Ecovillages Around the World

http://www.ecorazzi.com/2012/05/19/eco-villages-and-beyond-10-communities-across-the-world/

Here is a really awesome article about ten beautiful ecovillages around the world. Some of these we have written about in more detail (see below), but if you are interested in exploring ecovillages or just looking at beautiful pictures of ecovillages, this article is for you! Although they all differ, they have the common theme of caring about sustainability and community.

Some ecovillages are based around specific themes, such as yoga or art, yet some are simply based around gardening or permaculture. I would definitely recommend reading this article, it sparks my interest to travel the world and meet people who are also interested in sustainable living. Enjoy!

Below are a few pictures from the article, but in order to fully explore the ecovillages in all their beauty, I would recommend reading the whole article and looking through all the pictures:

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Finca-Bellavista-Treehouse-Community

eco-truly-ashram

-AR

Sources:

Ecosalon. “Eco Villages and Beyond: 10 Communities Across the World – Ecorazzi.” Ecorazzi. Ecorazzi, 19 May 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.

Sustainable Living Project- Tampa, Florida

“Working to end hunger in our community.”

The Sustainable Living Project is happening in Tampa, Florida, where a group is working to provide fresh food to local food pantries. The project is run by the organization Tampa Bay Harvest. The organization has started a garden that provides fresh vegetables to the Salvation Army downtown. The project has been active for just over a year, and produces hundreds of pounds of fresh food for the needy in the neighborhood.

The garden has an aquaculture component, and is a closed loop system, making it very sustainable and a model for any ecovillage. It is a community based project located in an urban environment, demonstrating that ecovillages can occur anywhere. Neighbors close to the project often bring their food scraps to provide compost for the garden. By creating a community initiative, the garden has created a strong neighborhood bonded through a sense of purpose. Furthermore, the Tampa Bay Harvest organization has started to teach classes about sustainable garden practices and is using education to spread sustainable living ideals.

This effort is a great example for ecovillages throughout the world. Through education and creating a strong community, sustainable living practices are demonstrated through the Sustainable Living Project.

 

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To learn more about the project, read this news article: http://tbo.com/central-tampa/sustainable-living-project-marks-one-year-anniversary-on-earth-day-20140421/

or visit their website: http://tampabayharvest.org/

-AR

Sources:

Hammett, Yvette C. “Sustainable Living Project Marks One-year Anniversary on Earth Day.” TBO.com. Tampa Media Group, 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.

Tampa Bay Harvest. “Tampa Bay Harvest.” Tampa Bay Harvest. Tampa Bay Harvest, 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.

 

The Ecovillage at Currumbin – An Ecological Success in Landscape Design – Plus: Maps!

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John Mongard Landscape Design, located in Queensland, Australia, specializes in sustainable and ecologically conscious landscaping. The company’s designs are focused on everything from urban commons to a “living classroom”. But while browsing their website, the design that caught my eye the most was what they did for the Ecovillage at Currumbin. This award winning sustainable community, nestled in 271 acres the rolling hills of south-east Queensland, barely inland from beautiful beaches, houses over 200 people. Currumbin is a relatively new ecovillage, founded in the late 1990s, but not settled until 2006.

The residents came to the community from diverse backgrounds, for their own reasons, yet they all agree that living a sustainable life is very important. The people aren’t connected in any other way, as in they aren’t religiously motivated, a cult, or anything like that. When they build their houses, the building must be up to a strict code to ensure the lowest amount of waste and emissions. There is almost no electricity. Currumbin is also very focused on restoring natural habitats and ecosystems. There is a no dog or cat policy, as to protect local animal and plant populations. The area itself has some incredible biological diversity, for example residents have spotted over 160 different species of birds alone.

A large reason for the large number of bird species is Currumbin itself. The land it is located on used to be a large farm, which wiped out any indigenous plants, forcing animals to look elsewhere to get their grub on. Because of the restoration and preservation of the natural plants by the Ecovillage, the return of animal populations has been observed over the past few years. To me, the fact that a community of people can directly influence animal and plant populations in a positive way shows how incredible ecovillages actually are. When living at an ecovillage like Currumbin, not only are you lowering your emissions, living sustainably, and becoming a healthier person, you are also helping the wildlife around you. It is amazing what happens when humans can live in harmony with an ecosystem.

Now back to John Mongard Landscape Design. Below I am posting a group of photos from their website of the maps and designs created for Currumbin. The maps include the concept, as well as “open space strategy” plans, along with two blueprints with corresponding pictures of the areas today. From the pictures you can tell how beautiful the area is, and how smartly they were able to work the buildings and structures into the landscape. By utilizing the creek and ponds for sustainable agriculture, and equipping the residents with open spaces, housing, as well as multipurpose buildings, they really have created a beautiful, natural working community.

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Sources:

Ecovillage at Currumbin website: http://theecovillage.com.au

John Mongard Landscape Design Currumbin Photos: http://mongard.com.au/key-projects-currumbin-ecovillage.php

BONUS: Cool video about the Ecovillage at Currumbin

-DJ

 

Online Sustainable Building Game!

Online Sustainable Building Game!

sust20game

New to the materials and processes that go into sustainable architecture and green building?  Check out this informative and interactive online game series where you can create your very own sustainable living space!  Once your done creating your low impact house, learn about what it takes for an entire town to live this way.  You can create your own ecovillage!

 

My sustainable house got me a score of 920! Beat THAT!

-TB

A Tiny House EcoVillage for the Homeless

A Tiny House EcoVillage for the Homeless

I just came across a pretty neat article posted yesterday by Christine Walsh about plans for a new ecovillage area as an alternate living space for the homeless people in the Quixote Village of Olympia, WA.  The area before renovations was a tent site for the homeless and thanks to Washington’s Youthbuild Program and Alternative Energy Program, the Tiny House Ecovillage is under construction.

Olympia Ecovillage planThe plans for this ecovillage really caught my eye when reading this article.  With housing units being built at less than $5,000, and communal dining/bathing areas, this plan is economically sustainable.  On top of this, the plan is aesthetically pleasing with a flowing feel among the slightly curving walkways centered around an inviting BBQ shelter and designed so no living unit is too far away from any of the different facilities.  This plan is progressive.  This plan converts an ocean of filth and litter into a beautifully sustainable living space, acting to turn around the often broken lives of its homeless inhabitants.  This plan provides for these people the chance to learn about communal living.  It provides for them the chance to work for their food by growing vegetables when seasons allow, and sharing facilities to use less resources.  This plan helps the people, the community as a whole, and the environment.

TELL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT THIS BLOG!!!

Thanks for reading 😉

-TB

What is Permaculture?

“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.” – Bill Mollison (“father of permaculture” since 1978)

So what exactly is permaculture? And how does it relate to ecovillages? On a basic level, the word permaculture is a combination of the words permanent and agriculture. Permaculture is a way of the designing the environment while considering relationships within the food system and beyond. Permaculture focuses on making reliant consumers into responsible consumers.

A major part of permaculture is a focus on biomimicry and imitating processes in nature. Recycling of waste is particularly important, because so many people do not realize that when you throw something away, there really is no “away.” Everything on the Earth is connected, so waste has to go somewhere. Therefore, it is essential to focus on reducing waste and turning the waste that does occur into something useful. Consequently, the permaculture idea becomes a cycle of reusing and reducing. Through this notion, one is able to create a system where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Permaculture focuses on the relationships in nature and the idea that everything is connected. Some examples of permaculture practices include rotational grazing, harvesting rainfall, gardening, and strategic planning. Below are the permaculture principles that guide a successful permaculture establishment. The three major ethics are care for the Earth, fair share, and care for people. On the outside of these three principles, there are a variety of other important things to consider when thinking about permaculture.

PermaculturePrinciples

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above principles are a guide to help people re-think society’s behavior and change the way we think to be more sustainable. If you would like to learn more, there are a variety of resources available. Here are some of my personal favorites, but there are many more available:

Permaculture Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren. The whole book is available from Amazon or a free summary can be downloaded from this website: http://permacultureprinciples.com/resources/free-downloads/

Article in the Daily Meal: http://www.thedailymeal.com/what-permaculture-and-how-you-can-volunteer-help-sustainable-agriculture

The website Permaculture Principles: http://permacultureprinciples.com/

 

Sources:

Epicure and Culture. “What Is Permaculture? (And How You Can Volunteer To Help Sustainable Agriculture).” The Daily Meal. Spanfeller Media Group, Inc., 17 Apr. 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.

Holmgren, David. Permaculture: Principles & Pathways beyond Sustainability. Hepburn, Vic.: Holmgren Design Services, 2002. Print.

Permafund. “Permaculture Design Principles.” Permaculture Principles. Permafund, 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.

-AR

The “Earth Odyssey” – A Quest to Inspire Sustainable Living Values Into Festivals

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Anyone who has ever been to a music festival knows about the excessive amount of waste produced during the course of a generally amazing experience. The day after people pack up their tents, chairs, and grills, shoving them into their trunks in a way less organized way than they were removed, and then drive off back into the real world, the field that previously housed thousands of people is not much but a large trash can and dead grass.  Project Nuevo Mundo, a group of like minded activists, have set out to change this stigma for the better.

David Casey, on of the creators of PNM, was interviewed by Lost in Sound about his plans and visions for the future.  Although based in Oakland, Casey has spent a lot of his time living in sustainable communities in Latin America, and co-founded a music festival in Guatemala called Cosmic Convergence. He, and twenty other people are taking buses from southern California to Central America, making stops at gatherings and setting up ecovillages in the process. They are calling it their “Earth Odyssey” and calling themselves “Econauts”, which although may make me cringe slightly, obviously fills them with a sense of pride and purpose.

Wording or labeling aside, what they achieve may be a very healthy step forward for festival sustainability, and help create ecologically conscious communities along the way. So how can a festival impact people’s ideas about sustainable living? When asked about this Mr. Casey stated, “[The festival] trains its attendees with interactive hands-on techniques on how to build up sustainable infrastructure geared towards sustaining human settlements, while simultaneously building the infrastructure during the event.” This would require the land for the festival to be owned, rather than rented, by the festival runners. So the infrastructure that is built by people when they visit stays permanently, and creates a sustainable, ecovillage-like community.

So not only will the festivals be a community gathering to experience music and art, it will also be what Casey refers to as a “transitional” experience, educating people to be able to create sustainable living communities. However I can’t see anything like this happening on a large scale, say your Coachellas and Lollapaloozas, and the tribal nature of it may turn a few people off. What Project Nuevo Mundo reminds me of is sort of a Burning Man type of deal. At Burning Man, you rely on yourself and others, creating a communal like feel, and at the end of it there is no trace left of the festival. The only difference between this and PNM is that PNM wants to leave a trace, and that trace would manifest itself in a working ecovillage.

Time will tell if the econauts vision will catch on, as far as I can tell they are still on their quest, but it does seem like an interesting idea. Being able to cut down on waste and educate folks, while at the same time giving them a unique and entertaining experience, could inspire other larger festivals to do the same.  These methods, at their grandest, could create a paradigm shift in the world of music and art festivals.  Yet all I’m really hoping for is an added interest into sustainable living, especially in big commercial businesses like festivals.

-DJ

Photo – solpurpose.com

Link to Interview – http://lostinsound.org/2013/10/14/project-nuevo-mundo-bridging-gap-festivals-sustainable-living/

Unlikely Residents : Accommodated

Perhaps because I grew up in a standard Massachusetts suburb, I have a biased view of ecovillages.   Growing up, I didn’t know anything about ecovillages, and thus did not know any adults who had chosen to live in that type of community. Even now, the only people I know who live in ecovillages are twenty and thirty-something year olds I know on a level quite different from people in my parent’s generation. Naturally, I always imagined ecovillages to be teeming with young, bright minds, and more or less bereft of older residents.

In March 2013 however, Phyllis Korkii wrote an article in the New York Times that strongly refutes my assumption. In fact, she discusses the growing abundance of elderly individuals in ecovillages. After examining this as an option for the elderly, it actually makes a lot of sense. Intentional living communities offer an alternative to nursing homes where residents can continue to experience multi-generational living. According to Korkii, “moving to cohousing is a way to avoid the isolation and depression that older people can face when they live alone”, therefore adding social and health benefits to the arrangement. Moreover, residents in villages continue to have a large voice in their community that may not be as present had they chosen to live home alone, or in a retirement home.

Many ecovillages are embracing these older residents into their communities, like Ecovillage at Ithaca in New York. This community has an age range of over eighty years! According to Mr. Fallon, an ecovillage resident in Prescott AZ, this is not uncommon. What he enjoys about his multi-generational community is that “there are structured opportunities to get together and share what’s going on in your life”. Yarrow Ecovillage in Canada even has a subset, called “Elderberry” that has been created with the intent of making life in the village accessible and age-friendly for older folks.

Though the ecovillage setting –always bustling- isn’t for the weary, I can only predict that the number of elderly residents in ecovillages will be on the rise over the next few decades. Those who pioneered the modern environmental movement are now at or approaching old age, and it isn’t an unlikely assumption that these folk desire a place where they can express their values actively.

Under Robert Gilman’s famous definition of an “ecovillage”, he has most recently included that their must be “multiple centers of initiative”. An appropriate, inclusive, and active home for older residents could definitely be one of these initiatives, and so far it seems as though communities are stepping up to the challenge to incorporate this demographic. I am amazed by the ability of these villages to meaningfully increase their age-diversity. Keeping this in mind, I am excited and confident that intentional living will grow in size as well as multiplicity.

-S.F.

 

Works Cited

(2013). Retrieved from Ecovillage at Ithaca website: http://ecovillageithaca.org

(n.d.). Aging well in community. Retrieved from Elderberry website: http://elderberrycohousing.ca

Korkii, P. (2013, March 12). In retiree housing, talking about multigenerations. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/business/retirementspecial/retirees-choose-intergenerational-cohousing.html?_r=0

Canadian Ecovillages: Perspectives on Affordability

In “Canadian Ecovillages: Perspectives on Affordability”, Russ Purvis examines the costs of living in three of the country’s intentional communities. He justified his examination by pointing out that sustainability is a common value of all ecovillages, and in order for something to be sustained it must be affordable. Though brief, his examples showcase the diversity of accomodations ecovillages harbor while assessing the reality of price in ecovillage communities.

The first place he looks at is Kakwa Ecovillage, in British Columbia. A growing community, Kakwa hopes to be financially accessible to a broad range of people, providing the option to either rent a home or buy a home. Renting a cabin can cost as little as 450$ a month, while becoming a co-op member comes at a steeper price. Moreover, the community allows new members to choose between buying or building their own home. Though in a simple, monetary sense, Kakwa is affordable, Purvis would argue that the location’s distance from schools, shopping areas and other amenities makes it less affordable and “liveable” for potential constituents. Though village-members enjoy the solace, to live in this community one must be able to handle the isolation that comes with living there.

Whole Village, located in Ontario has a few years on Kakwa, and is currently home to two-dozen people. Though affordability is also one of their main priorities, normal room rents are double that of Kakwa’s. Regardless, the community has implemented a slur of tactics to combat the high prices, including room vs. suite options, sale prices, and fundraising opportunities for lower income residents.

Yarrow Ecovillage, like Kakwa is also located in British Columbia. It is the oldest of the three ecovillages, and has the largest number of residents (65). This community catered to affordability from the start: creating a small housing area called the “quad” that is low-cost so that people who do not have a stable form of revenue can live onsite. They also offer a variety of housing options: simple rooms and domes are available, as well as fiveplexes. Perhaps the most interesting approach Yarrow uses is “sweat equity”. Simply put, prices can be alleviated in exchange for residents working within the village. In addition to supplementing residents, this also cuts down their maintenance costs.

Though I found Purvis’ descriptions fascinating, I feel that he could have done more in assessing the affordability of his places of choice. Even though housing costs are very important, how do these communities get their food? What types of jobs do community-members hold (internal? external?). What benefits do members get that they might not otherwise receive living in a standard community. This article does act as a good overview in understanding affordability and variety in villages, however it fails to examine the multiplicity of factors that play into neighborhood accessibility and applicability.

-S.F.

Purvis, R. (2013). Canadian Ecovillages: Perspectives on Affordability. Communities, (158), 44-45.

The Edge Effect

The “Edge Effect”

 Alyson Ewald’s 2012 article in Communities is not your average text on Ecovillages. Rather than making a case for living in one of these villages, she explains the under-rated appeal of living next door. Her argument lies on the basis that ecovillage living isn’t for everyone, and then builds to state that living adjacent can still reap benefits on the inner community and outside neighbors. His article, manufactured into a list, reads a bit like an annotated bibliography: below each title she digs into more detail and clarification in a paragraph-long explanation before moving on to the next. Though it isn’t clear whether Ewald’s list was sorted in any meaningful way, by reading the titles one can recognize a trend were as you count down from ten, the titles seem to become more significant. See for yourself, as I have provided her list of ten below:

  • Parties and Peace
  • A safe remove from the soap operas
  • A home away from home
  •  Edge
  • Diversity and redundancy
  • Stacking Functions
  • Sharing the Surplus
  • Hope
  • Resilience
  • Love

One of the most meaningful numbers, in my opinion, is #2, resilience. Ewald looks at this characteristic in the context of the creation of her town’s farmers’ market. Though the market started off with Ewald and two others, members of the ecovillage and Menonite growers were huge supporters that helped bring success to the new market. To Ewald, resilience means community members “play[ing] to our diverse strengths as a flexible society of local communities” (156). Like Ewald, I recognize a tie between local sharing, participation and resilience. In order to deal with climate change and other large-scale issues, community support will be crucial. My only complaint about this part of the article is that resilience, seemingly present where Ewald lives, is also present within the ecovillage. Why does he present this as something a benefit of being a neighbor, then? Perhaps it has to do with “edge”, another important part of her list.

When speaking on “edge”, Ewald compares living on the outskirts of an ecovillage to living within an edge habitat. He argues that according to permaculture practices, edge fosters diversity and growth. On the social side, he claims that it is beneficial to the neighbor because they can “gain insights on how to survive and thrive” (155) not only by close proximity to the village, but with close proximity to other players in the neighborhood. His basic point then, (for “edge” and “resilience”) is that by living close to a village, you can reap many of the social, academic, and community-based benefits of that village, but still be a part of the “outside world” where you can experience other things that are going on around you.

In regards to “sharing the surplus”, the edge factor really comes to life. Last summer, I tabled at countless farmer’s markets for a farmer-advocacy group called Rural Vermont. Even though I wasn’t vending, I was included in the strong, community atmosphere that had been created between the different vendors. In addition to taking turns covering other people’s tents while they took the occasional break, nearly every evening when the market had ended, the farmers would dance from stand to stand giving away their leftovers for exchange of product or good conversation. Though often times the tents would be set up on a separate basis, each tent would be put away thanks to a communal effort. Even though I wasn’t a member of this group of people, I was able to share and participate just because I was there.

By the end of her article, I am convinced that if I am not cut out to live in an ecovillage setting, living nearby one is a good way to participate on a smaller scale. Though the title of her article may suggest negative feelings towards intentional communities, I recognize that it simply appeals to larger demographic, giving folks who might not want to live in an ecovillage the opportunity to heighten their awareness, play a part in their community, and create an “edge” surrounding the ecovillage that radiates positive practices and newfound knowledge. And even if no one is compelled to change their address after this text, surely it can be adapted to support and improve upon “normal” community Dynamics.

-S.F.

 

Ewald, A. (2012). Good Neighbors Top 10 Reasons to Live Next to an Ecovillage. Communities, (156), 26-28.