An ecovillage is a human-scale full-featured settlement 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.
- Robert Gilman, 1991
Ecovillages are examples of an integral and holistic approach to human life and settlement. They provide for most of our basic human needs, and also take into account the impact on the larger society/ecology and future generations. It is an approach closely aligned with the Cultural Creatives, who weave together strands from a variety of movements from the last few decades: social justice/peace, ecology, holistic health, consiousness.
Role in Society
Ecovillages function as a laboratory. They are places where new social and technological tools/approaces are explored, developed, implemented and refined. These can then be implemented by others and possibly the wider society.
Ecovillages function as a model and they disseminate their lessons through visitors to the ecovillage, educational events and publications.
Altough ecovillages share many features and intentions, there is a wide range of forms of ecovillages.
- Rural vs. Urban
Some are in cities, others in rural settings.
- Close to Mainstream vs. Experimental
Some ecovillages are close to mainstream in their appearance and function, others explore alternatives to the mainstream. Both can be on the leading edge in terms of sustainability and providing for basic and deep human needs.
- New vs. Adaptive Reuse vs. Transforming
Some are new, some reuse buildings and complexes, others transform existing villages and neighborhoods.
- Small vs. Large
Some have only a few individuals, others several hundred.
- Light vs. Dark Green
Some are taking initial steps towards becoming more ecologically sustainble, others are at the leading edge.
New ecovillages, built from scratch. These will always be for a limited number of people with a strong motivation and the opportunity.
Examples: Ithaca, New York; Findhorn, Scotland; Dancing Rabbit, Missouri; Gaviotas, Colombia; Auroville, India; etc.
- Adaptive Reuse
Adaptive reuse of existing buildings/complexes. This is an approach that has larger potential and may be more widely implemented in various ways.
Examples: BedZED, former sewage plant in London; Lebensgarten, former military base in Germany.
Transforming existing villages or neighborhoods into sustainable and more intentional communities. This approach may have the largest potential for transforming the wider society.
Examples: Tiara Street, Eugene, OR; N-Street Cohousing, Davis, CA; Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka; EcoYoff, Senegal; Eco-municipalities, Sweden.
The Global Ecovillage Network has a large amount of information on ecovillages on their website, including links to regional and national networks.