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

Wordpress

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.

Youtube.com


Tripadvisor

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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5 Countries to Visit This Fall

As the weather starts to chill out, we're just getting warmed up to travel

It's not winter yet!

So that means, we're all about that fall travel. It's a beautiful time of year to be outside in many countries, soaking up the colorful landscapes and fresh air. Here are our picks for the top places to visit this fall.

1. Germany

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Burg Eltz Castle is a magical step back into the Middle Ages that's been here for more than 850 years.

2. Switzerland

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The red leaves in Bern are absolutely striking.

3. Italy

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Nothing like the sheer beauty of the formidable Italian alps.

4. Peru

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Machu Picchu beckons visitors from near and far this fall.

5. Mexico

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It's not too cold to skip the beach!

Everyone has heard of the murder-hotel where dark shadows creep at the edge of your vision, or the abandoned house where the furniture moves each time you leave the room.

But sometimes the places set up to capture the fun and fright of the Halloween season for paying customers can be far more horrifying than any ghost stories. These "fake" haunted houses will leave you genuinely haunted.



Pennhurst Haunted Asylum

So spoooky!

Thomas James Caldwell

Pennhurst Asylum was in operation from 1908-1987 in the small town of Spring City, Pennsylvania. While we don't have all the records of the residents' experiences there, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that this building was home to true horrors. In many ways, 1908 wasn't that long ago, but in terms of mental health treatment—especially in small-town Pennsylvania—it was absolutely the dark ages. This was the time of lobotomies, straight jackets, and shock therapy. Whatever the jump scares and fake blood contribute to the fear you will feel walking through Pennhurst Asylum's aging, echoing halls, they can't come close to the deep, sinking feeling caused by the deep history of torment that has left its imprint on the very fabric of the place. Four spooky skulls out of five.

💀💀💀💀/5

Haunted Trap House

Like this, but less 90s

In Centreville, Maryand, in the year 1989, a group of visionaries were struck by a bolt of inspiration. What if—instead of zombies and werewolves and demons, and all the stuff out of children's nightmares—what if they filled their haunted house with the real-world nightmares that were actually infesting their city, killing their residents, and generally afflicting every corner of the entire nation. Thus, the Haunted Crack House was born. Since renamed the Haunted Trap House, it's ostensibly an educational experience on the dangers of drug use, it features simulations of overdoses, arrests, and shootings, as well as actual former convicts who are paid to draw on their real experiences to make your visit as terrifying as possible. This kind of fetishizing of human misery to capitalize on the Halloween season is as despicable as it is spooky. Four-and-a-half skulls out of five.

💀💀💀💀/5

McKamey Manor

He technically consented to this

A $20,000 reward? A 40-page waiver? These figures have garnered a lot of attention in recent headlines. Supposedly this is the "scariest" haunted house experience in the country. Who could resist the temptation of that once-in-a-lifetime experience, combined with the chance to win a big cash prize? Unfortunately, that is exactly what Russ McKay wants. There's a reason he's put so much work into the legal side of his operation. Rather than gassing up neutered chainsaws and chasing you around in a hockey mask, McKay has opted for producing actual, real, straight-up torture. You may not find the decorations and costumes that scary, but you will absolutely fear for your life when you consent to be water-boarded with fake blood. For being operated by a man who is clearly an unhinged psychopath, McKamey Manor ties the Haunted Traphouse, with four-and-a-half spooky skulls.

💀💀💀💀.5/5

Donald Vann's House of Horrors

Donald Vann murdered eleven people. Happens to the best of us, but it does present a problem. How do you dispose of all those bodies? Donald's solution was to open a haunted house and put his victims' decaying remains on display as props. Props to him. For eight months he prepared his fetid, malodorous horrors, before debuting on October 1st. Unfortunately, you won't be able to visit his house of horrors, because he has since landed in some legal trouble—board of health, maybe?—but I'm sure for the lucky few who were able to visit during its brief tenure, and witness Vann's "psychotic smirk," I'm sure the nightmares they're left with keep on spooking.

💀💀💀💀💀/5

Every Hell House in America

realitypod

In the same vein as the Haunted Traphouse, Hell Houses are church presentations intended as educational experiences that warn kids and teens away from the path of sin. Their methods for achieving this obviously vary, but according to The Washington Post, you can generally expect the following: "A devil ushers a gay man dying of AIDS into the fiery pit. A teenager who is raped at a drug-filled rave commits suicide and also goes to hell. A young girl hemorrhaging from an abortion repents at the last minute." Awful. Truly sickening. What kind of trauma are they inflicting on these children to prop up their outdated ideologies? Six spooky skulls. Where'd that extra skull come from?? Nobody knows…

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Destinations

The 10 Best Ethically-Conscious Zoos Across America

From coast to coast, these zoos are doing their part to help wildlife.

With fall weather making us all eager to spend more time outdoors, it's the perfect time of year to pay a visit to the zoo.

Just about every major city has a zoo where visitors can get up close and personal with wild animals, but of course, not all zoos are created equal. Particularly if you've watched Tiger King, you probably already know that some zoos do much more harm than good.


Thankfully, there are also many zoos who are doing great work in conservation efforts and creating the best environment possible for their animals and the animal lovers who want to visit them. Below, we've rounded up just a few of the most ethical zoos in the United States.

San Diego Zoo

As one of the most popular zoos in the country, the San Diego Zoo specializes in endangered animals and focuses on saving them from extinction. They also partner with other zoos around the world to share their research in rehabilitation and conservation that would be difficult, if not impossible, to conduct in the wild.

Austin Zoo

Located on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, the Austin Zoo started as a goat ranch and has gradually grown into one of the state's most animal-friendly zoos. Now boasting over 300 animals from over 100 species, the Austin Zoo operates with a mission to assist animals in need, taking in exotic animals that need to be rescued or rehomed due to a variety of reasons.

Indianapolis Zoo

With a strong commitment to conservation, the Indianapolis Zoo supports efforts around the world to save endangered animals and their land. They are home to over 1,400 animals in habitats that closely mimic those of the wild and have been adopting more eco-friendly practices in addition to their conservation efforts.

Woodland Park Zoo

Located in Seattle, Washington, the Woodland Park Zoo is one of the country's most ethical zoos. They focus on recreating their animals' natural habitats as closely as possible, and the zoo also has conservationist breeding programs on-site to help grow the populations of endangered species.

St. Louis Zoo

Not only is the St. Louis Zoo free to visit, but it's absolutely massive; here, you'll find 19,000 animals from 600 species over a sprawling 90 acres. According to their website, the zoo has "witnessed dozens of cheetah births, hatched and reared endangered Micronesian kingfishers and returned Puerto Rican crested toad tadpoles to ponds in their native homeland—to name only a few successes." The St. Louis Zoo also has a program called the WildCare Institute, which takes a holistic approach to healing troubled ecosystems.

Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo might not be the first attraction you think of when it comes to New York City's outer boroughs, but it offers a much-needed slice of wildlife in the concrete jungle. This zoo is home to award-winning habitats that span over 265 acres. Outside of the city, the Bronx Zoo employs thousands of conservationists who work to protect endangered exotic animals in the world's most threatened environments.

Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

In addition to impressive worldwide conservation efforts, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium—located in Omaha, Nebraska—features the world's largest geodesic dome. This dome creates a realistic desert environment that acts as a home to countless animals and plants.

Columbus Zoo

Ohio's Columbus Zoo houses over 7000 animals from over 800 species. They've made great strides in breeding endangered animals, such as the three polar bear cubs who were born at the zoo in 2016. The Columbus Zoo also boasts a massive 100,000-gallon coral reef tank, and some of the country's best primate habitats.

Alaska Zoo

It should come as no surprise that the Alaska Zoo is a fantastic place to see your favorite arctic and subarctic animals. Located in the city of Anchorage, this zoo focuses on arctic creatures you won't find at your zoos in the continental United States. They especially focus on polar bear rescue.

Denver Zoo

Colorodans are known for their love of the great outdoors, and their appreciation for Mother Nature translates into the practices at the Denver Zoo. They were the first zoo in the country to go above and beyond usual conservation efforts by getting rid of traditional enclosures, creating realistic habitats for their 4,000 creatures from over 600 different species.