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About eco-villages and neighborhoods

In 1978, George Ramsey already stated that the major energy waste in the United States is not due to technology. According to him, it depends on the lifestyle and how people view life. That is why he came up with a concept of a car-free and self-sufficient village based on solar energy. He renamed this concept an eco-village. Existing eco-villages nowadays are also very similar to Ramsey’s concept.

A piece of history

The desire for a sense of community stems from the community movement of the 60s and 70s and continued into the 80s, when Americans increasingly lived together with shared facilities. The eco-village movement really took off in the 1990s. In 1991 Robert Gilman and Diane Gilman wrote a standard work called “Eco-villages and Sustainable Communities” for the Danish Gaia Trust. There, Robert Gilman defined an eco-village as follows:

“An eco-village is a fully equipped human-scale settlement, in which human activities are harmoniously integrated into the natural environment. This in a way that supports healthy human development and can be successfully continued indefinitely.”

Definition – Robert Gilman

The eco-village movement only really fused together at the Findhorn Foundation (Scotland) annual fall conference in 1995, where the concept of eco-villages was discussed. In the aftermath of that conference, many intentional communities began calling themselves eco-villages, which really launched the movement. The “Global Ecovillage Network” was also created. This network was founded by about 25 people who attended the Findhorn conference. The Gaia Trust fund was responsible for the first 5 years of financing after the creation of this network. Meanwhile, the network consists of hundreds of eco-villages from more than 70 countries, spread over 6 continents . In Belgium there is one eco-village that is affiliated with the European Ecovillage Network. The Netherlands has 4 affiliated eco-villages.

The Plantain: the first eco-village in Belgium

De Plantain is an eco-village in Sint-Katelijne-Waver. On the one hand, it is a residential group of people who are inspired by the transition movement, permaculture and eco-villages. On the other hand, it is a non-profit organization that has set up a meeting and practice space to find answers to the challenges and opportunities of our time. The Plantain originated in 2002. Then the founder, Bruno, bought an old farm with 1 ha of land. He moved in with his girlfriend Lies. They also immediately had a second family home. Until 2012, Bruno mainly focused on organizing activities and renovating the farm. In 2009 the eco-village had 3 living places. The studio was ready in 2010 and in 2011 the living capacity was expanded to 5 living places and the first was found Wwoofers the road to the Plantain. The non-profit association was founded in 2012. The vision of the residential group and a training and activity center was thus also developed.

In 2013, supported by the King Baudouin Foundation, a joint garden project was developed according to the principles of food bow construction. In addition, participants were also given a vegetable garden plot. To date, the Plantain has 3 houses in the main building, a group room, communal dining room, an activity yurt and 4 pitches with residential yurts. In the future, the plantain also wants to set up a cooperative, buy extra land to build a CSA farm (Community Supported Agriculture) and an extra house.

Yes but… Isn’t this a goat wool sock thing?

Of course there are eco-village communities that can be considered a goat wool sock community. But that’s not always the case. For example, in the early 2000s BedZED was developed, a kind of eco-village developed in an urban context. This eco-district is located in Hackerbridge, a suburb of London and shows how an eco-village can be integrated into an urban context. This district has 82 houses and 1400 m² of workshops. 220 inhabitants live there, of which 1 / 3rd owns their property.

In 2003, one year after the completion of the project, a study was conducted into the average CO2 emissions of the inhabitants compared to the average Briton. These were the results:

  • 88% less was heated
  • 57% less hot water was used
  • Electricity consumption was 25% lower
  • The use of drinking water was 50% lower
  • Car use was 65% lower

Moreover, the district also had social advantages for the residents. Each resident has an average of 20 neighbors by name. The 3 buildings are therefore connected by bridges that connect the terraces. This also creates a sense of community. Next to the building, there is also a park with fitness equipment, etc. There is also a good connection with public transport to ensure that residents use their car as little as possible.

Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED)

Would you like to know more about the development of this district? Be sure to check out the playlist below!

Sólheimar, the eco-village where care for the disabled and ecological life go hand in hand

The oldest eco-village is Sólheimar, in Iceland. This eco-village was founded in 1930 by Sesselja Sigmundsdottir, and is known for their artistic and ecological atmosphere. The land was bought in March 1930 by the Child Care Committee of the Church of Iceland. Sesselja leased the ground of the church and started the orphanage there in July when she was 25 years old. In the orphanage, Sesselja left ao. able-bodied children play together with disabled children. At that time, this was still considered unhealthy, but Sesselja persisted. It is precisely because of this persistence that she is now seen as a pioneer in pedagogy.

In 2000, when the village celebrated its 70th anniversary, the Icelandic government decided to invest 75 million Icelandic kroner (almost € 500,000) in the village. It was used to build the Sesseljuhus Environmental Center. This building was built as an example for sustainable construction. For construction, the origin and production of the building materials and their recovery was taken into account. As you can see in the photo below, the building itself got a green roof, so that the building blends in nicely with its surroundings. In the building, workshops, seminars, etc. are organized on sustainability. For example, there is an auditorium with a capacity of 100 people. It also serves as a community space for the inhabitants of the village, where they can watch movies or organize indoor activities.

Today 100 people live in the village. All inhabitants focus on the growth and development of humanity and nature. The social purpose in turn ensures that the inhabitants have the opportunity to work, live and build their social life, whether or not in collaboration with volunteers from, among others. the European voluntary network. Specifically, the activities consist of artistic activities as well as organic agriculture and forestry. The village is also the only Icelandic village that does organic forestry.

Webinar series: Meet the Ecovillages – The Iberian Experience

Has the ecovillage virus bit you, but would you like to know more about life in ecovillages? From March 30, the European branch of the Global Ecovillage Network is organizing a series of webinars for 3 weeks in which the inhabitants of 3 Spanish eco-villages tell their stories, share traditions, etc.

Participation in the full webinar series costs you 22 €, or 9 € per webinar. All income goes directly to the 3 eco-villages to give them the chance to get through the Corona crisis in a healthy way.

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