. For the past 25 years it has remained my opinion that the task of engaging with ongoing environmental challenges remained too important to walk away from. Knowing that VOICE is in safe hands, I have retired my seat on the board but I continue the quest.
Plastic Bag Tax introduced in Ireland
The former Minister Noel Demsey introduced the long called for tax on plastic bags. Ireland was the first country to impose a plastic bag levy. It led to a 90% drop in the use of plastic bags with an estimated one BILLION fewer bags used and the money generated was ring-fenced for a green fund supporting environmental projects. This is one of our greatest achievements and is regarded as one of the most successful environmental campaigns in the world.
Campaigner and editor.
VOICE campaigner Ciara Aucoin signs up to the10:10 campaign with minister Gormley, Duncan Stewart and Evelyn Cusack. This campaign was focussed on asking people, businesses, schools and organisations to reduce their carbon emissions in the year 2010 by 10%.
I really enjoyed the collaborative approach to environmental policy in Ireland. We worked in partnership with a diverse group of organisations and that made the work feel very coordinated, and, given the breadth of other organisations' focus, also very community driven. I have fond memories of working at VOICE.
Activist and long-time friend.
Even though food waste is very much on the agenda today, many people have been working on it in Ireland for well over 10 years. Here are some of those at the Dublin Feeding the 5,000 event in 2012 when local, regional and national stakeholders got together for the first such event in Ireland.
My name is Colum Gibson, Centre Manager at Clean Technology Cork. We have been collaborating with VOICE for well over a decade, initially on getting the Bia Food initiative up and running (this later became FoodCloud), but since then on a variety of different projects. In many ways our values and what we are trying to achieve are very much aligned – doing more with less while ensuring a sustainable and just future for all. A tough job but one that needs dedication, commitment and good bit of stubbornness - let’s keep it going!
Communications and project manager.
This photo was taken at a the 'Ditch your plastic waste at the Dail' demonstration held by environmental groups and organisations including the Zero Waste Ireland Facebook group, the Conscious Cup Campaign, Uplift, SWAN, VOICE Ireland and Friends of the Earth to deliver the petition calling for a deposit return scheme in Ireland. VOICE and Friends of the Earth launched the Sick of Plastic campaign soon after this - recognising the need to support people in taking action on single use plastics in their communities and the potential to create meaningful legislative change together.
I first joined VOICE as a volunteer helping with its Food Waste activities at the Five Lamps Festival in 2017. Soon after I was lucky to become employed by VOICE to work on communications and project manage some really brilliant projects including the Dublin Library of Things that ran as part of Reuse Month in 2018 at the Dublin Food Coop and also developed an educational resource on all things food waste for secondary schools. I loved working at VOICE and still feel very much connected to the organisation and the people that are doing such brilliant work today!
The picture is of the team of recycling ambassadors, coordinator Mindy and me the Project Manager. The Recycling Ambassador programme ran for 1 year aimed at helping everyone in Ireland improve their knowledge and practice of managing their bins. There was a newly published clearer list of recyclables agreed by relevant stakeholders: Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, the regional waste offices, Repak and the Waste industry after changes in the export market. Our ambassadors went out and delivered over 700 workshops across the country; reaching almost 25,000 people in every county in Ireland.
I have an eclectic range of experience across the community and voluntary sector always in work to empower individuals and communities to take informed action. I have been passionate about our care of the earth since I was very young and so this has been a strong thread in my work along with valuing inclusion and the margins. I am grateful that VOICE has given me several opportunities to be of service as a project manager, board member for 2 years and contributor to sustainable community programmes in West Cork.
With the help of our partners SSEAirtircity and The National Geographic Society, our Sick of Plastic Campaign was able to launch an incredibly important and visually striking exhibition called ‘Planet or Plastic?’. Through striking imagery from around the globe the exhibition told the story of plastic, starting from its invention just over a century ago to its mass consumption today. We opened in Belfast Harbour for the Maritime Festival before travelling to the Harbour plaza in Dún Laoghaire and then onto the promenade in Skerries.
The need for VOICE is greater than ever. This year Ireland signed its ‘Circular Economy Bill’ into law. We are at a tipping point where Ireland could become a country that lives within its planetary means. However, we need system change and solutions that has buy in from all partners/citizens.
We need a seismic shift in how we consume here in Ireland and now is the time to pivot to a new circular approach that makes better use of our natural resources and reduces our carbon footprint.
We have learned from experience that it is our unique approach here at VOICE that works to affect the change we truly need. We will continue to work with communities and the people of Ireland through our dynamic campaigns and programs. We will continue to push our political leaders to set ambitious targets and invest in the infrastructure we so desperately need for a truly robust circular economy and we will continue to be a dependable source of information for everyone through our reports writing and fact finding missions.
To celebrate our 25th Anniversary we held a party in Dublin city, lots of supporters, volunteers, co-workers, fellow activists, friends past and present. See our photo gallery below.
If you feel passionate about protecting our natural resources and would like to become more involved in creating positive change, please support our work by making a donation.Support us