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Alternative Living – Eco-Village…

February 10, 2016

Ecovillages are another type of intentional community. The goal of its inhabitants is to be more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. The usual number of residents is between 50 and 150 individuals, although some are smaller. Networks of ecovillages can increase the number substantially – up to 2,000 individuals in some cases. This networking can include individuals, families, or other small groups that settle on the periphery of the ecovillage and then effectively participate in the ecovillage community.

SiebenSieben Linden Ecovillage

The base belief for all ecovillage residents is to find alternatives to ecologically destructive systems commonly used by the majority of the population, such as electric, water, transport and waste treatment. Their mandate is to break away from wasteful consumerism, natural habitat destruction, urban sprawl, factory farming and reliance on fossil fuels. In addition there is a return to traditional community living, leading to a richer and more fulfilling way of life. With the model being small scale communities the ecological impact is minimal.

The term ecovillage was first mention by Professor George Ramsay when he described the small-scale, car-free, close-in development, which included suburban infill as a “self-sufficient pedestrian solar village” in 1978.

FindhornAn eco-house at Findhorn Ecovillage with a turf roof and solar panels.


These villages have developed from the communities characterized by communes in the 1960’s and 1970’s through to the co-housing in the 1980’s onto a more ecological and community themed existence.

The ecovillage movement has expanded globally since the conference in Scotland in 1995 with the formation of the Global Ecovillage Network, which now links hundreds of small groups that previously had no knowledge of each other. Today there are ecovillages in 70 countries on six continents. The mandate is to attract mainstream culture in building sustainable developments, such as Living Villages and The Wintles where eco-houses allow maximum social connection with the added benefit of shared food growing areas and woodland and animal husbandry. Encouragement is given to reduce energy use, create sustainable local businesses, localize farming and create environmentally minded communities.

Tallebudgera Mountain and vegetable garden at the Currumbin Ecovillage in Queensland.

Ecovillage residents respect their environment and grow the bulk of their food organically, use local materials for building, protect biodiversity, maintain growing seasons and protect local water, soil and air quality. Income is typically generated from the retail sales of products and services.


Five ecovillage principles from Ecovillages: New Frontiers for Sustainability:

  1. They are not government-sponsored projects, but grassroots initiatives.
  2. Their residents value and practice community living.
  3. Their residents are not overly dependent on government, corporate or other centralized sources for water, food, shelter, power and other basic necessities. Rather, they attempt to provide these resources themselves.
  4. Their residents have a strong sense of shared values, often characterized in spiritual terms.
  5. They often serve as research and demonstration sites, offering educational experiences for others.


Would this kind of community appeal to you?

Alternative Living – CoHousing…

February 3, 2016


Photo: The Sunward Co-housing community – Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2003.

Another intentional community option in alternative living is co-housing. This consists of private homes supplemented by shared facilities. The residents plan, own and manage the community through the purchasing of land, building of structures and also detail the shared activities for residents, such as cooking, dining, gardening, child care etc. They also create a non-hierarchical body, which has a consensus decision-making role for the community as a whole. Individuals take on leadership roles, such as being responsible for coordinating a gardening project or facilitating a meeting. These residents put the plans into practice for the shared facilitates, that may include guest rooms, recreational features, offices and even internet access. This system encourages interaction among the neighbors for not only practical and social benefits but also environmental and economic ones.

This manner of living began in Denmark in the 1960’s when groups of families being dissatisfied with the existing housing model, organized 50 families to organize a community project in 1967. The result was the oldest known modern co-housing community, Saettedammen.

Most co-housing groups seek to create a multi-generational community although some are for seniors only. The design can vary from one co-housing unit to another depending on what the residents feel is most important. A Sihevuan, which is a quadrangle design of housing in China is similar to co-housing in that the residences share a courtyard.

Co-housing has become more and more popular and there are hundreds of them in Denmark and other countries in northern Europe, such as the Netherlands which has 73 mixed-generational and 231 senior communities.. The United States has 120 operating communities and another 100 in the planning stages. In Canada we have 11 completed communities and 19 being planned. Co-housing only started in the U.K in the 1990’s but now has 14 purpose built and 40 plus more in the development stages.


To give you an idea of how these communities look – the U.K’s projects range from 8  to around 30 households. Although most are mixed with single people, couples and families some have been created for specific demographics, such as people over 50 and even one for only women over 50 years.

The structures can be newly built homes or conversions of farms, mansions or even former hospital buildings. They can be urban, semi-rural or even rural. It can be a mixture of low-rise apartments, townhouses or a cluster of detached houses. The common denominator is a shared green space where vehicles are kept to the periphery to ensure interaction with neighbors, gardening/food produce and the safety of children is predominant. With the structures clustered together this type of community addresses the problem of suburban sprawl.

Other options for creating a co-housing community is to purposely buy adjacent properties and remove the fences. This is also called intentional neighborhoods. A common house for building for shared activities can be built later.


Co-housing residents do not have shared economy or a common set of beliefs or religions but invest in the creation of a interconnected community which is socially rich. Typically there is a low turn over of residents in co-housing sites as they are designed with the residents needs in mind rather than a developers views on what can sell.








I have to say this kind of living alternative appeals to me. Each family unit has their own space but also have the option to converse and share activities with their close neighbors. I would think it stops the loneliness for single seniors and gives young couples the opportunity to have carers they know for their children. As we all know not everyone lives near family.

Would you consider an alternative living option?



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