Given that we are struggling with affordability and breaching environmental limits, we should think about how communities are set up and removing the dependence on mainstream, ecologically harmful systems. One way to do this is by setting up ecovillages and cohousing systems.
Humankind has been building settlements for ages. Some strive for higher and bigger in thriving metropolises, while others settle for small, local and somewhat natural in villages. The planet is being urbanized rapidly, and villages are losing out.
According to “Small is Necessary” – Anitra Nelson’s book, “[there are] benefits and challenges of creating smaller and more efficient living spaces using various collaborative housing models, such as cohousing, ecovillages and communal housing in cities, suburbs, peri-urban fringes and regional areas”.
An ecovillage is, according to Kosha Joubert, Executive Director of the Global Ecovillage Network, “intentional, traditional; a 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 short, eco-villages are walkable neighbourhoods, with locally grown food, locally sourced and made goods, community built around social well-being and equality, all while being climate-conscious.
The key to eco-villages, both urban and rural, is that the production and trade of goods are limited to eco-regions. Massive ecological issues exist with the business of transporting food, goods, and services across regions. While every ecovillage is unique, the Global Ecovillage Network categorizes them into two general categories, which can be found in either rural or urban settings:
- Traditional, existing rural villages and communities that decide to design their pathway into the future, using participatory processes to combine life-sustaining traditional wisdom and positive innovation.
- Intentional, created by people who come together afresh with a shared purpose or vision.
The GEN embraces a holistic approach to sustainability, integrating the Social, Cultural, Ecological and Economic areas of existence. The 4 Areas of Regeneration and the central path of integral design make up the Ecovillage Map of Regeneration – a road map to the creation of ecovillages. The GEN provides different programmes dedicated to ecovillages:
- Ecovillage Incubation: supporting the creation of new intentional ecovillages.
- Ecovillage Development: transitioning existing settlements to regenerative settlements/ecovillages.
- Greening Schools for Sustainable Communities: establishing green schools as hubs of inspiration for whole community transformation.
- EmerGENcies: rebuilding sustainable communities after a disaster or with refugees.
- Urban Eco-Neighbourhoods: establishing ecovillages within and around urban areas.
Ecovillages come in all shapes and sizes and can be found across the world: from traditional villages using age-old techniques, to modern settlements built with the latest in ecological innovations. To find out if there’s ecovillage near you, you can explore the GEN’s European ecovillages map.