Why leave the city and join the village people, you may wonder? Are you tired of stress, anxiety, unhealthy food, chlorinated water, traffic jams, air and noise pollution, paying rent, not having time to pursue your real interests and passions?
Do you want to live a life more in balance with nature? Are you looking for more meaning in your daily life? More real connections with people, time in nature, time to pursue your interests and dreams, fresh food straight from the ground around you, deep sleep at night, bubbling streams, and cooing birds?
Living in an ecovillage may just be the antidote to many of the ills of modern urban life. Humans have lived in small settlements with close kin and extended tribal family in tandem with the cycles of nature for hundreds of thousands of years, and some psychologists say that current unprecedented levels of depression, stress, anxiety, drug addiction, and suicide are due to this fundamental disconnect from our past close relationships with each other and with nature.
An ecovillage is an intentional community committed to becoming more sustainable. In practice, this means that the resource inputs for the necessities of living come from local sources and are by and are by and large derived directly from nature in a way that allows nature to perpetually replenish itself and continually supply the needed materials. Ecovillages are also designed using whole systems design principles, to maximize overall quality of life for humans.
Here’s a 10-step guide to help you get started making the shift.
Community of Emerald Village Ecovillage in Vista, CA milking goats. Photo by Bryan Arturo.
1. Grow your community
- The most important thing you can do to prepare is grow your community, your connections, your network. Solidifying relationships with an extended community of like-minded people is going to pay you back in a multitude of ways, opening up endless possibilities. The more you see other people living out their dreams, the more you will realize that yours are possible. Community can inspire and support you to live your dreams.
2. Join the Project Nuevo Mundo movement
● Connect with selected impact centers around the world matched to fit your interests and needs, and like-minded people on a search for transformation.
● Starting this winter, you’ll be able to participate by using the PNM network to find ecovillages and impact centers for work-exchange, trainings, and events.
● You can find us on Facebook and Twitter, or get a ticket to one of the events by supporting the Earth Odyssey 2013 IndieGoGo Campaign.
Project Nuevo Mundo’s Earth Odyssey Logo
3. Acquire skills to use and share
● Get involved in the production of the food you eat: Learn how to grow your own food by connecting to a local community garden or building your own, meet other local gardeners, and put in hours to get experience and vegetables. Check out national community garden databases like American Community Garden Association. Some cities, like San Francisco, have urban garden maps. Or find a guide, like Shareable’s “How to Share a Vegetable Garden.”
● Go to local skill shares and connect to your local tool library. Check out http://www.skillshare.com/. Check Meetup’s skill-sharing section or Wikipedia’s global list of tool libraries. Live in a sharing desert? Learn How to Start Your Own Skillshare or Tool Library from Shareable.
● Experiment with making your own clothing and access opensource sewing on Burdastyle.com or trade clothes in a clothes swap.
● Attend a primitive skills gathering and acquire traditional indigenous skills. Check Meetup’s Primitive Skills section, with over 30,000 members.
● Make your own bike or buy a used one, and eliminate gas-fueled transportation locally. A simple “DIY bicycle” search will yield hundreds of results for interesting projects such as Bike Kitchens!
● Start working with your community by sharing resources.
An Introduction to Permaculture course at West Lexham, Photo courtesy of West Lexham.
4. Start using sharing economy networks
● Use Couchsurfing, Warm Showers (for cyclists), AirBnB when staying in new places. Use mealsharing platforms whenever possible, or share your left-overs.
● Use WWOOF, GrowFood, and soon Project Nuevo Mundo to exchange time for meaningful experiences, new skills, room, and board.
● Use Dhamma, a Vipassana meditation network of globally linked centers and volunteers, to attend “pay-it-forward” 10-day long meditation courses that teach valuable techniques in understanding your fears, desires, and consumer impulses, and eliminating them by finding internal peace and satisfaction. After attending your first course, volunteer in selfless service for the next retreat.
● Sign up and trade with or create a local timebank or local currency. Exchanges use different websites and systems so search for your town’s name plus the keywords timebank, time exchange, LETS, barter or local currency.
● Create or join a gift circle. Start a Really Really Free Market.
Colleen Cary and others meditated during a retreat last month for those 18 to 32 years old at the Insight Meditation Center in Barre. Photo by Christine Peterson for The Boston Globe.
5. Imagine your dream village
- What would it look like? Who would live there? How would you spend your day? Start talking to other people, and see if there are others out there who share a similar vision. Sustainable Ecovillages is a social network to bring people together who have similar visions for building communities. Joining Facebook groups like Evolver and Visionary Culture can help you find others who share the same vision. Find a Meetup group near you that shares your interest.
6. Connect to local permaculture and sustainability projects, and DIY/maker spaces
● Use Wiser Earth to connect with local projects and Transition Network to check if your local community has a Transition Town movement, a community led response to climate change. If not, you can start one!
● Search the global database Makerspace and connect with local, DIY projects and the people who make them happen.
● Visit Permies.com and join a conversation about permaculture.
7. Live it
Take at least one month to live in a remote indigenous community or an ecovillage where local production and consumption is still the norm, and understand closed-loop living systems first-hand. Check out organizations like Ecuador’s Yanapuma.
● Decide what kind of skills you would like to learn, and do your own research to find indigenous communities where those skills are prevalent (example: traditional healing with medicinal plants, crafting, hunting). There is currently no single database of indigenous communities that accept homestay, but Project Nuevo Mundo is working on one.
● Explore Living Routes, a program to “Study Abroad in Sustainable Communities.”
Annual Wisdom Kepper & Youth Council held at Deer Mountain. Photo by: Earth People’s United.
8. Focus on a trade or master craft
● Discover your passion in life. What makes you energized and enthusiastic? What brings out your creative burst? Gain experience by doing, and by apprenticing with a master or teacher who has successfully based their livelihood on the craft you desire to master, preferably something a community might need or want.
9. Learn and practice communication skills
● Practice “holding space”—the idea is to allow someone to express themselves without the pressures of being judged or being told that they need to improve. This might run contrary to the labels we give to the “conscious” or “sharing” movement—we often believe that we need to change people in order to bring them into the movement.
● Set aside our personal desires and our need to “improve” those around us. We may find ourselves guided by our collective purpose.
● Holacracy or Non-Violent Communication provide structures for good communication. Check out Holacracy.org’s post on “Differentiating Organization & Tribe.” According to the article, focusing on the collective purpose rather than individual needs allows a circle “to be more driven by its own unique purpose in life, like a child developing its own identity and goals beyond those of its parents.”
● Find a local circle to participate in that brings intention to communication, in non-violent communication circles or gifting circles, for instance.
● Identify yourself as an impartial “facilitator” during a house meeting with your roommates.
● Read more about collective decision-making in “How to Make Better Decisions Together,” on Shareable.
Getting ready for a community meeting at Atlantida Ecovillage in Cajibio, Columbia. Photo courtesey of Ecoatlandia.
10. Check out PNM’s recommended reading list, and dive in!
● Permaculture: An Introduction to Permaculture, Bill Mollison. Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemenway. The Backyard Homestead, Carleen Madigan.
● Natural Building: The Hand-Sculpted House, Ianto Evans. Earthbag Building, Kaki Hunter & Donald Kiffmeyer.
● Ecological Economics: Small is Beautiful, EF Schumacher. The Steady State Economy, Herman Daly. Natural Capitalism, Amory Lovins. Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein.
● The Fifth Sacred Thing, Starhawk.
● Always Coming Home, Ursula K. Le Guin.
● Ishmael, Daniel Quinn.
Want to know more about Project Nuevo Mundo? Email contact(at)projectnuevomundo.org to find out how we will support your transition into the regenerative villages movement.