Wednesday, August 10, 2011

EcoVillage Ithaca: A Greener Place to Live

We've all heard about the evils of suburban sprawl swallowing up prime farmland, fragmenting wildlife habitats, and disconnecting people from their communities (to name a few). A select group of people near Ithaca, NY are creating a new model for suburban living which is healthier, more socially engaging, and better for the environment. The place is a self-proclaimed intentional community leading by example, called EcoVillage Ithaca (EVI).

EVI has attracted a demographically diverse resident population in its two 30-home cohousing neighborhoods that occupy just 3 acres on the 175 acre site. Over 80% of the land is planned green space, including two Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms, community gardens, a large pond, and other natural areas. A third neighborhood for the site is now in the planning process.

Each neighborhood features owner-occupied energy efficient 1-4 bedroom duplex homes (some with roof-mounted solar panels) that sit astride a pedestrian pathway leading to a neighborhood common house. The common house serves as a meeting place for members of the community and features a large cooking/dining area with additional sitting rooms, guest rooms, offices, play rooms, and laundry facilities.

Governance and decision-making at EVI is made through a consensus process. To keep the place running smoothly, each community relies on 2-3 hours per week of volunteer work by each member. Residents apply themselves to tasks for which they have the most enthusiasm - and yes, the dishes do get done and toilets cleaned. Amazing!

The ecological footprints of the EVI neighborhoods are far below a typical American suburban neighborhood without sacrificing standard of living or comfort. Plus the members of these intentional communities arguably live healthier, more connected, happy lives. What a concept.

~Mark Bremer, Green Explored Contributor