Have you ever thought of escaping the “rat race” and the stresses and strains of modern day life to pursue a calmer, sustainable, more social and spiritual existence? I think this might have crossed a lot of people’s minds at some point or another, and now, more and more people around the world are turning their dreams into reality.
The growth in the number of ecovillages is staggering! Just a quick Google search will list dozens of projects around the world already under construction or being planned for this year alone.
The word “commune” to the majority of people, conjures up images of the 1960s and 1970s – Hippies, Flower Power and Peace. This was the start of eco communities … and it was due to this communal youth movement that the popularity of ecovillages is thriving today.
What Are Ecovillages?
Ecovillages are completely different to “housing estates” as they provide models for sustainable living and endeavour to provide urban or rural communities with a low-impact way of life. They do this through ecological housing, alternative energy systems, rainwater harvesting, water treatment and storage, permaculture, recycling waste, aquaponics and vertical gardens – to name but a few.
The main difference between housing estates and ecovillages is that people living in these ecovillages want to be part of the community, to share the work and social life and, above all, to provide an environmental, social, and economical solution to the problems the world faces today.
These communities vary tremendously – from houses made from whisky barrels and straw bales to high-tech houses with greenhouses attached.
History of Ecovillages
An organisation called the Gaia Trust in Denmark was co-founded in 1987 by a business man called Ross Jackson. Ross, and his wife Hildur, set up the Gaia Trust, which is a charitable entity, to encourage a more sustainable and spiritual world through grants and practical initiatives. The Gaia Trust’s mission is “to promote a new, global consciousness which sees our entire planet as a living organism with Humankind as an integral part of the entity.”
Towards the end of the 1980s, an ecovillage at Findhorn, Scotland was established, complete with eco-friendly buildings and a wind generator for producing energy. The site had been set up years before, where community members lived in caravans and cedar wood bungalows.
The Findhorn community was registered as a Scottish Charity in 1972 called “The Findhorn Foundation” and it grew to about 300 members during the 1980s.
In 1991, Robert Gilman and Diane Gilman co-authored a study for the Gaia Trust called “Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities” and in the autumn of 1995, a conference of the same name was hosted at the Findhorn Foundation. After the conference, many of these communities called themselves “Ecovillages” and the movement grew and grew. Hundreds of similar projects around the world are now linked together by the “Global Ecovillage Network” (GEN) and the Gaia Trust funded this network for the first five years.
The Global Ecovillage Network operates as an umbrella organisation for ecovillages and is divided into three regions: ENA – the Ecovillage Network of the Americas which extends from Canada to South America, GEN-Europe and GENOA which has networks in Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and developing networks in Japan, India and other countries in Oceania/Asia.
Ecovillages are flourishing across the world and there are dozens of new ones being planned or under construction this year. There are some very exciting hi-tech eco-communities scheduled – some of which are already under development.
In the UK, a large eco-community is well underway near St Austell in Cornwall. West Carclaze is a fantastic project by developer Eco-Bos, and will provide 1500 houses, with at least 450 affordable. The site also includes self-build and custom build plots. The development is set in 500 acres, and 350 acres of the land will be green open space. Facilities will include a primary school, community centre, health care facilities, shops, cafés, pubs, picnic areas, lakeside boardwalks, open heathland, woodland, parks, allotments and trails for horse riding, walking and cycling.
The idea for this development is “to positively transform more than 500 acres of former china clay land in mid-Cornwall to create a vibrant and sustainable new eco-community with beautiful homes, excellent community and leisure facilities and an extensive country park.”
Carclaze is an example of what can be created using modern day skills and technology and is one of 14 similar projects due to be launched in the UK.
ReGen villages are building their first high-tech pilot scheme near Amsterdam in Almere, Netherlands, designed by Danish architects Effekt. The communities will be off-grid, sustainable and self-reliant by growing their own organic food, generating all their own energy, recycling water and managing waste products.
Each house will have a large greenhouse attached so that residents can grow their own organic fruit and vegetables as well as aquaponics and vertical gardens.
They plan to develop another in Ede, Netherlands and similar ecovillages in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the UK and the USA.
Have a look at this YouTube video (video by Regen Villages)
ReGen’s vision is about “Engineering and facilitating the development of integrated and resilient neighborhoods that power and feed self reliant families around the world. IoT-integrated infrastructure enable thriving communities with surplus energy, water and organic food in the aggregate become asset classes that can amortize and reduce mortgage payments. Partnering with regional land developers, architects, construction, universities and brand manufacturing firms to maximise cost-benefit efficiency that enable global scaling of development projects.”
Take a look at ReGen’s website.
For anyone wanting to learn more about sustainability, The Gaia Trust has set up Gaia Education, which provides an online programme called “Design for Sustainability”. The courses offered are “Social Design”, “Ecological Design”, “Economic Design” and “Worldview”. The courses are available in English, Spanish and Portuguese and last for eight weeks. They can be studied individually or as a complete course. Please look at Gaia Trust’s website for details.
Are You Interested in Getting Involved in an Ecovillage?
If you are interested in starting an ecovillage, or want to get involved in creating one, then please email Save the Earth. I know they’d love to hear from you!
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Are you intrigued to know more about ecovillages? Do you wish to connect with like-minded individuals and share ideas about sustainable living? If so, join our Facebook group and talk to us about setting up your own eco community!