Green Lifestyle

Published on October 13th, 2015 | by Guest Contributor


How Intentional Communities Can be a Sustainability Solution

Everyday my partner and I try to live the most sustainable life possible. One of the ways we’ve talked about to further our commitment to sustainability is by living in a ecovillage or intentional community. At the moment, it’s not possible where we live, but it’s always on our radar.

Never heard of an ecovillage? Let’s allow Wikipedia to explain:

“United by shared ecological, social-economic and cultural-spiritual values […], ecovillagers seek alternatives to ecologically destructive electrical, water, transportation, and waste-treatment systems, as well as the larger social systems that mirror and support them. Many see the breakdown of traditional forms of community, wasteful consumerist lifestyles, the destruction of natural habitat, urban sprawl, factory farming, and over-reliance on fossil fuels as trends that must be changed to avert ecological disaster and create richer and more fulfilling ways of life.”

While the idea of ecovillages or intentional communities has its roots in the hippie communes of yesteryear, but it’s becoming more practical and interesting to a younger generation that is fed up with suburban living, isolation and lack of community.

{Learn what it’s like to live in an ecovillage from our friends at Sustainablog.}

How Intentional Communities Can be a Sustainability Solution

Gathering for gardening and community building at an ecovillage.

The concept of the ecovillage might seem too weird for some, but it’s clear from the 2500+ communities listed on The Fellowship for Intentional Community listings page that there is some serious excitement about these ideals. Many of these seem to fit the stereotype of the commune: some are just a few people, some grow all their own food, some are totally off-grid. But not all communities need to be based on a farm or even living off the land. Co-housing in urban environments is happening all over the world.

In this 2006 Yes! Magazine article, it was predicted that the co-housing trend would continue to grow, and they seem to be correct in their prediction. In December 2013, NPR reported on the co-housing trend that is popping up across San Francisco as a way to fight back against steep rents in the Bay Area. As Jessy Schingler, a co-founder of the house said, “We live here, but we also host events. We have hackathons, and we have salons, and we have concerts.” She furthers her statement saying that, “co-living creates economies of scale, but, more importantly, it creates community.”

And it’s not just techies: shared housing for seniors is a growing trend, and cohousing is one of the big construction and real estate trends for 2016.

And in Honolulu, a group of artists and entrepreneurs have created the Chinatown artists lofts, Honolulu’s first coworking and co-living space; and it’s happening across the pond in England too, according to this article from The Telegraph.  As more people realize that co-housing allows people to share expenses and build networks of friendships to help keep people from becoming too isolated.

This movement to bring people together to share finances, housework, cooking, raising children is not new, neither is the commitment to sustainability. But what is exciting is the potential this movement has to really expand beyond the fringe of society of farmers, techies and artists.

On a recent trip to the East Coast, my partner and I visited a few ‘ecovillages’ and did research on a few more, and what we found was a little bit surprising. We definitely expected to see some wild hippies dancing in the rows of corn, but instead we found both efficient and extravagantly eco-conscious homes built on 1-2 acres, fully modernized but with intentionality built in to the homes.

The photo shows a community that offers Asheville residents a chance to live in a suburban community about five miles outside of downtown, with a farm, access to forest, and the neighbor proximity of an urban environment but with solidly suburban style homes, all build with minimum LEED silver principles. All homes are subject to a review from the Sustainability Officer.

villages at crest mountain IMG_1162

The Villages at Crest Mountain, in Asheville, North Carolina.

It’s exciting to think about all the potential we have to shape the communities of the future! Whether we want to live and play in a urban environment, suburban enclave, or live off the grid, there are lots of progressive options for building a more sustainable living situation, together.


Farm image from Dbrown1793 at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons; housing + flowers image from Villages at Crest Mountain.


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