What is an Ecovillage?

The ideal ecovillage, which does not yet exist – is a sustainable human settlement which is in harmony with all aspects of life, including the cultural, ecological and spiritual dimensions.

Laern about the ecovillage movement, philosophy and history and the people who are making it happen all over the world.

As far as we know, the first appearance of the word “ecovillage” was in the preparation for a Gaia Trust seminar in Thy, Denmark in September 1991, arranged by Diane and Robert Gilman of the Context Institute in Seattle. The seminar brought together for the first time representatives of several very different projects that the Gilmans had identified around the world for use in their commissioned report “Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities: A Report for Gaia Trust”.

The projects identified varied from well-established settlements like Solheimer in Iceland, Findhorn in Scotland, Crystal Waters in Australia, Lebensgarten in Germany to places like The Farm in Tennessee and the loosely knit inner-city Los Angeles Ecovillage project to places like the Folkecenter for Renewable Energy in Thy and many smaller groups that were barely started, not to mention the traditional villages of the South.

Somehow the term “sustainable communities” just did not convey the right message. A new term was required. What seemed to be common was the value system rather than physical structures. All of these projects had a similar vision of living in small communities that were both fun to live in and at the same time were closely connected to nature and spirit and exemplified the need to live more lightly on the Earth, but the variations were endless.

Since then, many definitions have been suggested and much discussion has taken place. See, for example, Hildur Jackson’s working paper, “What is an Ecovillage?” which discusses a number of the historical attempts to define the concept, including the Gilmans’ widely used definition.

A paper by Ross Jackson, “The Ecovillage Movement,” puts the whole phenomenon into a broader, political perspective.

The Global Ecovillage Network website also offers an answer to the question “What is an Ecovillage”.

A deeper appreciation of the progression of the movement and the issues involved can be obtained by reading about the Global Ecovillage Network History 1990-2004 and also the history of the oldest national network, going back to 1993 – the Danish Ecovillage Network .

See also Jonathan Dawns “The Ecovillage Dream