k. What Makes an Ecovillage?


Liz Walker of Ecovillage, Frequency555.com; Ithaca, USA
2010, 9 min 49 sec

Liz Walker describes in the interview the ways in which Ecovillage at Ithaca entails a working model of the five following main aspects.

1. Green Building

Ecovillage at Ithaca features clustered housing units, which allows for considerable land conservation when developing. The community managed to fit 30 homes into each acre of land. The ecovillage also utilizes passive solar design in their buildings’ construction to help regulate internal temperature throughout the year. Passive solar generally involves facing the windows of a building to the south to allow as much sunlight in as possible (buildings in the southern hemisphere below the equator would face north instead). An overhand is built over each window in such a way in the summer months, no direct sunlight enters the windows since the sun is higher in the sky. However, during winter months, the sun is lower in the sky and the sunlight enters directly into the house. The buildings are also super-insulating, and retain the heat that is absorbed. The result is a home that costs considerably less to heat and cool throughout the year.

2. Alternative Energy

As expected, Ecovillage at Ithaca incorporates solar and wind energy into their community design, and all the roofs in the community are specifically designed to support solar panels. They also use solar hot water heaters and are in the process of creating a system which connects the solar heated water throughout the entire community.

3. Local Food Production

Considering all the land Ecovillage at Ithaca saved by using a clustered housing model, they have created large organic gardens and even a garden solely dedicated to seasonal berries. Their gardens feed roughly 1000 people per week in the ecovillage and the city of Ithaca.

4. A Strong Sense of Community

Ecovillage at Ithica is an intergenerational community, meaning that there are people of all ages living there. They share several meals a week in the community building dining hall and the clustered housing design encourages people to actually take the time to get to know their neighbors. As Liz says in her interview, what is created is a sense of extended family.

5. Education

Ecovillage at Ithaca has an educational non-profit which conducts seminars and holds workshops explaining the ecovillage lifestyle. They also have University backed work-exchange programs, where students can earn credit for working on the community’s organic farm. There is even a member of the ecovillage who started a sustainability-focused high school in the city of Ithaca called New Roots School to impart the concepts familiar to ecovillage life.

While this interpretation of what an Ecovillage is is just one woman’s opinion, it rings true to ecovillage modality, and I for one find Liz’s five points to be integral to truly creating an ecovillage. While Ecovillage at Ithica is still a work in progress (as are all ecovillages), it is an exceptional model of what could be achieved as the world moves toward a more sustainable model of development.