In today’s world, one of the most prominent environmental challenges is pollution. This ranges from air, light, and soil pollution to water and noise pollution. Human activity and the desire to satisfy human needs usually lead to specific effects on the environment.
Apart from the impact on the environment, such as climate change, these activities also affect human health. For instance, air pollution takes about 7 million lives yearly. Due to growing concerns about our world, people are developing sustainable communities committed to natural living. These are ecovillages. If you’re not entirely familiar with the concept of an eco-village, this article highlights what you need to know alongside a rundown of some amazing ecovillages.
Ecovillages exist in various parts of our planet. An eco-village is a small, intentional, and self-sufficient community to be more economically, ecologically, and socially sustainable. Sometimes small sub-communities form larger ecovillages.
According to the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), an eco-village is
“an intentional, traditional or urban community that is consciously designing its pathway through locally owned, participatory processes, and aiming to address the Ecovillage Principles in the 4 Areas of Regeneration (social, culture, ecology, economy into a whole systems design)”
These self-sufficient communities thrive on local participatory processes, striving to curb the world’s social, environmental, and economic crises. These communities thrive through intentional design, community living, governance structures, and a functioning group process.
Ultimately, the goal of these eco-villages or communities is to create solutions to reduce their ecological footprints. This means engaging in activities that regenerate social and natural environments. They can achieve this by effectively using and conserving the earth’s resources. In essence, eco-villages constitute part of the awakening of the human consciousness to embrace sustainability.
Due to the increasing global environmental, social, cultural, and economic crises our planet is facing, it only fits that we need lifestyle changes.
Cities account for about 71 to 76% of carbon dioxide emissions. Ecovillages, in this case, can be seen as a movement towards a sustainable planet and future. These communities embrace human unity as a tool to restore our first home, earth. Unlike a regular community, an ecovillage embraces a low-impact and high-quality living style. Ecovillages form around an intentional community and support local production of food, use of renewable energy and support a natural way of life.
We can trace the development of ecovillages to various origins, such as the journey of spiritual enlightenment and self-sufficiency. However, the term ‘“ecovillage” or ecovillages” didn’t become widespread till researchers Diane and Robert Gilam released a report in 19911.
Gilman defined ecovillages as:
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
They described villages that served as models for sustainable ways of living; These later became known as ecovillages. New communities sprang up, and some existing ones started identifying as ecovillages.
In Scotland, in 1995, individuals from various ecovillages met. This meeting led to the establishment of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) which facilities support for ecovillages and promotes progress towards the UN's Sustainable Development Goals via ecovillage development.
Above: Watch Douglas Stevenson talk about the history of the farm, its aims, and progress.
The Farm is one of the longest-existing ecovillages in the United States. We can trace its origins to 1971 when a hippie group discovered a land called ‘The Farm’ in Tennessee. The idea was to form something bigger than themselves.
This ecovillage upholds the principles of respect for the earth and non-violence. People know this community for practices such as alternative technologies, natural birth, creative arts, and healthy food, amongst other things.
The Farm also has a relief arm called Plenty International. This arm works to protect the rights, land, and culture of indigenous people. The Farm has over 220 community members, and although it’s usually open to visitors, this option is currently unavailable.
This short film is part of "The Journey" a unique documentary project that delves into environmental, socio-culture, and economic issues, with a questioning mind.
With its origins traced to 1962, the Findhorn ecovillage represents living according to spirituality and sustainability principles. People often view the ecovillage movement and model as a possible solution to many of the world’s problems. As a result, individuals and school groups often use the Findhorn village campus as a learning resource.
People sometimes refer to Findhorn as the mother of ecovillages. Over time, Findhorn has grown significantly and welcomes over 14,000 yearly visitors from all over the world. You’ll find organic food production, renewable energy systems, ecological building, ecovillage education, and sustainable wastewater treatments within the community. Findhorn has over 600 community members, according to GEN.
The Source is a multicultural learning community located in St. Thomas Parish in Jamaica. Blondel Shirley-Atwater is the founder of the village. She established it in 2005 as a place of ecological care for Jamaicans abroad to return to and call ‘home.’
The learning and practices within this community center around respect for natural life, including all its systems. The Source is dedicated to practices such as permaculture, natural environments, organic farming, holistic health, spirituality, and education.
As of July 2020, this community had nine permanent residents. Each member of The Source is committed to a lifestyle of regeneration in support of a sustainable world rather than destruction of the environment.
In 1991 when it sprang up, Ecovillage Ithaca was one of the few cohousing facilities in the United States. This local community, located in New York, is committed to innovation and creating a just and sustainable social space and local economy. The hometown of this community is surrounded by innovations geared toward sustainable developments.
By welcoming people to experience their way of life, this community continues to contribute to the global model of sustainable living. This ecovillage presents an alternative to living in cities or the suburbs. Through this, it presents a way of life that has minimal ecological impacts.
Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish established Sekem in 1977. Over the years, people have celebrated this initiative for its sustainable efforts, development, and giving-back initiatives. Sekem’s approach includes ethical business practices, upholding sustainable agricultural practices, and promoting a peaceful society. Its land provides items such as natural medicine and textiles.
Although it was initially an agricultural initiative, Sekem has grown to include educational institutions and a medical center. The community uses biodynamic agricultural methods, provides holistic education for individuals, and creates ethical workplaces. The processes of Sekem are motivated by the ecological and natural principles of the earth. There are currently 68 members in this intentional village.
Eco Truly Park is an artistic and peaceful community located in Peru, based on the principles of Vaishnava. The village has small mud living spaces that represent a return to the healthy and natural way of life. Members abide by the principles of a simplified life, high thinking, and non-violence. The goal is to live in harmony and peace with nature. This includes a connection with oneself, with others, and all that surrounds us.
Eco Truly Park is also a tourist destination for people looking to disconnect from the world to seek peace. The experience includes gardens, ecological lodgings, and restaurants. The village also houses an art studio, yoga centers, and natural therapy centers.
Kanchi Ecovillage is a sustainable settlement located in India. The residents in this village dedicate their lives to living in peace and harmony with nature. Within the village features rental cottages for senior citizens. They built the cottages using local materials, locally produce energy and grow food organically.
This ecovillage is committed to decreasing the consumption of the earth’s resources and restoring the ecosystem. The idea is to protect mother nature and return the resources we take and consume from the planet.
Kanchi offers all the necessary amenities and supplies needed to live a natural and comfortable life. By so doing, this encourages the residents to have minimal dependence on the outside world. Within the village, the people dedicate their practices to reducing the absorption of more resources than the earth can regenerate.
Ecovillages bring the mission and vision of an eco-friendly and sustainable future to the present. The culture and lifestyle practices are models to reduce our ecological footprint, grow our own food and bring sustainability to rural areas. Although not the only way to embrace natural living and sustainability, ecovillages serve as a model for a green lifestyle.
Dias, M. A., Loureiro, C. F. B., Chevitarese, L., & SOUZA, C. D. M. E. (2017). The meaning and relevance of ecovillages for the construction of sustainable societal alternatives. Ambiente & Sociedade, 20(3), 79-96.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.