Monthly Archives: February 2011

Building an Eco-Village

I started thinking about founding an eco-village about a year ago, and since then I’ve been researching various sustainable technologies and looking for land and partners. In the meantime I’ve found/built a network of interested people, and may have just found some potential land in New Mexico!

The goal is to create a place from the ground up, building shelter with straw bales, growing almost all of our own food. No septic tanks, no sewer systems, no paved roads. The ideal situation looks something like the garden of eden, lush edible foliage and abundant fruit trees. By fully embracing natural methods we can decrease the cost of living significantly by greatly reducing the cost of housing and food. To foster entrepreneurship and build a new community based on these fundamental principles of sustainability. And to show off and share our efforts and methods with the world through YouTube, media coverage, partnerships, and social networks.

Recently I left my job to focus my time on this project…

Example Eco-village Depiction

What does it look like?

When you first get to our eco-village, you find a large mud-covered building called the Better Earth Institute. This is a community center where we research sustainable technologies and hold community meetings and events. Next to the Institute there is a dormitory for interns and visitors. We’ve started building a neighborhood of houses across the courtyard.. All around there are young fruit trees growing vigorously. Patches of edible greens are everywhere around your feet. Berry bushes can be seen lining the pathways. Beyond the houses you can see a soccer field, and a series of greenhouses constructed out of wood and metal and plastic sheeting. You will also find an outdoor event center for summer music concerts, and film screenings. Not to mention, lots of lovely, happy, healthy people everywhere!

Here are some of the sustainable technologies I’m excited about:

  • Permaculture
    This is term (coming from “Permanent” + “Agriculture”), is a general farming/lifestyle principle that embraces natural systems, paying attention to combinations of plants to design a system that minimizes the need for manual labor like weeding, and at it’s best, creates an environment that is self-maintaining and provides perpetual abundance (for example, a combination corn field that replants itself every year). I’ve been studying this for a few years now, and I’m very excited to start putting it into practice.
  • Composting toilets
    Check out the book: Humanure.  Our human waste makes a fantastic fertilizer, and composting toilets are a sanitary and highly efficient way of making the most of what would otherwise be polluting waste.
  • Rainwater harvesting
    Rooftops make excellent rainwater harvesting. Permaculture gardening techniques can also be used to absorb as much of the rain into our soil as possible, instead of running away into a stream.
  • Solar water heating
    For showers, hand washing, etc!
  • Graywater treatment / recycling
    Drainage from showers, kitchen/bathroom sinks will be collected into a series of living water treatment tanks that house fish, beneficial bacteria and other micro-organisms that process and filter the water.
  • Organic Hydroponics
    Hydroponics can be used to simplify food production.
  • Year-round greenhouses
    By growing certain foods indoors, we can provide for ourselves year round. Greenhouses will be heated in the winter with active indoor compost piles and large water tanks that retain heat with thermal mass.

Funding
How are we going to pay for it all? Well, we have an initial committed group of about 12 people and together have some amount of savings to get started. We’re looking for a grant to help us build the initial Better Earth Institute center, and will be also accepting donations for that cause. Beyond that, membership in the eco-village will require some combination of labor and capital, following the model of Habitat for Humanity that requires home recipients to invest 300-500 hours of labor in the construction of their home, providing a foundation for strong community relationships in the process.

I’m now putting together a 501c3 non-profit educational organization called Better Earth Institute to provide the legal framework for this enterprise, with the stated mission of:

Researching and sharing methods to reduce the environmental and monetary cost of living by fully embracing and augmenting natural systems and embodying the spirit of entrepreneurship.

If you’re interested in getting involved, please donate and/or come join us!
Questions? contact me, or leave a comment below.