line of modular houses

What Is an Eco-Village? Living in a Climate-Focused Community

Jane Marsh - May 21, 2024

We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn affiliate commission.

The cul-de-sac you’ve lived on your entire life has white fences and overflowing trash bins. Everyone is pretty isolated from one another and hardly uses their yards for biodiversity or growing food. What if there were communities changing this stereotypical American image? Here comes the eco-village, a trendy concept built on the traditions of sustainable living from centuries past. How does it look in the modern age?

group of people standing next to dirt road himmelstorm festival dyssekilde

What Is an Eco-Village?

Eco-villages are communities that try to minimize their climate impact by adhering to four dimensions of sustainability, also called the four areas of regeneration, which include:

  • Social: Embraces diversity, peacebuilding, education, and more.
  • Culture: Encompasses mindfulness, self-awareness, celebration with art, and more.
  • Ecology: Focuses on green tech, regenerative agriculture, replenishing water, and more.
  • Economy: Requires responsible consumption, strengthening the community, justice, and more.

Each category includes six subsections, which detail an eco-village’s priorities and how they obtain perfection in these areas. In the center of all of these pillars is Integral Design, which describes the systems that build the community. This includes implementing feedback loops, increasing awareness of privilege, and learning from nature to adapt and grow. 

This guidance is provided by the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). It acknowledges around 10,000 eco-villages internationally, and they all restore the planet, run on sustainability, and run on participation from residents.

So long as a community embraces these ideals, it is considered an eco-village, which means it can take tons of different forms. They are in urban and rural settings, allowing people all over to embrace these values for a lower carbon footprint and intentional way of life.

What Are Parts of Eco-Village Infrastructure?

No eco-village could be alike. One may be completely made of earth blocks while another looks like a modular housing development but equipped with solar panels and water barrels. However, these are the common infrastructure staples.

person farming

Water Conservation

Collecting rainwater and using eco-friendly ways to filter and purify it provides water independence while preventing illness. Drifting away from relying on conventional utility providers may be a learning curve, but pooling assets — literally and figuratively — allows for expedited learning and clean water.

Waste Management

Recycling, trash, and compost all need streamlined, organized, and clarified directions and processes. Plus, it should be accessible and beneficial for the community at large. 

There is also the matter of human waste. More rural, stripped-back communities may use composting toilets and greywater management to fit their needs. However, they require dedicated care and maintenance from residents to ensure all contaminants are swiftly eliminated. 

Renewable Energy

Off-grid, clean power is essential for decarbonizing the life of structures. It can also make previously diesel-powered machines and generators into something eco-conscious and provide outage resilience instead of leaking pollutants into the atmosphere.

Leadership Structure

Eco-villages can be households collaborating. But, they can also be nonprofit organizations or designated cooperatives. What and who is the glue holding the system together to make sure it runs smoothly? These are important to detail for the legalities of the eco-village, such as building permits, taxes, and other administrative musts.

Sustainable Buildings

Building out of sustainable materials is ideal for eco-villages. Recycled and reclaimed materials are great places to start, as construction and buildings are some of the most polluting industries on the planet. This includes all agricultural structures, such as sheds and ranch animal housing.

Collective Well-being

The final aspect of infrastructure is social equity. Though this isn’t a tangible object or structure, it is a required system of eco-villages. Authentic sustainability is not attainable through reducing carbon footprints alone. It requires fairness and justice in a world laden with prejudice. A study of an eco-village in India discovered these other values, which manifested from this priority:

  • Governance
  • Economic models promoting well-being
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Alternative lifestyles and values
village in a valley

What Are Examples of Eco-Villages?

What do specific eco-villages look like around the world?

Mullumbimby

This rural village started in 2021 with a spiritual touch. In addition to sustainability, they cherish artistry and fostering the spirit. It also hopes its members engage in self-discovery and personal development while they teach others about eco-living.

Litvill

This is a Hungarian project that started planning in 2022. It is focusing on an educational center, but individuals will live in fields with cob houses and organic farmland. The residents will participate in workshops, yoga, and other mindfulness practices to integrate with nature.

Restore the Circle

This community strives to adjust worldviews from land ownership to stewardship by reconnecting with the land. This means decolonizing and supporting biodiversity, Indigenous traditions, and the waters. It focuses on a tinier footprint with affordable, off-grid housing and permaculture farming to solidify food sovereignty. Dwellers also forage and help in rewilding efforts.

Ferme du bout du Monde

This small “farm at the edge of the world” demonstrates climate optimism, because residents recognize the severity of the climate crisis but want to do something about it. They pride themselves on self-sufficiency not just in energy and food, but in financial and intellectual awareness.

How Effective Are Eco-Villages at Helping the Climate?

As these communities become more popular, their impacts will compound. A study of one community in Ithaca, NY determined the population’s footprint was 70% less than most Americans.

They utilized carpooling, solar panels, and a sharing economy to achieve this. They also have community buildings, which include community assets to prevent construction and waste from individual projects. These include swimming pools, gyms, and lawn equipment like mowers and tractors to prevent overconsumption of rarely used machinery.

There still needs to be more research about eco-villages, but other data demonstrates many have a strong foundation of reducing ecological impacts by 50%. However, there are other benefits, including improvements in the neighborhood’s health. The air is cleaner, there are fewer illnesses, and urbanization has less of a negative psychological impact.

Is Eco-Village Living for You?

The idealism behind eco-villages sounds enticing, though it requires unprecedented collaboration and communication that is atypical to modern societies. There are plenty of strong individuals who could rewrite the idea of conventional, consumptive neighborhoods. People are able to share resources, align values, and prioritize continuous growth, which is what eco-villages are all about.

Share on

Like what you read? Join other Environment.co readers!

Get the latest updates on our planet by subscribing to the Environment.co newsletter!

About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.