9 Ecovillages Working Towards Sustainable, Intentional Living

From Palestine to Portugal, here are the world's most inspiring ecovillages.

All across the world, people are gravitating towards sustainable communities known as "Ecovillages."

According to ecovillages.com, "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."

This definition is intentionally broad, as ecovillages can take many different shapes and forms. They can be made from scratch or can be created in existing towns and villages. Always, ecovillages are dedicated to fostering societal change—and not only through sustainability efforts, but also by facilitating economic equality, spiritual awakening, and human compassion.

Most responsible ecovillages prioritize working with local communities, and actively avoid the trap of becoming a kind of walled village for rich, usually white environmentalists. In this, they provide valuable lessons for the environmentalist movement on the whole.

More research is needed to fully understand and apply their success and failures to new projects, but these innovative ecovillages—sometimes inspired by spirituality, other times on the cutting-edge of green technology, and often doing both at the same time—can provide valuable visions for how the world could look in the future's best-case scenario.

1. Crystal Waters, Australia

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When it was founded in 1984, Crystal Waters was the world's first permaculture village. Permaculture is a style of farming based on emulating natural systems, utilizing nature's mechanisms of reproduction and rebirth to ensure a sustainable way of sourcing food and energy; today, it's spread across the globe as more people realize the importance of living in a sustainable manner.

Today, this community cooperative is an environmentally friendly permaculture farm that offers living opportunities for people looking to live in harmony with the earth. Located on 650 acres and home to 250 people, it's a prime example of what all of our communities are going to need to become if we want to learn to coexist with the planet and each other.

Ecovillages

The community features compost toilets, grid solar-power systems, heat pumps, land restoration technologies, artificial wetlands, dams, and much more. Inhabitants are surrounded by lush wildlife sanctuaries, and their homes are organized into community-style circles that emphasize spirituality, social interaction, and meaningful activity alongside clean living.

2. Finca Bellavista Treehouse Community, Costa Rica

Destination Magazine

Have you ever wanted to drop everything and live among the trees? The residents of Finca Bellavista have done just that. Community members design and build original treehouses, which are connected to each other by an aerial walkway that extends through the jungle canopy. The community emphasizes sustainable living and self-sustainability—one of their requirements states that each resident must buy a biodigester, which is a machine that converts waste into energy.

If you don't want to commit to living there forever, you're in luck: Some of the houses can be rented out, and they also have a special aerial venue designated for weddings.

3. Eco-Yoff, Senegal

Gaia Trust

Environmental action means nothing if it doesn't work with local, low-income communities who are already on the front lines of the worst of the environmental crisis. One of many Senegalese ecovillages, Eco-Yoff village puts this into practice, as it's designed to focus on "poverty alleviation through social and environmental micro-enterprises," according to the Handbook for Gentrification Studies.

This ecovillage trains villagers in environmental practices like waste water recycling, solar power, and vegetation. Its efforts are dedicated to resisting gentrification that can occur as flooding moves wealthier homeowners closer inland, and they're also meant to help the community develop a symbiotic relationship between environmentally conscious living and improved quality of life.

4. The Los Angeles Ecovillage

ECO HOMES + COMMUNITIES

The Los Angeles Ecovillage developed after the 1992 LA riots inspired a resurgence in social justice activism. Today, the village is home to 40 people committed to focusing on community life and environmental action.

"Our vision is to reinvent how we live in the city," its website reads. "We do this by demonstrating higher quality living patterns at lower environmental impacts while striving to connect the social, economic and ecological systems of our neighborhood."

5. Hakoritna Farm, Palestine

Global Ecovillage Network

When Israelis built a wall right through Hakoritna Farm in Tulkarm, Palestine, farmowner Fayez Taneeb decided to convert what was left of his damaged land into a sustainable symbol of peace. Taneeb found his way into permaculture and sustainability while protesting the wall with international peace activists. "That was when I started to hear about permaculture, and to realise its potential," he said. "I received the message that water, food, and energy are available to all humanity if we work with the laws of nature. That's a powerful resistance tool, because water, food and energy are things that Israel does not want us to control."

International Women's Peace Service

Today, the farm is an up and running ecovillage that teaches locals how to build biogas tanks and convert waste and sunlight into energy. The farm also hosts a unique aquaphonics installation (which grows plants and fish together in one integrated ecosystem) and uses solar drying, seed collection, trading, and many other sustainable technological solutions.

6. Auroville, India

Andalou Agency

Auroville is an ecovillage and sustainability education center in India. With a population of around 2,000, the eco-city is most notorious for having restored massive amounts of lush forests to a formerly barren land. Today, it's a utopian community born of 1970s idealism that has visions of becoming a 50,000-person multicultural township. Land, school, health care, and electricity are free, and Aurovillans work together to keep the community running in a sustainable way.

Today, Auroville hosts volunteers, university students, and scholars, as well as community members and trains people in sustainability, medicinal plant gardens, philosophy, medicine, and much more.

Quora.com

The community was originally inspired by the teachings of Indian thinker Sri Aurobindo and his partner, a woman known as the "Mother." Together, they emphasized the connection between peace and work, and the Mother went on to found the Auroville Ashram, which was the blueprint for what Auroville would become.

Auroville has gone through changes, successes, and failures since its inception, but one thing remains constant. It's dedicated to shaping a better way of life, one completely free from ownership, excessive waste, and corruption, one where people can pursue a higher consciousness together.

7. Damanhur, Italy

positivelife.ie

Located in Piedmont, Italy, Damanhur is an ecovillage that consists of around 600 people. The community has its own Constitution, currency, and education system, and it offers many retreats and courses for visitors and locals. Its citizens use green building principles and work in ecologically friendly clothing production, renewable energy, and similar programs.

Environmental consciousness is part of Damanhur's framework. One of its many programs is Music of the Plants, which involves research on plants' ability to communicate and which facilitates concerts inspired by nature's melodies. According to its website, "In the Damanhurian Spiritual Vision, humans are part of a spiritual ecosystem with forces and intelligences, and it is important to establish a conscious contact with them."

Damanhur is also famous for its cathedral, known as the Temples of Humankind. Dug by hand into the side of the mountain, the temples are full of mosaics, stained glass, and art, and they've been called an Eighth Wonder of the World.

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8. Ivory Park Ecocity, South Africa

Located in a township near Johannesburg, South Africa, Ivory Park melds indigenous African technologies with western technology to create a wholly new vision. According to Gaia Trust, the city's projects "include ecologically-friendly homes, a zero energy community centre built by local women, solar energy, water conservation and harvesting, medicinal herbs, paper-making and traditional crafts, smokeless fires and solar cookers, eco-tourism, youth and women's empowerment, youth environmental activities, sanitation, product recycling, food security; finance and eco-banking, eco-construction, eco-businesses, co-operatives; non-polluting transport, eco-urban planning; pollution, waste, and natural resource management."

Built in 2002, the village focuses on economic development in conjunction with ecological sustainability. The town still has no electricity, but its buildings are made to stabilize internal temperatures and its design incorporated technologies like solar lanterns and solar-powered air heaters.

9. Tamera, Portugal

ideas.ted.com

Founded in 1995, the Tamera Peace Research and Education Center in Portugal is dedicated to achieving peace on Earth. The community, which consists of around 200 people, follows no mandatory ideology, but it prioritizes love and connection between people, animals, and the earth.

Tamera envisions a new model of living for human society, which it calls a "Healing Biotope." It was founded by three German professors who left academia to focus on tapping into the core problems that lead humans to destroy each other and the environment, like greed and jealousy. Tamera began as a social experiment dedicated to finding ways to surmount these problems. Its founders developed a complex philosophy that theorizes that the existence of peace research villages is necessary to create global healing.

Today, the research village partners with many environmental organizations and is involved in many projects. It emphasizes scientific advancements like permaculture and solar power, as well as mental advancements like reducing the "war between the genders" and inspiring others to work towards their mission of world peace.

ideas.ted.com

BONUS: Tiny House Community

While this is not yet an ecovillage, owners of tiny houses all across the globe are connecting, and many hope to eventually create an eco-friendly community (or several) of tiny house owners. Plenty of tiny house communities exist, but we've yet to see one grow into its true ecovillage potential. Check back for updates.

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It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.


Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).


Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!

Travel

So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—Workaway.info.

Workaway Workaway


Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).

Workaway WoIsango.com

You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway


Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker