Eco villages are made up of groups of people who have the same ecological, socio-economic and spiritual values. The people of the villages have often made a decision to use alternative sources of energy for electricity, water and sewage systems. They believe that the modern consumerist lifestyle we now lead is wasteful and destructive and that the only way to avert an environmental disaster is to lead this alternative lifestyle which has a minimal ecological impact on the local environment.
In 1991 Robert Gilman who was a “thinker on sustainability” researched and wrote about eco-villages with his late wife Diane. In an article entitled “The Eco-Village Challenge” that they wrote in the magazine “In Context”, they defined the eco-village as:-
“A human scale full featured development in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development that can successfully be continued into the foreseeable future”.
Eco-villages are a modern day equivalent of the communes of the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s the movement became more organised and focused and eco-villages were formed. Today there are over 70 eco-villages across 6 continents.
The main blueprint for eco-villages is to provide the community with fuel, food and fibre using sustainable resources with minimal environmental impact. Rural eco-villages are more independent from the main infrastructure and rely on organic farming and permaculture, although some do integrate into the local community. In more urban areas eco-villages pursue a more sustainable integration with the local infrastructure. These two different ways of living often work very well alongside each other.
An eco-village relies on:-
“A green infrastructural capital”.
“This is any physical means of production or means of protection which can be gathered or found directly in nature, i.e. beyond natural capital. “This may include tools, clothing, shelter, irrigation systems, dams, roads, boats, factories or any physical improvements made to nature”.
“Autonomous eco-buildings designed to minimize the ecological footprint”
These buildings are designed to be operated independently from the main infrastructural support services such as the electricity, gas and water systems and in some cases public roads.
Renewable energy comes from natural resources such as sunlight, rain and wind which can be easily replenished (I will write about this in more depth later).
This is a way of designing human settlements and agricultural systems that are based on natural ecologies. The aims of permaculture are to maximise and minimise work, and to provide systems suitable for human needs to harmlessly integrate the land with its residents.
The main goal of most eco-villages is self sufficiency, ie to provide its inhabitants with all its needs on site. In some cases however this is not possible as it could cause conflict with the local infrastructure. Some eco-villages are happy to fit in with the local community and buy local to support the economy, producing food and distributing it locally. The residents also support “moral purchasing”, ie buying food and clothing that comes from an ethical source where the impact on humans, animals and nature is minimal.
The other aims of the eco-village are “consensus decision making”, ie all decisions are made by the group as a whole. Respecting diversity is another aim, ie respecting other people’s opinions on a whole range of topics such as politics and race even if they are different to your own.