What are ecovillages?

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A global movement is underway to design and live in ecovillages, but what are they and what can they offer?

As defined on the Global Ecovillage Network site (GEN): An ecovillage is a community which uses local participatory processes to holistically integrate ecological, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of sustainability in order to regenerate social and natural environments.

Sounds a bit  hippy to me, and in many ways they are.  But these villages are also seeking to return communities to supportive social structures with sound sustainability planning, and the concept has given legitimacy by some projects being named among the United Nations’ top 100 listing of Best Practices, as excellent models of sustainable living.

Kosha Joubert, GEN’s Executive Director explains ecovillages at TEDx

So what are the ket concepts of an ecovillage?

THE SOCIAL DIMENSION – Ecovillages are communities in which people feel supported by and responsible to those around them. They provide a deep sense of belonging to a group. People are then able to participate in making decisions that effect their own lives and that of the community on a transparent basis.

THE CULTURAL/SPIRITUAL DIMENSION – Most ecovillages do not place an emphasis on particular spiritual practices, but ecovillages respect and support – the Earth and all living beings on it; cultural and artistic enrichment and expression; and spiritual diversity.

THE ECOLOGIC DIMENSION – Ecovillages allow people to experience their personal connection to the living earth. People enjoy daily interaction with the soil, water, wind, plants and animals. They provide for their daily needs – food, clothing, shelter – while respecting the cycles of nature, including:

  • Growing food as much as possible within the community bio-region supporting organic food production there
  • Creating homes out of locally adapted materials Using village-based integrated renewable energy systems
  • Protecting biodiversity
  • Fostering ecological business principles
  • Assessing the life cycle of all products used in the ecovillage from a social and spiritual as well as an ecological point of view
  • Preserving clean soil, water and air through proper energy and waste management
  • Protecting nature and safeguarding wilderness areas

THE ECONOMIC DIMENSION – As local groups and communities create their own local scrip currencies and exchange systems.

Well the concept has certainly taken off and there are now 100s of ecocommunities around the world.


I saw a side event presentation on Ecovillages at the UN Climate Change COP22 meeting in Marrakech yesterday. In addition to the cultural and social values of the communities, the sustainability credentials of the villages were being emphasised. These included local water harvesting and the potential to plough biochar into soils to increase fertility and carbon sequestration.

In fact the proponents claimed that if only 10% of the earths surface undertook this type of soil ploughing then it would soak up all of the excess carbon emissions globally – a bold claim and one that would need validation. But even if validated it would be a huge effort to undertake such a mammoth task.

However with the global network of ecovillages and their community support, these projects could certainly engage in this no-regrets strategy which would at least contribute to global carbon sequestration targets.

So find an ecovillage near you and sign up to live the life we perhaps all should be considering.

[Feature image: The original ecovillage? The hobbit hovels of Hobbiton (image from Placestoseeinyourlifetime.com)]


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