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Life in an Eco-village: What goes into making a town ecologically and economically sustainable?

3 min read

Better Society
Life in an Eco-village: What goes into making a town ecologically and economically sustainable?
Source: BrightVibes

Eco-villages are essentially designed communities intending to be socially, economically and ecologically sustainable… but how does that work?

These modern neighbourhoods rely on the age-old principles of cooperation

Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people who strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low-impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more. Ecovillages are living models of sustainability. They represent an effective, accessible way to combat the degradation of our social, ecological, and spiritual environments.

Socially, culturally, economically and ecologically sustainable Ecovillages are consciously designed through locally owned, participatory processes to regenerate and restore their social and natural environments. Ecovillages are traditional or intentional communities whose goal is to become more socially, culturally, economically and ecologically sustainable. Source: Facebook/ATTN

Picture a world of empowered citizens and communities

Imagine a world living abundantly, while within its limits. A world that is regenerating rather than depleting the environment, and where cooperation and connection is rewarded. Groups like GEN, the Global Ecovillage Network, aim to create such a world by spreading the physical and cultural technology of ecovillages.

They envision a world of empowered citizens and communities, designing and implementing pathways to a regenerative future, while building bridges of hope and international solidarity. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Well, these Ecovillages exist, and they are springing up in ever growing numbers around the world.

Environmentalist Joan Bokaer developed the vision for the first eco-village, which would eventually be built on the outskirts of Ithaca, New York, while on a continent-wide walk for sustainability across the United States in 1990. In Context magazine publisher Robert Gilman helped refine the concept through his research, writing and speaking on the topic. In 1996, the first residents moved into the EcoVillage at Ithaca, and a movement was born.

According to the nonprofit Global Ecovillage Network, some 420 eco-villages exist in both urban and rural settings around the world today.

The defining characteristics of an eco-village, according to Robert Gilman’s seminal 1991 article, “The Eco-Village Challenge,” include “human-scale, healthy and sustainable development, full-featured settlement, and the harmless integration of human activities into the natural world.” Gilman also said that eco-villages should limit their populations to 150 individuals, which is the maximum size for any working social network according to the teachings of sociology and anthropology.

While the term eco-village did not come into common usage until the 1990s, the concept may in fact be older. Arcosanti, a self-described “experimental town” in the high desert of Arizona, 70 miles north of Phoenix, has been under construction since 1970 and eventually will be the home of some 5,000 forward-thinking residents.

In keeping with the concept of clustered development so as to maximise open space and the efficient use of resources, the large, compact structures and large-scale solar greenhouses of Arcosanti occupy a small footprint—only 25 acres—within the community’s 4,000-acre “land preserve.”

Residents of Findhorn, established in the United Kingdom in 1962, talk about their expriences of life in an Ecovillage in the video below.

Follow the rainbow to Findhorn Findhorn was established in 1962 and is the grandfather of all Eco-villages. The community grew out of the personal quest of three people. Source: Youtube/21Vision

Findhorn: the grandfather of all Eco-villages

Findhorn was established in 1962 and is the grandfather of all Eco-villages. The community grew out of the personal quest of three people, Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean, who found themselves homeless and living together in a small caravan, supported by welfare and trying to supplement their meager income with an organic vegetable garden. 

Their spiritual discipline slowly led to a mystical communion with the spirits of the plants, the soil, and the place. This guided their gardening until they found themselves producing near-miraculous harvests. Their story became a succession of synchronicities, leading to the establishment of the Findhorn Ecovillage and its related educational foundation, all based on a spiritually guided form of organic gardening. 

Today Findhorn has some 450 resident members and is the largest intentional community in the United Kingdom. It has been measured as having the lightest ecological footprint of any community in the country (with half the average use of resources and half the environmental impact), and it has been given a Best Practices award by the United Nations Center for Human Settlement.

See the Nomadwiki list of Ecovillages Worldwide, and also check out Mateo Sol’s 10 Eye-opening sustainable communities.

Source: LonerWolf Main Image: gen-europe.org

Finca Bellavista: tropical paradise. Finca Bellavista is a network of rustic, hand-built tree houses in the mountainous South Pacific coastal region of Costa Rica, surrounded by a jungle that is brimming with life. The off-grid, carbon-neutral tree houses are connected by aerial walkways and include a central community center with a dining area, barbecue and lounge. Gardens, ziplines and hiking trails make it even more of a tropical paradise. Source: Youtube/FincaBellavista
Make an Impact

Get involved through the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN)

The good intentions and creativity of global citizens and our willingness to make a difference are some of the most under-utilised resources. GEN helps unleash this potential. Get involved to support the work of the Global Ecovillage Network.