7 Ways to Save the Planet in Cork City

Niamh Twomey scopes out seven ways to shop green in Cork City.

Just because you love a good burger, can’t live without your car, or can’t put a solar panel on your rented roof; doesn’t mean you can’t do something to lessen your carbon footprint.  Here are some suggestions to save the environment without making any dramatic changes to your lifestyle.  

Cleaning Products.

You can refill all your old plastic bottles at refill stations in health-food shops across Cork. It’s cheaper than buying them off the shelf!  

The legendary Quay Co-op, 24 Sullivan’s Quay, is well stocked with washing-up liquids (€3.15 per L), laundry liquids (€6.62 per 1.5L), fabric conditioner (€2.85 per L), toilet cleaner (€5.22 per L), even shampoo (€1.55 per 100ml) and hand wash (€1.75 per 100ml).  

Natural Choice, a gem of a health-food shop. Located upstairs in Paul Street Shopping Centre, it’s similarly stocked, with the addition of multi-purpose cleaner (€4.07 per L) and the friendliest staff known to man.  

Packaging-free Pamper.

There’s no excuse for having a procession of plastic bottles cluttering your shower anymore:

Lush, 96 Oliver Plunkett St., has a package-free option for everything.  Deodorant, toothpaste, hair-dye, you name it. Their solid shampoos and conditioners last for 60 washes, twice what bottles do, and they make a fervent effort to use all compostable or recyclable materials.  And if you bring back five Lush tubs they will recycle them and give you a free facemask!

But if that’s not exotic enough or you’re a sucker for liquid soaps, Rain, hidden away in Winthrop Arcade, is a must. Rain’s products are all fair-trade and handmade using natural ingredients from South Africa.  Along with their handcrafted bath bombs, their large tapped containers of smooth, oil-based soaps are a prime opportunity to reuse old bottles till the cows come home (€2.24 per 100ml).

Fruit & Veg.

There’s always the option to buy these loose, so resist the bright orange ‘49c’ signs in Lidl!

Venture into one of the many Fruit & Veg stalls in the English Market, or the Farmers Market on the Coal Quay every Saturday.  It’s fresher, you’re supporting local businesses, and you can pop it in your bag free from pointless plastic.

Another hidden gem in Cork is Siopa Gan Ainm.  Also on the Coal Quay, it offers all locally grown, seasonal produce.  Or if you’re closer to UCC, Con’s Fruit & Veg Shop on Bandon Road is a charming spot – with such a selection, it’s like standing in a fruit bowl.  

Nuts & Grains

Most of what we typically buy in non-recyclable packets is also available package-free across the city.  Just remember to bring your lunchboxes or empty jars.

Natural Choice, always on the ball with their environmentalism, have a good selection including Himalayan Salt (3.65 per kilo), pasta (3.55 per kilo) and oats (2.65 per kilo).  

At Mr. Bell’s in the English Market, they have countless different rices, couscous, quinoa, flour, beans, and much more.  And they’re well used to weighing lunch boxes and serving customers in their own containers!

Pick up a ‘Keep’ cup.

In Ireland, around 2,000,000 single-use coffee cups are thrown into landfill sites every day.  But reusable cups have become the latest trend! Not only do they keep your coffee warm for longer, but most cafés will give you a discount!

Mahers Coffee on Oliver Plunkett Street stock a sizeable selection, all under €10, as does Natural Choice and other shops around Cork.  

Keep Calm and Drink Loose Tea

Now you have your cup, all you need is tea.  We’re mad into teas in Ireland, whether you’re a staunch Barry’s drinker, Lyons addict, or herbal connoisseur. But you might be surprised to hear that polypropylene (plastic) is necessary to hold your teabags together in water, so teabags are not actually biodegradable.  But the solution is simple.

While Cork has many charming teashops, Three Spoons in the English Market is particularly good for selling teas in containers of your choice.  They sell dainty tea tins, but any old jar will work fine. Their selection is vast so lifting lids and sniffing all the different flavours is five minutes well spent.  


There’s nothing like that first week of wearing a new top, or a crisp new pair of jeans, but there are more sustainable ways to keep your wardrobe up-to-date than perusing Opera Lane.    

Charity shops may seem like your Gran’s hangout, but you can find absolute treasures from your favourite brands, or unique vintage items to make hipsters jealous.  It’s like TK Maxx but a fraction of the price, AND you’re supporting charities. North Main Street is second-hand-shop-central, between Barnardos, SVP, Concern, Gorta, Enable Ireland, there’s hours of retail therapy to be had.  Just remember to bring your own bags!

You don’t have to go completely packaging free, but why not try even one of these ideas just for one month? G’wan. I dare ya.