An eco-village is exactly what it sounds like: a community designed to be economically and socially sustainable. But it can be hard to visualize exactly what an eco-village may look like, especially if you've never heard of one.
Environmentalist Joan Bokaer coined the term in 1990. Her vision led to the first eco-village stationed on the outskirts of Ithaca, New York, only six years later. The original EcoVillage in Ithaca is actually still thriving today. According to Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), approximately 420 eco-villages exist around the world, ranging from sustainable urban jungles to rural farms.
But still, what exactly does an eco-village look like? Well, the answer varies from village to village, but each community shares a common philosophy that originates from Bokaer's original idea.
The Eco-Village Philosophy
The original framework is based on anthropology and psychology research. An eco-village is a "human-scale, full-featured settlement" where human activities can harmlessly integrate into the natural world.
The GEN defines an eco-village as "a community that is consciously designed through locally owned participatory processes in all four dimensions of sustainability (social, culture, ecology, and economy) to regenerate social and natural environments."
There are three main elements of an eco-village:
1. Local, participatory processes
2. Systems (including social, cultural, economic, and ecological) that are designed to focus on sustainability
3. Restoring and regenerating social and natural environments
Essentially, these communities are intentional, communal, and sustainable. No eco-village is identical, but they often include community gardens, off-the-grid energy, bartering systems, and homeschooling co-ops. The ultimate goal is to make zero-waste and eco-minded living more attainable.
5 Thriving Eco-Villages Around the World
There are hundreds of eco-villages all around the world. They come in every shape, size, and culture. Each one has a different unique system, even though they all share the same philosophy. These five eco-villages exemplify diverse forms of sustainable living.
Manzanita Village is a co-housing village designed for remote workers and retirees to seek a more sustainable life. Situated in the Arizona desert, this eco-village functions more like a largescale co-op than some of the other eco-villages featured in this list.
This Peruvian eco-village is on the Pacific coast and features an ecological and artistic community. Members may live here or volunteer to work for a short time. Eco Truly Park uses traditional Peruvian, ecological techniques to turn the sandy region into a self-sustaining community. This eco-village embraces traditional practices to live in harmony with nature.
Forever MicroRanch is all about the "path of least harm" toward humans, nonhuman creatures, and the planet. This rural community gives small and large farm animals a forever home to live peacefully, safely, and sustainably. The people who live in this eco-village work together to care for each other and a whole host of critters.
Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage has been around for over 20 years. Located on 280 acres of beautiful countryside in Missouri, its residents and members are working on constructing buildings with the hope of someday housing 500 to 1,000 people. There's a focus on natural buildings (like cob houses), renewable energy, and local and organic food.
With approximately 1,000 members, Kumaon Maati is all about cultivating sustainable and creative horticultural practices. Faced with rising temperatures, water scarcity, wildlife threats, pests, and fertility issues, villagers here are working to overcome the challenges of climate change. Now considered a conservation preserve, this community is helping preserve the natural landscape.
How to Incorporate Eco-Village Living Into Your Own Life
Clearly, eco-villages come in all shapes and sizes—and locations, too. From large village networks in Africa to small co-ops in the United States, eco-villages manifest sustainable living using different strategies.
If you're intrigued by eco-village living, there are several ways to incorporate this lifestyle into your current routine without moving to an eco-village. The eco-village philosophy is all about participatory and sustainable processes, so getting more intentional about these elements is a great place to start.
1. Remember—It Takes a Village
They're called an eco-village for a reason. Sustainable and communal living is easier (and so much more fun) with a community. A simple first step is to join a club, organization, or online community (like Brightly!) that's centered around sustainable living. Having a support system for eco-friendly tips and overcoming challenges makes the process that much easier.
Community gardens and co-ops are also great ways to integrate communal and sustainable living. Did you know that joining an energy co-op can save you 10-20% off your energy bill?
2. Go Beyond the Basics
When it comes to being more sustainable, many of us think about the obvious actions: recycling, eliminating single-use plastics, and switching to a more fuel-efficient transportation system. While these actions are great for the environment, there are many other ways to be sustainable in your everyday life.
Think about your diet, spending habits, and social activities. Switching to a plant-based diet is one of the top ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Using an eco-friendly bank helps support a more planet-friendly economy. Get creative with your sustainability journey by thinking about where you can challenge yourself to be more planet-friendly.
3. Do Some Good
Obtaining zero-waste is a huge and noble goal. We should all aim to produce less waste on a daily basis. But being environmentally friendly isn't all about minimizing our damage. It's also important to think about ways we can contribute to the planet's health and well-being!
What does that look like? Planting native vegetation can improve the health of your local landscape. Consider taking action steps to help protect pollinators like bees and endangered animals. There are so many ways to give back to the planet. Who knows—maybe these steps will lead to an eco-village of your own!