Ecovillages and Co-housing Communities

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Ecovillages in Wikipedia

Here is a description of ecovillages taken from Wikipedia:

Ecovillages are intentional communities with the goal of becoming more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. Some aim for a population of 50–150 individuals. Larger ecovillages of up to 2,000 individuals exist as networks of smaller subcommunities to create an ecovillage model that allows for social networks within a broader foundation of support. Certain ecovillages have grown by the nearby addition of others, not necessarily members, settling on the periphery of the ecovillage and effectively participating in the ecovillage community.

Ecovillage members are united by shared ecological, social-economic and cultural-spiritual values. An ecovillage is often composed of people who have chosen an alternative to centralized electrical, water, and sewage systems. Many see the breakdown of traditional forms of community, wasteful consumerist lifestyles, the destruction of natural habitat, urban sprawl, factory farming, and over-reliance on fossil fuels, as trends that must be changed to avert ecological disaster. They see small-scale communities with minimal ecological impact as an alternative. However, such communities often cooperate with peer villages in networks of their own (see Global Ecovillage Network for an example).

Global Ecovillage Network

An important resource is the Global Ecovillage Network or GEN which offers inspiring examples of how people and communities can live healthy, cooperative, genuinely happy and meaningful lifestyles -- beacons of hope that help in the transition to a more sustainable future with a culture of mutual respect, sharing, inclusiveness, positive intent, and fair energy exchange.

Ecovillage Living in Europe

Here is a video showing ecovillage life in Europe:

Ecovillage Living in California

The following personal description of life in an ecovillage or co-housing community is adapted from the book Voluntary Simplicity (2010) by Duane Elgin

Many of the aspects of life in a post-consumerist society can be found by stepping into life in a contemporary co-housing community or eco-village. To illustrate, my wife Coleen and I lived in a co-housing community in Northern California for nearly two years. The three core organizing principles for the community are simplicity, family, and ecology. With seventy people (fifty adults and twenty children), this was a scale of living that was small enough to create a genuine feeling of community and large enough to use our size to advantage. We lived in a newly constructed community consisting of 30 units in two-story flats and townhouses clustered in rows to establish a common green area on the interior and parking on the exterior. The common house is used as a dining area but is regularly transformed into a dance floor, meeting room, play room, and more. The common house also includes two guest rooms, an informal lending library, and a play room for small kids on rainy or cold days.

As a community, we would eat together three evenings each week and often a brunch on weekends. Each person is expected to participate in a three-person cooking crew roughly once a month, preparing food and cleaning-up for roughly fifty persons. People are also expected to participate in work crews such as landscaping, conflict resolution, or kitchen maintenance. Every other week there are meetings to run the workings of the community. Happily, these are run efficiently and expertly, attendance is high and much is accomplished. This co-chousing community also has a half-dozen commercial spaces that were connected with it, so it formed both a housing entity and a commercial enterprise.

Beyond the formal activities of operating a co-housing community were the informal ones that brought us together in strong relationships. We easily and quickly organized diverse activities ranging from fundraisers (such as a brunch for tsunami disaster relief), to arranging classes (such as yoga and Cajun dancing), and creating community celebrations and events. Again and again, we saw diverse gatherings and initiatives emerge from the combined strengths and diverse talents of the community.

Envisioning a sustainable future, diverse families will live in an “eco-home” that is nested within an “ecovillage,” that, in turn, is nested within an “eco-city,” and so on up to the scale of the bio-region, nation, and world. Each ecovillage of one or two hundred persons could have a distinct character, architecture, and local economy. Common to many of these new villages would be a child-care facility and play area, a common house for community meetings, celebrations, and regular meals together, an organic community garden, a recycling and composting area, an open space, and a crafts and shop area. As well, each would offer a variety of types of work to the local economy such as child care, aging care, organic gardening, green building, conflict resolution, and other skills that provide fulfilling employment for many. These micro-communities or new villages could craft unique expressions of sustainability as they seek meaningful work and to raise healthy children, celebrate life in community with others, and live in a way that seeks to honor the Earth and future generations.

A new village movement could transform urban life around the world. Drawing inspiration from co-housing and eco-villages, a flowering of diverse communities could replace the alienating landscape of today’s massive cities and homogeneous suburbs. Ecovillages provide a practical scale and foundation for a sustainable future and could become important islands of security, camaraderie, learning, and innovation in a world of sweeping change. These human-sized living environments will foster diverse experiments in cooperative living that touch the Earth lightly and that are uniquely adapted each locale.

Although eco-villages are designed for sustainable living, there is not the time to retrofit and rebuild our existing urban infrastructure around this approach to living before we encounter a world in systems crisis. Climate disruption, energy shortages, and other critical trends will overtake us long before we can make a sweeping overhaul in the design and functioning of cities and towns that have been a century or more in the making. We can regard eco-villages as greenhouses of human invention and learn from their experiments and adapt their designs and principles for successful living.

Without the time to retrofit cities into well-designed “green villages,” we must make the most of the urban infrastructure that already exists. Creatively adapting ourselves to this new world will produce a wave of green innovations for local living—technical, social, architectural and more. An experimental and daring new village movement will emerge as the existing urban architecture is transformed into human-scale designs for sustainable living.

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