An ecovillage is a traditional or intentional community with the goal of becoming more socially, culturally, economically, and ecologically sustainable. 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.
To achieve this goal, ecovillages include in their organization many practices such as:
Local and organic food production;
Use of renewable energy systems;
Use of low – impact materials environmental in nature (bio – construction or sustainable architecture);
Creation of social and family support schemes;
Cultural and spiritual diversity;
Circular governance and mutual empowerment, including experience with new decision-making and consensus-building processes;
Solidarity economy, cooperativism and network of exchanges;
Transdisciplinary and holistic education;
Comprehensive and preventive health system;
Preservation and management of local ecosystems;
Global and local communication and activism.
The modern-day desire for community was most 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. 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 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 eco-village 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:
They are not government-sponsored projects, but grassroots initiatives.
Their residents value and practice community living.
Their residents are not overly dependent on government, corporate or other centralized sources for water, food, shelter, power and other basic necessities. Rather, they attempt to provide these resources themselves.
Their residents have a strong sense of shared values, often characterized in spiritual terms.
They often serve as research and demonstration sites, offering educational experiences for others.
The imperative for alternatives to radically inefficient energy-use patterns, in particular automobile-enabled suburban sprawl, was brought into focus by the energy crises of the 1970s. 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 model of the ecovillage tries as much as possible to integrate the human habitat in the ecosystem naturally, through the creation of sustainable communities based on sustainable development 8. The model is already applied in several countries and focuses on the following aspects:
For the environment
Maintain, if not recreate, biodiversity,
Protect and restore natural habitats,
Develop a sustainable model of agriculture and forest management,
Use energy, water and materials efficiently
Promote an ecological way of life based on sustainable development,
Promote better use of natural resources through reduction, recovery and reuse
For the human
Provide a better quality of life based on meeting the basic needs of all,
Create an environment conducive to intellectual and emotional fulfillment, possibly spiritual
Collective decision-making process
Providing a sense of belonging and security that encourages active participation in the collective effort
Decrease the individual workload by equitably distributing collective tasks,
Mutualize collective expenses,
Reduce personal expenses by giving the individual more time for hobbies and social relationships
Improving health physical and mental through a healthy lifestyle, natural health practices,
Actively participate in the social and economic life of the community,
recreate the social bond.
For the community
Bringing young people back to rural areas,
Allow elders to share their experience and be accompanied,
Stimulate the rural economy in connection with the local urban economy,
Develop cultural life in the countryside,
To enable research and development on sustainable communities as a new model.
In addition, it may be important to train in advance, because many projects fail in the early years for lack of interpersonal tools.
Source of life, water and its cycle are essences for the maintenance of ecosystems and the human being.
The lack of water care in almost every city in the world is alarming. But the solutions are out there. For cities to be truly sustainable, there needs to be broad education and awareness, and decentralization in water treatment systems. Small-scale solutions are very important. In many regions it is a very scarce resource, and in such cases it is essential to collect rainwater and store it in cisterns.
To pump water to higher ground can be used PVC hand pump, manually built at lower cost, or by the hydraulic ram, which harnesses the energy of the water course itself. This water can be stored in ferrocement cisterns.
All water acquired from rainfall can be filtered through hydroponic biofilters of water, coal, sand and gravel. Or by means of filtering beds with sand and taboa or lily of the bush. Water used in food and in the bath can be piped and filtered in the same way as rainwater with these filters. For consumption, clay filters can be used, which are easily purchased and very cheap.
The construction industry is one of the most polluting and destroying the environment.
There is nowadays a multitude of knowledge in bioconstruction, which in addition to using ecological materials, solves a great number of problems in the dwellings, mainly with regard to energy saving and well-being. The solar position, the architecture that optimizes natural light, ventilation, heating and passive cooling, in short, there are several ways to optimize energy savings and well-being.
Some of the material options are: ecological bricks, made of pressed clay, constructions with cob, bales of straw and clay (excellent for thermal insulation), stick-a-pique, pylon taipa, etc.
For the roof, a good alternative is the so-called green roof, which has great thermal insulation power in the winter and cooling by evapotranspiration of the plants in the summer, significantly reducing energy expenditure for heating and cooling environments. The gray water can be harnessed to irrigate the green roof.
Solidarity economy and conscious consumption
The economic sustainability of a community is strengthened as exchanges become increasingly local, with the creation of a network of collaboration and exchanges, a social currency, small businesses and local incentives.
Consumption today is the measure of personal success in modern society. However, this is not always associated with quality of life and happiness, but often with the deterioration of communities and ecosystems. In addition, we are currently stuck in a system where we are forced to work, without free time, to be able to consume products that do not correspond to our needs, and to follow models of success and image created by the media.
Being aware of how we participate in the global socio-economic structure, generating concentration of income, poverty, violence, disease and ignorance, is the first step to change the system, and stop being “victims.” The second is the choice of what and how much to consume.
The organization of work within the community depends on the knowledge and skills of its members.
In many ecovillages self-sufficiency in materials, food and services has been valued. In others, there is a strong work with the public sector, visitors, work with the surrounding community, courses, projects, festivals and all kinds of activities that bring some return to the community and benefit the maximum of people.
The electric power can be generated locally by solar panels, wind generators, water mill, biogas, or other sources.
The costs are offset in the long run, with the savings generated and the sale of surplus energy to the public electricity grid, which is currently sold at a higher price than purchased.
There is now a plethora of green technologies for energy capture and use, and many still to be developed.
Circular governance, empowerment and decisions by consensus
As in every society, ecovillage also has a political and social organization. Cohabitation agreements, communication skills, emotional sharing, feedback, mediation of conflicts, and strengthening of the common vision are crucial points in determining good living.
Decisions are usually made by some consensus system or by advice. There is also a strong tendency for empowerment, that is, sharing power and responsibilities.
It refers to the culture of holistic methods of planning, updating and maintaining environmentally sustainable, socially just and financially viable human scale systems (gardens, towns, villages and communities).
Local production of organic foods
In almost all ecovillages, the production of healthy food and the care of the land, within the principles of permaculture, is a very common practice, on a small or large scale. In permaculture, contact, observation and understanding of land and local ecosystems is very important. From this, one creates a sustainable design of a very productive, resistant and beautiful system, with little use of energy and without waste.
As long as alternatives to the combustion engine do not exist, the minimum possible transport using fossil fuels would be ideal, and alternatives are the bicycle, train, public transport, hitch-hiking system and the reduction of the distance between the workplace and housing, which help a lot to reduce costs and the ecological footprint.
One smart way to treat waste is to use the dry toilet. It does not waste water and does not produce sewage. The sun, the weather and the worms do the work of turning organic matter into fertilizer. The interior can be equal to that of an ordinary bathroom, but instead of water in the discharge, sawdust.
Another alternative is biodigestors, which generate a liquid fertilizer that can be used to irrigate the ecovillage. The biogas produced from human waste is not very expressive, but can complement other sources of fuel.
Garbage goes through the selective collection, and whenever possible it is recycled or transported to recycling centers. All organic waste generated goes through a process of composting or vermicomposting and its byproduct is to be used as fertilizer for the gardens and green areas.
Gray water (sink, shower, clothes cleaning, etc.) can be treated in a tank system with filters and aquatic plants, which purify the water, thanks to the bacteria that live in its roots.
The foods consumed are produced ecologically, preferably in the own community, or in the zone or region where is the ecovila.
The construction is done using local, natural and non-toxic construction techniques and materials.
All productive activities (artisanal, industrial) take into account the vital cycles of the products used, because at any moment in this cycle they can be harmful to the environment or to health.
The produced objects must be long lasting, easy to repair and suitable for recycling.
Water and energy are consumed sparingly, purifying waste water with natural resources and using renewable energy sources.
Motorized transport is about to minimize.
The various economic activities that are carried out in the ecovillage must ensure the economic stability of all its members.
The work must be organized horizontally, favoring the participation of all the people involved in decision making.
Consumption should be preferably local, investing in products of the community itself or its immediate environment.
Health and education must be assumed, as far as possible, by the community.
Everyone must have access to truthful information about matters of their business.
Everyone must be in equal conditions to participate in decision making on community affairs.
All decisions must be taken democratically, to be with the participation of all, avoiding as far as possible the delegation of power.
The ecovillage must be a place in which creativity and expression of the singularity of every human being is favored.
A place where all sorts of meetings, rituals or celebrations are held that help maintain the group’s cohesion.
A place in which conflict resolution techniques are applied and applied.
Ecoviles usually carry out activities abroad, in order to gradually promote the new way of life that they represent.
Effective government is important to Eco-villages. It provides education charity for promotion in sustainable lifestyle[clarification needed – Much in this section is unclear or poorly phrased] (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.
Also, ecovillages look for alternative government which emphasis on deeper connections with ecology than economy.
Source from Wikipedia