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The Ecovillage (EVI) in Ithaca, NY

Updated: May 8, 2021

by Istiaq Ratul

Sustainability farming creates a world within the world itself. The EcoVillage, a 176 acre farm, was founded by two single mothers: Joan Bokaer and Liz Walker, in 1991. As one of the pioneer ecovillages in the United States, EVI intended to introduce a different way of living to people in the city. The developers had planned 150 subdivision homes with the intentions of developing a model community that will exemplify sustainable systems of living. The envisioned systems would be both practical and replicable by others. The EcoVillage project demonstrated the sustainability of a site that provides housing, energy, social interaction, and food production while supporting the natural ecosystems. Each growing season, the village includes a community-supported agriculture plot that feeds around 1000 subscribers.

Households at the EcoVillage use about half of the energy and half of the water of a typical American family. This conservation of energy and water is due to the use of rainwater catchment and/or greywater systems.

Rainwater harvesting is collecting the run-off from a structure or other impervious surface in order to store it for later use. Traditionally, this involves harvesting the rain from a roof. The rain will collect in gutters that channel the water into downspouts and then into some sort of storage vessel. Rainwater collection systems can be as simple as collecting rain in a rain barrel or as elaborate as harvesting rainwater into large cisterns to supply your entire household demand.

A greywater system is used to take water that has already been used from places like your laundry, shower and sink and divert it to use in another purpose. This can includes watering gardens or landscaping, instead of flushing it down into the sewer.

The rooftops of the households also feature photovoltaic arrays that meet about half of the community's energy requirements, The homes are also super insulated to reduce energy loss.

Ownership and Community

The EcoVillage consists of a private and communal ownership. The land is owned by a n0n profit organization and the individuals or families own the housing units. Homeowners also collectively own the land bordering the main village through a group called the Village Association. All decisions are made by consensus and the community comes to decisions that everyone agrees upon to ensure good morale.

Children learn conflict resolution skills from an early age. Six to twelve year old children participate work together to develop behavioral guidelines that result in sustainable projects such as building a swimming hole or bike trail.

The village offers community meals nearly every other day. In addition, the village has a communal kitchen, workshop space, offices, playroom, and laundry facilities. Lastly, there is an educational center that offers courses in the social and ecological aspects of cohousing to residents, visitors, and students at the local colleges.

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