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An ecovillage is a traditional or intentional community with the goal of becoming more socially, culturally, economically, and/or ecologically sustainable. An ecovillage strives to produce the least possible negative impact on the natural environment through intentional physical design and resident behavior choices.It is consciously designed through locally owned, participatory processes to regenerate and restore its social and natural environments. Most range from a population of 50 to 250 individuals, although some are smaller, and traditional ecovillages are often much larger. Larger ecovillages often exist as networks of smaller sub-communities. Some ecovillages have grown through like-minded individuals, families, or other small groups—who are not members, at least at the outset—settling on the ecovillage's periphery and participating de facto in the community.
Ecovillagers are united by shared ecological, social-economic and cultural-spiritual values.Concretely, ecovillagers seek alternatives to ecologically destructive electrical, water, transportation, and waste-treatment systems, as well as the larger social systems that mirror and support them. 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 and create richer and more fulfilling ways of life.
Ecovillages offer small-scale communities with minimal ecological impact or regenerative impacts as an alternative. However, such communities often cooperate with peer villages in networks of their own (see Global Ecovillage Network for an example). This model of collective action is similar to that of Ten Thousand Villages, which supports the fair trade of goods worldwide.
In 1991, Robert Gilman set out a definition of an ecovillage that became standard for many years. Gilman defined an ecovillage as a:
"human-scale full-featured settlement in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development, and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future."
Kosha Joubert, Executive Director of the Global Ecovillage Network, more recently defined an ecovillage as an:
"intentional, traditional; rural or urban community that is consciously designed through locally owned, participatory processes in all four dimensions of sustainability (social, culture, ecology and economy) to regenerate their social and natural environments."
In this view, ecovillages are seen as an ongoing process, rather than a particular outcome. They often start off with a focus on one of the four dimensions of sustainability, e.g. ecology, but evolve into holistic models for restoration. In this view, aiming for sustainability is not enough; it is vital to restore and regenerate the fabric of life and across all four dimensions of sustainability: social, environmental, economic and cultural.
Ecovillages have developed in recent years as technology has improved so they have more sophisticated structures as noted by Baydoun, M. 2013.
Generally, the ecovillage concept is not tied to specific sectarian (religious, political, corporate) organizations or belief systems not directly related to environmentalism, such as monasteries, cults, or communes.
The modern-day desire for community was notably characterized by the communal "back to the land" movement of the 1960s and 1970s through communities such as the earliest example that still survives, the Miccosukee Land Co-op co-founded in May 1973 by James Clement van Pelt in Tallahassee, Florida. In the same decades, the imperative for alternatives to radically inefficient energy-use patterns, in particular automobile-enabled suburban sprawl, was brought into focus by recurrent energy crises. The term "eco-village" was introduced by Georgia Tech Professor George Ramsey in a 1978 address, "Passive Energy Applications for the Built Environment", to the First World Energy Conference of the Association of Energy Engineers,to describe small-scale, car-free, close-in developments, including suburban infill, arguing that "the great energy waste in the United States is not in its technology; it is in its lifestyle and concept of living." Ramsey's article includes a sketch for a "self-sufficient pedestrian solar village" by one of his students that looks very similar to eco-villages today.
The movement became more focused and organized in the cohousing and related alternative-community movements of the mid-1980s. Then, in 1991, Robert Gilman and Diane Gilman co-authored a germinal study called "Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities" for Gaia Trust, in which the ecological and communitarian themes were brought together.
The first Eco-Village in North America began its first stages in 1990. Earthaven Eco-Village in Black Mountain, NC was the first community called an Eco-Village and was designed using permaculture (holistic) principles. The first residents moved onto the vacant land in 1993. As of 2019 Earthaven Eco-Village has over 70 families living off the grid on 368 acres of land. The ecovillage movement began to coalesce at the annual autumn conference of Findhorn, in Scotland, in 1995. The conference was called: "Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities", and conference organizers turned away hundreds of applicants. According to Ross Jackson, "somehow they had struck a chord that resonated far and wide. The word 'ecovillage'... thus became part of the language of the Cultural Creatives."After that conference, many intentional communities, including Findhorn, began calling themselves "ecovillages", giving birth to a new movement. The Global Ecovillage Network, formed by a group of about 25 people from various countries who had attended the Findhorn conference, crystallized the event by linking hundreds of small projects from around the world, who had with similar goals but had formerly operated without knowledge of each other. Gaia Trust, Denmark, agreed to fund the network for its first five years. Today, there are self-identified ecovillages in over 70 countries on six continents.
Since the 1995 conference, a number of the early members of the Global Ecovillage Network have tried other approaches to ecovillage building in an attempt to build settlements that would be attractive to mainstream culture in order to make sustainable development more generally accepted. One of these with some degree of success is Living Villages and The Wintles where eco-houses are arranged so that social connectivity is maximised and residents have shared food growing areas, woodland and animal husbandry for greater sustainability.
The principles on which ecovillages rely can be applied to urban and rural settings, as well as to developing and developed countries. Advocates seek a sustainable lifestyle (for example, of voluntary simplicity) for inhabitants with a minimum of trade outside the local area, or ecoregion. Many advocates also seek independence from existing infrastructures, although others, particularly in more urban settings, pursue more integration with existing infrastructure. Rural ecovillages are usually based on organic farming, permaculture and other approaches which promote ecosystem function and biodiversity.Ecovillages, whether urban or rural, tend to integrate community and ecological values within a principle-based approach to sustainability, such as permaculture design.
Johnathan Dawson, former president of the Global Ecovillage Network, describes five ecovillage principles in his 2006 book Ecovillages: New Frontiers for Sustainability:
Effective governance is important within Eco-villages. It provides a model to implement and promote sustainable lifestyles (Cunningham and Wearing, 2013). While the first generation of ecovillagers tended to adopt consensus decision-making as a governance method, some difficulties with consensus as an everyday decision-making method emerged: it can be extremely time-intensive, and decisions too often could be blocked by a few intransigent members.More recently many ecovillages have moved toward sociocracy and related alternative decision-making methods.
In addition, ecovillages look for alternative government with emphasis on deeper connections with ecology than economy.
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The Findhorn Foundation is a Scottish charitable trust registered in 1972, formed by the spiritual community at the Findhorn Ecovillage, one of the largest intentional communities in Britain. It has been home to thousands of residents from more than 40 countries. The Foundation runs educational programmes for the Findhorn community, and houses about 40 community businesses such as the Findhorn Press and an alternative medicine centre.
The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) is a global association of people and communities (ecovillages) dedicated to living "sustainable plus" lives by restoring the land and adding more to the environment than is taken. Network members share ideas and information, transfer technologies and develop cultural and educational exchanges.
A commune is an intentional community of people sharing living spaces, interests, values, beliefs, and often property, possessions, and resources in common. In some communes, the people also share common work, income or assets.
A permanent autonomous zone (PAZ) is a community that is autonomous from the generally recognized state or authority structure in which it is embedded. PAZs are not controlled by any government.
Diane Gilman (1945–1998), was a painter, potter, writer and co-founder of the Context Institute. She played a key role in the initial development and coordination of the Global Ecovillage Network, a support network for model communities to show how to live more sustainably on the planet, in urban, rural, developed and less developed situations. In 1991, she and her husband, Robert Gilman co-wrote Eco-Villages and Sustainable Communities, a seminal study of ecovillages for Gaia Trust.
May East is a British/Brazilian educator, spatial planner, singer and songwriter. Over the years she has alternated voices of advocacy with voices of inspiration and considered herself an artivist.
The Ecovillage Training Center is a "total immersion school" for sustainability. It is located at The Farm, an intentional community/ecovillage in Summertown, Tennessee, USA. The curricula of the center are "holistic and comprehensivist" and foster hands-on learning.
The Craik Sustainable Living Project (CSLP) is a nonprofit organization for sustainable development that aims to advance the local use of more ecologically sound technologies and ways of living in rural Saskatchewan, Canada. The four key components of the project are the eco-centre, outreach and education programs, community action, and the ecovillage.
Sustainable cities, urban sustainability, or eco-city is a city designed with consideration for social, economic, environmental impact, and resilient habitat for existing populations, without compromising the ability of future generations to experience the same. These cities are inhabited by people whom are dedicated towards minimizing required inputs of energy, water, food, waste, output of heat, air pollution - CO
2, methane, and water pollution. Richard Register first coined the term "ecocity" in his 1987 book Ecocity Berkeley: Building Cities for a Healthy Future, where he offers innovative city planning solutions that would work anywhere. Other leading figures who envisioned the sustainable city are architect Paul F Downton, who later founded the company Ecopolis Pty Ltd, as well as authors Timothy Beatley and Steffen Lehmann, who have written extensively on the subject. The field of industrial ecology is sometimes used in planning these cities.
Findhorn Ecovillage is an experimental architectural community project based at The Park, in Moray, Scotland, near the village of Findhorn. The project's main aim is to demonstrate a sustainable development in environmental, social, and economic terms. Work began in the early 1980s under the auspices of the Findhorn Foundation but now includes a wide diversity of organisations and activities. Numerous different ecological techniques are in use, and the project has won a variety of awards, including the UN-Habitat Best Practice Designation in 1998.
Diana Leafe Christian is an author, former editor of Communities magazine, and nationwide speaker and workshop presenter on starting new ecovillages, on building communities, and on sustainability. She lives in an off-grid homestead at Earthaven Ecovillage in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, U.S. She has said that living in an intentional community "is the longest, most expensive, personal growth workshop you will ever take."
Regenerative design is a process-oriented whole systems approach to design. The term "regenerative" describes processes that restore, renew or revitalize their own sources of energy and materials. Regenerative design uses whole systems thinking to create resilient and equitable systems that integrate the needs of society with the integrity of nature.
Ecological design or ecodesign is an approach to designing products with special consideration for the environmental impacts of the product during its whole lifecycle. It was defined by Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan as "any form of design that minimizes environmentally destructive impacts by integrating itself with living processes." Ecological design is an integrative ecologically responsible design discipline. Ecological design can also be posited as the process within design and development of integration environmental consideration into product design and development with the aim of reducing environmental impacts of products through their life cycle.
This page is an index of sustainability articles.
The natural environment, commonly referred to simply as the environment, includes all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth.
Alberto Ruz Buenfil is a native of Mexico whose work is dedicated to social change, environmental sustainability, and the performing arts. He co-founded two international theater groups as well as Mexico's first ecovillage, known as Huehuecoyotl. He led the 13-year Rainbow Peace Caravan, an international effort to promote sustainable design and permaculture, as well as theatrical performances, across seventeen countries of Latin America. He was also funded by Ashoka from 2002 to 2005, and received in the name of the Rainbow Peace Caravan, the prize "Escuela Viva" from the Brazilian President Lula da Silva and Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil, as one of the 60 most advanced projects in education in the country.
Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage also known as Avalon Gardens, is a sustainable community and ecovillage started in 1994 by Global Community Communications Alliance. The ecovillage is located in Tumacacori, Arizona, south of Tubac, Arizona in the Santa Cruz Valley and consists of over 100 residents. Its sustainable practices include recycling, composting, organic gardening, rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling, alternative energy sources, eco-architecture, resource management, and human consumption management.
Low-impact development (LID) has been defined as "development which through its low negative environmental impact either enhances or does not significantly diminish environmental quality".
Paul Yeboah, is an educator, farmer, permaculturist, community developer, and social entrepreneur. He is the founder and coordinator of the Ghana Permaculture Institute and Network in Techiman, Ghana, West Africa. It is located in the Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana. The purpose of the Institute is to build and maintain a stable food system, to take care of the local ecosystems, and to improve the quality of life in the rural areas. The GPN trains students and community in sustainable ecological farming techniques. They support projects throughout Ghana; women groups, micro-finance projects; teach growing moringa; mushroom production; alley cropping, food forests development and Agroforestry.
Kellogg, W. Keating, W. (2011), "Cleveland's Ecovillage: green and affordable housing through a network alliance", Housing Policy Debate, 21 (1), pp. 69–91
Cunningham, Paul A. and Wearing, Stephen L.(2013).The Politics of Consensus: An Exploration of the Cloughjordan Ecovillage, Ireland.[electronic version]. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal.5(2) pp. 1–28