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A Sustainability Paradise : Ecovillage at Ithaca

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 13 2012 (IPS) - Why can’t we live a different way? That’s the question asked by a pioneer community of 160 trying to achieve greater sustainability and a higher quality of life.

Twenty years ago, they created Ecovillage at Ithaca (EVI), an ecological intentional community located only two miles away from the city of Ithaca in upstate New York.

EVI has proved a successful housing model and could be leading the way for the future of urban planning.

In the village, pedestrian-only streets lead to different community amenities such as the swimming pond, the kitchen garden, or the community house in which residents gather for dinner twice a week.

The community meals are comprised of locally-grown organic vegetables that come from a nearby farm.

West Haven Farm has been a part of the ecovillage from the very beginning and feeds about 250 families through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

It allows the shareholders – many of whom live in the ecovillage – to enjoy organic seasonal eating and a greater connection to their food as they come pick their vegetables every week.

In order to keep the community running, each resident is expected to put in two hours of work a week in one of the different teams – cooking, dishwashing, cleanup, maintenance or finance.

The houses, smaller than the U.S. average, are clustered together to allow easier social interactions and to ensure that 90 percent of the land be kept wild.

“The quality of life here is off the charts,” Liz Walker, one of EVI’s co-founders, told IPS.

The village is inter-generational and many families decide to move in to what they consider a children’s paradise.

EVI is already made of two co-housing neighbourhoods and a third one is under construction.

Each new neighbourhood is using the lessons learnt from the past, allowing for the residents’ ecological footprint to keep decreasing.

EVI also has all the amenities of a modern urban neighbourhood, ranging from high-speed internet to parking spots.

“We’re not being radical, so it makes it easier for people to adopt,” Walker told IPS.

One of the first ecovillages in the world, EVI could be used as a model for a more sensible way of life.

“We can change the way we’re currently developing housing to a much more satisfying way of life.

It would be healthier for people and for the planet. There’s no reason we can’t be doing it now,” Walker told IPS.

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