What is an ecovillage?
Ecovillages as an ecological alternative
Ecovillages are small, self-sufficient communities that live from and for their natural surroundings. There are more than 10,000 ecovillages in the world, mainly in rural areas where their inhabitants build societies based on cooperation, self-sufficiency, renewable energies and ecological materials. Find out how they work...
Ecovillages or ecological communities
The origin of these communities is unknown, but they received international recognition in 1995 during a global meeting of ecovillages held in Scotland. This symposium led to the creation of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), which laid the foundations of the current movement and now a bridge that connects thousands of projects on five continents.
In 1991, American philosopher Robert Gilman, one of the main theorists of these ecological communities, defined them as human-scale, full-featured settlements 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.
The development of ecovillages is based on one basic principle: concern for people and the environment. They encourage a way of life characterised by solidarity and ecology, where members of a community help each other to create more ethical, fairer and more egalitarian societies.
Ecovillages usually have between 50 and 250 inhabitants, although some have more than 1,000. The entire population has shared objectives and they work together to achieve them. How? They organise regular meetings where they share experiences and drive sustainable economic, societal, cultural and environmental practices.
The benefits of ecovillages
Aprovechan los recursos naturales
El respeto a la naturaleza incluye el uso de energías renovables como la solar y la eólica. También la construcción con materiales ecológicos como el barro, la madera o la paja.
They use natural resources
Respect for nature includes using renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. They also build with ecological materials like mud, wood and straw.
They educate the community
Ecovillages promote positive values like ecology, solidarity, equality, tolerance, generosity, diversity, hospitality, respect, collaboration among people and self-sufficiency.
Commitment to these ideals encourages dialogue and participation in communities that resolve disputes through discussion and whose members are more likely to take part in decision making.
They choose regenerative technologies and activities, such as bioclimatic architecture and organic agriculture, and do not use machinery or chemical pesticides that harm the land. They therefore consume less energy and are favour the fight against global warming.
Ecovillages contribute to sustainable development
Around 3,500 million people — that's 50% of the world population — live in cities. According to the United Nations, this number will have risen to 5,000 million by 2030. According to this organisation, the metropolis — barely 3% of the world's land area — uses between 60% and 80% of total energy and produces 75% of carbon emissions.
The United Nations warns that urbanisation is also threatening fresh water supplies, waste water and public health. The international community fears that the damage may be irreversible, which has drawn attention to the sustainable model in ecovillages. They set an example of how to make progress without endangering the future of the planet.
The best GEN initiatives in 2017 — which received the Hildur Jackson Award — were an alternative childbirth centre in Kenya, a project in Mexico to rebuild areas affected by earthquakes in Puebla and Chiapas in a sustainable manner, and a plan to build accessible homes with scrap materials in rural areas of India.
In its last annual report (2017) the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) said that there were around 10,000 ecological communities in 114 countries,
35 state networks, 135 GEN ambassadors, 130 trainers, 32 associations and 23 governments interested in implementing this type of programme internally. These are some of the most successful ecovillages:
- La Montaña (Chile). Operating since 1992, it offers voluntary jobs of from one to twelve months to integrate in community life. It promotes an environmentally friendly and sustainable way of life.
- Yarrow EcoVillage (Canada). Founded in 2001, it occupies an old, ten-hectare dairy farm. It is divided into residential and farming areas. There is a project to grow and create a town with capacity for 35 homes.
- The Farm (USA). Created in 1971 and with 220 members, it is one of the largest and oldest ecovillages in the country. It has received several awards for its activism to uphold native American rights.
- Las Gaviotas (Colombia). Founded in 1971 by a group of engineers and scientists who aspired to live a sustainable life. From 1980 to 1990, they ran a hospital to care for the indigenous people. They developed several inventions to help the community.
- Konohana Family (Japan). This ecovillage at the foot of Mount Fuji was set up in 1993. The almost 100 inhabitants consider each other family, although they do not share blood ties. This is a farming community.
- Crystal Waters (Australia). This dates back to 1986 and is home to more than 200 people. In 1996, it received the World Habitat Award and makes its living from trade, tourism, the lighting industry and educational activities.
- Ecovillage Madagascar (Madagascar). This started in 2013 and has 11 members. They work to improve the quality of life of the rural population, instil sustainable economic and environmental practices in them and investigate and restore natural areas.