An ecovillage is an intentional, traditional or urban community that is consciously designed through locally owned participatory processes in all four dimensions of sustainability(social, culture, ecology and economy) to regenerate social and natural environments.
While every ecovillage is unique, GEN categorizes them into two general categories, which can be found in either rural or urban settings:
- traditional – existing rural villages and communities that decide to design their own pathway into the future, using participatory processes to combine life-sustaining traditional wisdom and positive new innovation.
- intentional – created by people who come together afresh with a shared purpose or vision.
What ecovillages are not
- An Ecovillage is not a particular outcome, but an ongoing process. Each ecovillage is a living and learning centre for a regenerative future, a place of continuous exploration.
- Ecovillages are not designed by outside developers, architects or experts, but by communities themselves.
- Ecovillages do not focus solely on ecology, even though many ecovillages start with a strong focus on the ecological dimension. Preservation and restoration of nature can only succeed when the social fabric is strong, cultural heritage is celebrated and people find ways to marry their love for the planet with their need to make a living. Experience has shown that, given enough time, ecovillages will naturally develop to encompass all four dimensions of sustainability.
- Ecovillages are not islands for the rich and middle class. Some of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in the ‘Global South’ and communities with the lowest recorded eco-footprints in the ‘Global North’ are engaged in GEN. Ecovillages in the ‘North’ typically focus on simplifying lifestyles to bring their ecological impacts below local and global carrying capacities. They have some of the lowest recorded eco-footprints with respect the national averages in their countries. Ecovillages in the ‘South’ typically focus on preserving precious low-impact traditions, while improving living standards.
- Communities do not need to call themselves an ‘Ecovillage’ in order to be recognised by GEN.
Ecovillages and Ecovillage projects
In GEN, we are currently engaging in a lively discussion regarding the distinction between ecovillages and ecovillage projects, which are local initiatives that inspire, educate and foster ecovillage lifestyles, without constituting a certain number of people living together as a community.
Examples of ecovillage projects can be educational centres (like the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, UK), green schools, permaculture centres and agro-ecological farms, transition initiatives, social and community enterprises, online communities, etc.
Ecovillages and Societal Transformation
Ecovillages help to implement the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Agreements on local levels. Many social innovations developed in ecovillages can be transferred and replicated (see the GEN Solution Library) – and local solutions to global challenges add up – over time, ecovillages become a force for positive societal transformation!