According to the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) website: An ecovillage is an intentional, traditional or urban community that is consciously designed through locally owned, participatory processes in all 4 dimensions of sustainability (social, culture, ecology, economy)into a whole systems design to regenerate its social and natural environment.
Ecovillages are living laboratories pioneering beautiful alternatives and innovative solutions. They are rural or urban settlements with vibrant social structures, vastly diverse, yet united in their actions towards low-impact, high-quality lifestyles.
In a broad sense, ecovillages are attempts to recreate our settlements as rich ‘human ecologies’ that offer life-enhancing environments not just for humans to grow and develop, but also for the natural world around the community in which they find themselves. In applying these four basic dimensions of sustainability it’s possible to build a resilient, compassionate and integrated system in which humans find a supportive rather than dominant place.
Narara Ecovillage (NEV) emphasised the environmental and economic elements in its first years, and developed a unique social culture as it gained momentum. A strong spirit of collaboration is an aspect of that emerging culture, with a focus on caring and respect for one another as well as the land in the custodianship of the community.
In terms of ecological sustainability, NEV aims to be self-sufficient and carbon neutral in energy with each new dwelling producing enough renewable energy to meet its annual consumption from roof top solar and battery storage. NEV has established a water utility to use the ample natural supply from its farm dam for drinking; to treat waste water on site and use the recycled water for toilet flushing and gardens.
NEV has also established its own Building Standards to ensure energy efficiency and accredited 16 members to be able to assist others with their designs. Food production and care for the large area of land in native forests are also high priorities.
Socially NEV aspires to be inclusive and intergenerational, ensuring all voices are heard and accepted in community life. The use of Sociocracy brings transparency to meeting processes and helps the group to draw on collective wisdom for important decisions. Frequent gatherings for community meals, working parties and celebrations have already created strong social fabric between the members, who started this project in 2012 as total strangers.
Economic sustainability is essential to any community and NEV has had amazing support during its first years having been completely self-funded by the members. There is a strong Business Support circle in place offering guidance to fledgling enterprises. Those emerging include educational initiatives, natural building, a food co-op, water and energy utilities and the Narara Eco Living Network (not for profit outreach to the local area and beyond).
Many small businesses will develop over time and a significant percentage of members plan to work from a base on site. For others the fast, regular train service between Sydney and Newcastle is a unique attribute of the location.