How to Join or Start an Ecovillage
Many types of intentional communities help with ecological preservation based on the lower carbon footprint that results from shared resources. In addition, many add energy-saving features and avoid fossil fuels. If you desire living in a more eco-conscious way, you could join or start an ecovillage.
As a step beyond those laudable efforts, the ecovillages we feature differentiate themselves even further, by recycling greywater and/or human waste in a safe but non-standard manner on site. They also attempt self-sufficiency thru on-site food production.
How do you find and join an ecovillage that is looking for members? Check out our Team Up page and the Resources section below.
Steps to building a sustainable commune, agrihood, or ecovillage
- Live in one to learn first hand! See the Examples section below to find one that seems the closest to the type you intend to create.
- Add to your leadership team or advisory board someone who has familiarity with permaculture and someone who has lived in intentional community.
- Use ICmatch.org and Wwoof.org to build up your core leadership team. These sites can also help you find values-aligned volunteers who might work on site in exchange for room and board, while assessing your IC as a possible long-term fit. Create local events. Partner with similar groups on the meetup website to invite others to learn and volunteer with you.
- If you are planning for a large development, team up with local policymakers to get your site zoned for multiple uses, whether urban, rural, or remote.
- There are an endless variety of projects your IC could support; your biggest challenge might be to narrow down to a manageable number of projects. Ecovillages focus on such diverse projects as community supported agriculture, partners of local government for disaster preparedness and food security, event hosting, lodging and tours, green burial space, and community education. These can help provide a livelihood for your members.
- Create your business plan and grant proposals. To be eligible for more grants, you might team up with a university and non-profits. Team up with local community gardens or farms to share tools and learn tips about local growing.
One ecovillage founder details their story of starting with limited funds, persisting thru challenges and buoyed by serendipitous help to complete land purchase and full functionality.
Long-standing examples of urban sites include Kailash Ecovilage in Oregon and LA Ecovillage. Long-standing rural ecovillages include Arcosanti in Arizona and Dancing Rabbit in Missouri. The New Mexico community of earthships in Taos hosts tours and workshops.
The Dervaes family’s urban farm in the Los Angeles area is growing 6000 lbs of food annually on 1/10th of an acre. The Urban Farmer shows you how to turn urban and suburban yards into food production. You might use the Resilience Circles format, as many of them turn backyard gardening into a social event. These neighbors stay in their existing homes. Sometimes each becomes expert at a different type of food. One might have backyard chickens under fruit trees. Another might maintain a small greenhouse or cold frames.
Swan Lake, a new development in rural Ontario is getting started “a la brava” as an ecovillage. This description highlights the types of challenges these developments face, including how such groups often have little cohesion aside from their shared desire for a sense of self-sufficiency and affordable housing that they are willing to sacrifice comforts for.
Consultants for Ecovillages
Members Interested in Ecovillages
If you are looking for existing ecologically sustainable communities, IC.org searches can help you sort out which existing intentional communities in North America have a self-sufficiency focus. See also the Global Ecovillage Network, NuMundo.org/centers (emphasis on Central & South America), and Ecobasa.org (emphasis on Europe).
Ecovillagers Cooperative is a real estate investment co-op (REIC) investing exclusively in community land co-ops (CLC) created by resident members. People own shares, and renters rent from their co-owned organization. They can sell shares, leave, or buy more shares as an investment. Benefits include local ownership and management, no gentrification, plus wealth-building. A REIC provides a network, education, incubator, capital, development, and management. See ecovillagenj.org as an example.
Wild Community Fund and Foundation is a Social Enterprise Smart Village investment, development and management, and philanthropic fund. They secure land in trust and steward it for our collective future. In the process we create villages, permaculture farms, regenerate forest, create social enterprises and micro businesses, help young farmers get a start, provide affordable housing, run retreats and wellness programs, and more. See www.wildcommunity.org
Starting with a manual for urban ecovillages can help you learn from others’ mistakes. The Ecovillage Library podcast is another excellent resource. Project Regeneration has relevant sections on the nature of cities and sustainable buildings. Regen Villages focus on technology solutions for agrihoods. If you are a rural ecovillage, the ICmatch pages for small farms and ranches will have relevant resources also.
The Lifeboat Academy intends to create a network of Fair Share holders with access to a pool of resources that include sustainable communities. Permies.com has a wealth of resources and forums about permaculture.
Ecovillages and agrihoods may play an important role in emergency preparedness and should be able to profit from this potential. You might offer disaster relief temporary shelter as a contracted prepaid service. Disaster victims will likely seek and be given refuge freely, but a contract for a prepaid service ensures that you have the resources to prepare for such a scenario.
More reading and viewing resources:
- Bang, J. M. (2005). Ecovillages. New Society Press.
- Bang, J. M. (2007). Growing eco-communities: Practical ways to create sustainability. Floris Books.
- Drecovillage. (2014). Full-length tour of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage at their 2013 open house.
- Nelson, A. (2018). Ecovillages: Sustainability and system change. In Small is necessary: Shared living on a shared planet (pp. 130-158). Pluto Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctt1zk0mpz.12
- Stolz, C. J. (2020). Intentional communities as drivers of societal change towards sustainability? Understanding community advocates’ social representations of change. https://stud.epsilon.slu.se/16332/1/stolz_c_j_201211.pdf
- Train for natural building.
- Train for permaculture with Verge. David Holmgren offers many resources for permaculture, online and in books.