Approximately 55 percent of humanity live in cramped cities fighting over ever-dwindling resources. Ecovillages as a sustainable way of living may be a good solution to minimize further strain to our already stressed-out planet.
Ecovillages are small, self-governed, and self-sufficient communities. As of writing, there already over 10,000 ecovillages globally as reported by the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). These green communities are becoming more popular as they use low impact activities to attain a high quality of life.
What is an ecovillage?
American philosopher Robert Gilman defines an ecovillage as a “human-scale, full-featured” community which seamlessly integrates human activities with nature in order to support a healthy and sustainable human development in multiple levels.
Although most ecovillages are found in rural areas, an ecovillage can be an intentional, traditional, or urban community. As in any small communities, ecovillages are sites of innovations. But unlike Silicon Valley which seeks to push technology forward, ecovillages are breeding grounds for innovative social solutions.
Main characteristics of a modern ecovillages
Based on multiple sources, these are the salient attributes of ecovillages:
- There are typically between 50 to 250 inhabitants, although there are communities of over 1,000 residents.
- Ecovillages make use of renewable energy.
- The settlement is characterized by green infrastructure using sustainable materials.
- Inhabitants employ organic farming and permaculture for their basic needs.
- The community is founded on co-housing principles and similar forms of supportive community.
Ultimately, using all these attributes, an ecovillage seeks to sustain a way of life that is seamlessly integrated into the natural world.
Unique milestones and benefits of ecovillages
Uses natural, renewable resources
The United Nations estimate that cities use between 60-80% of total energy while being responsible for 75% of carbon emissions. By using natural and renewable resources for energy and basic needs, ecovillages fight climate change by setting an exemplary role in pushing sustainable development in urban areas.
Supports natural regeneration
To ensure ample resources for future generations, inhabitants of ecovillages serve as environmental stewards by ensuring the community’s ecosystem is preserved through proper recycling, reforestation, habitat recovery, etc.
Promotes social innovation
Ecovillages promote diversity, consensus decision-making, and peaceful dialogue geared towards a more harmonious community.
Fosters community education
Education in ecovillages promotes egalitarian values such as respect, solidarity, diversity, collaboration, among others. This kind of community education seeks to strengthen the community’s positive and progressive values.
Advocates responsible, sustainable economies
Ecovillages are all about conscious consumption. Consumer goods within the community are typically reused, recycled, or repaired to extend their usefulness. Organic waste, meanwhile, is used for compost.
15 thriving ecovillages in the world
Founded in 1993, Lilleoru has a Flower of Life Park at the heart of it which is inspired by a spiritual pattern of creation. The community is 30 hectares with a school built on values of practical consciousness.
Nature Community (Germany)
This ecovillage in the town of Schönsee was founded in 2014. According to sources, its inhabitants include 50 adults and 15 children. The community envisions a peaceful community built on vegan self-sufficiency and free schools.
Located in the outskirts of Bad Belzig, this German ecovillage was founded in 1991 on a 15-hectare area (37 acres) with about a hundred people. The community explores innovative methods relating to love and sexuality.
Their facilities include a wide range of eco-friendly technological systems such as an ecological sewage plant and a CO2-neutral heating system.
La Montaña (Chile)
This ecovillage is a community initiative which aims to promote cultural change in societies towards a more sustainable, peaceful, and harmonious lifestyle in tune with the environment and its inhabitants. It is set in a rural area and founded in 1992.
Las Gaviotas (Colombia)
Las Gaviotas is a thriving ecosystem of about 200 inhabitants. It runs on 100% renewable energy and self-sufficient methods. It has since become a UN model for ecological development.
Sirius Community (USA)
Sirius in Shutesbury, Massachusetts is a spiritual community as well as an educational center. It was founded by former members of Scotland’s Findhorn Community in 1978. As a member of GEN, healing the planet is one of its guideposts. The community holds workshops and seminars, and hosts programs open to the public.
The Farm (USA)
The Farm is a long-running modern ecovillage in the United States. It was founded in 1971 by 320 hippies in a caravan of 80 colorful school buses in an abandoned farm in Tennessee. Today, The Farm has about 200 members and open to visitors as well as new members.
Yarrow EcoVillage (Canada)
This is a large ecovillage in Yarrow, British Columbia with over 3,000 members living in a 10-hectare land. In 2014, Yarrow EcoVillage was awarded with a “Sustainability Award” by the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce for their Groundswell Cohousing.
Ecovillage Madagascar (Madagascar)
Founded in 2013, this ecovillage is a fledgling with about 11 members. The community aims to improve the rural area’s quality of life using sustainable economic and environmental practices. They are also looking to research and restore the surrounding ecosystems.
Ndanifor Permaculture Eco-village (Cameroon)
Founded in 2010, NPE is a community-owned ecovillage association registered in 1996. The association, called Better World Cameroon, aims to use a holistic approach to environmental restoration and sustainable living.
Sankofa EcoVillage (Ghana)
Sankofa in Akan language means “return.” The ecovillage is committed to going back into sustainable means to survival, including finding resources such as food, shelter, and healthcare. The ecovillage is currently in the first phase of land acquisition.
This is probably the largest existing ecovillage in the world. It turned 50 years in 2019 and continues to thrive in its green oasis of 120 settlements, 19 farms, and six Tamil villages located within its premises.
Crystal Waters (Australia)
This ecovillage started back in 1986 and is currently home to over 200 inhabitants. Ten years after its foundation, Crystal Waters was awarded the World Habitat Award. The community earns from trade and tourism, as well as lighting industry and their educational activities.
Konohana Family (Japan)
Situated at the foothills of Mount Fuji, this ecovillage of farmers dates back to 1993. Although called Konohana Family, the estimated 100 inhabitants are not blood related, though they do consider each other family.
Sadhana Forest (India)
This is a reforestation initiative in India as well as a sustainable living community of volunteers. Inhabitants seek to revive the ecovillage’s arid land to focus on reforestation and food security.
An ecovillage is not a one-stop solution for climate change and resource scarcity. Challenges like lack of funding, zoning issues, and stereotypes often hound ecovillages worldwide. But even though ecovillages are still works-in-progress, sustainable living is a step in the right direction—away from senseless consumption and into a responsible way of life.