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

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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

Peak Moment Online Video Series

Hey ecovillage lovers! Check out this awesome online video series based around the problem of peak oil and the solutions different people are coming up with across the country to lead a more sustainable life. The idea of this web series is to educate people on various possibilities and ideas for low impact living.

I chose to share this video because of a few common themes I was able to extract that I feel like hold a lot of weight in the issue at hand. To introduce the video, the woman in the purple states that “ecovillages are like research labs, socially and culturally, ecologically and economically, for what our culture will need to grow more towards in the future.” This is a key point and certainly one that resonates with people like you an me who ideally are learning to live more simplistic lifestyles. It is the over consumption of things, things and more things that has launched our natural world into an increasingly more fragile state. In turn, opportunities for low impact living are starting to become more popular as they absolutely need to be.

So I invite you to explore the Peak Moment videos for an impressive array of ideas people have put to inspiring use in their own living situations. With everything from technically complicated Geodesic Greenhouse domes at high altitudes for year round plant growth to simple garden shares amongst neighborhoods, this series will certainly keep you coming back for more. Check out the ecovillage directory suggested in the video (directory.ic.org) to find an area near you to perhaps become involved in. It’s time to do everything we can to live more sustainably, and FAST!

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

Ndanifor Permaculture Eco Village: Cameroon, Africa

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7vVZhQE2Cc

“Together we share our knowledge to create the future for a better world”

In Cameroon, Africa, people have joined together to start planning an ecovillage that will hopefully be established by 2020. The ecovillage would be located on a five acre plot of land in Bafut, Cameroon. Currently, the ecovillage is still in its preliminary stages and is being planned by community members along with an organization called Better World Cameroon.

The ecovillage will consist of a few simple buildings, including a dining hall, a learning center, and an eco-lodge. Community members recently built a composting toilet on the land, which will serve as a preliminary step to a hopefully thriving community. The emphasis in the ecovillage will be placed on caring for each other and the land and creating an inclusive community.

The ecovillage members have many amazing ideas for the future of their land. They want to use the power of their ecovillage to reconnect people to their roots. This focus will be particularly on young people, who have started to view farming in a negative lens. The ecovillage members believe that young people need to be reminded of the benefits and beauty of farming, and have confidence that their ecovillage can accomplish this. Some other positive benefits of an ecovillage in Bafut would be to promote ecotourism in the area, to stop the deforestation that is currently happening throughout Cameroon, and to manage environmental resources. The ecovillage will also have a strong emphasis on education, and will teach people about the issues above as well as solutions such as permaculture and community. Another extremely important problem that the ecovillage will attempt to address is the issue of food sovereignty. The members of the ecovillage believe that Cameroonians have lost their ability to be food secure, and will try to regain food sovereignty while educating people about this very important issue.

I believe that this ecovillage plan is not only important, but truly inspirational. The Ndanifor ecovillage demonstrates that permaculture can be done anywhere and that it is a universal concept.

Elke-hoeing
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Sources:

Better World Cameroon. “Ndanifor Permaculture Eco Village – Better World Cameroon.” Better World Cameroon. Better World Cameroon, 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.

Ndanifor Permaculture Eco Village: Permaculture the African Way. Better World Cameroon, 2013. Youtube. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7vVZhQE2Cc&gt;.

(photos taken from above website)

-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/

Metta Earth Institute: Interview

The Metta Earth Institute is a contemplative ecology center located in Lincoln, VT. Last summer, I spent 15 days at Metta Earth for an experience called the Metta Earth Leadership Training Program. It was a truly life-changing experience, and Metta Earth continues to have a profound and lasting impact on my life. On Sunday, April 6th, I had the pleasure of returning to Metta Earth to interview Gillian Kapteyn Comstock, Co-Director of Metta Earth and one of my most valued mentors. Gillian and I walked around the land, visiting the yurts, house, garden, and animals I had lived with and cared for during my time there. We discussed a wide variety of topics, from homesteading to animal care to ecovillages.

Gillian’s background involves teaching and living close to nature. She has practiced yoga for over 30 years, and takes time out of each day to meditate and focus on her practice. She is a certified yoga teacher and an original founder of the Green Yoga Association. Gillian received her bachelor’s degree in Counseling Psychology, which has led her to practice holistic psychotherapy for over 20 years. She also holds a masters in Human Ecology, which has enabled her to live a life of connection to nature while also teaching and working with others.

As we walked through the woods, we took a moment of quietude, and as I looked at the mountains that surround the valley in which Metta Earth sits, I realized how truly incredible this place is. Gillian’s warmth and wisdom only adds to the mindfulness and beauty of the location. As we walked down to the barn, Gillian explained the plans that she and her husband, Russell Comstock, have for the land. They hope to one day have an ecovillage on the property, and have already started this process by building one house that Russell’s parents currently live in. The house is a net-zero, carbon neutral home powered by renewable energy. Gillian explained that they hope to build more net-zero homes and start a community that is centered around homesteading, ecological practices, and mindfulness. They believe that an effective community will be centered around cooperation, permaculture, and gardening.

Finally, we reached the barn, where newborn lambs greeted us with loving and inviting eyes. Just 24 hours before my visit, these lambs were born. As I held one of them in my arms, I realized that I wanted to be a part of this contemplative community and create an ecovillage around the values that Metta Earth holds so dear.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

-A.R.

(photos taken by Amelie Rey at the Metta Earth Institute and are not to be used without permission from the photographer)

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.