Ecovillages are communities that strive to live sustainably and reverse the gradual harm humans have imposed upon the planet. The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) is an organization that connects and promotes sustainable communities and initiatives. Their definition of an ecovillage thoroughly expresses the concept: “An ecovillage is an intentional or traditional community using local participatory processes to holistically integrate ecological, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of sustainability in order to regenerate social and natural environments.”
How do these communities accomplish this goal? GEN divides aspects of sustainable living into four categories. These categories are social, ecological, cultural, and economical. Socially, ecovillages foster a strong sense of community, so that each member feels included, empowered, and a strong sense of belonging within the community. This goes hand in hand with the way ecovillages commonly govern themselves through discussion to reach a consensus. Ecologically, members forge a strong connection to nature and commitment to improve humanity’s effect on the planet. Specifically, ecovillagers grow food organically and locally, use renewable energy systems, protect biodiversity, and conserve the natural resources on their site, among other activities. Many ecovillages also offer educational programming that teach these practices and sustainable living in general. further these aims. In terms of culture, ecovillages support the intersection of different values, creative expression, and forms of spirituality. Lastly, ecovillages are economically active, circulating the village’s wealth throughout the community.
Today there are 639 ecovillages registered in the GEN’s directory, spanning six different continents. One ecovillage nearby is called EcoVillage At Ithaca. The village contains two cohousing neighborhoods, which are neighborhoods in which residents take an active role in designing their neighborhood and living as a community. The EcoVillage At Ithaca has an organic vegetable farm, berry farm, community garden, and root cellar. They have devoted 80% of the site to remain green space, for ecological conservation and community enjoyment. The community cooks and eats dinner together, plans collective activities, and governs themselves with a consensus process typical of ecovillages.
Ecovillages like this one provide astounding opportunities – to become part of a cohesive community, connect to the earth, lower our ecological footprint, and ultimately, to experience a powerful and unique way of living. If you are interested in learning more or locating an ecovillage near you, explore the GEN’s directory of ecovillages.
Written by: Abigail Fagan, class of 2014
Photo by: kafka4prez, Solar dwelling at earthaven ecovillage in Asheville, NC, September 21, 2011