EarthTalk: What are “eco-villages?”
I’ve heard of one in New York near Ithaca and another
one called Arcosanti being built in Arizona.
-- Jim Killian, Brookline, MA
420 eco-villages exist in both urban and rural settings
around the world today. Pictured here: the west end
of Arcosanti, a self-described experimental town in
Arizona that has been under construction since 1970.
In keeping with the concept of clustered development
so as to maximize open space and the efficient use
of resources, the large, compact structures and large-scale
solar greenhouses of Arcosanti occupy a small footprint
-- only 25 acres within the community‚s 4,000-acre
© CodyR, courtesy Flickr
are essentially designed communities intending to be socially,
economically and ecologically sustainable. Environmentalist
Joan Bokaer developed the vision for the first eco-village,
which would eventually be built on the outskirts of Ithaca,
New York, while on a continent-wide walk for sustainability
across the United States in 1990. In Context magazine publisher
Robert Gilman helped refine the concept through his research,
writing and speaking on the topic. In 1996, the first residents
moved into the EcoVillage at Ithaca, and a movement was
born. According to the nonprofit Global Ecovillage Network,
some 420 eco-villages exist in both urban and rural settings
around the world today.
defining characteristics of an eco-village, according to
Robert Gilman’s seminal 1991 article, “The Eco-Village
Challenge,” include “human-scale, healthy and
sustainable development, full-featured settlement, and the
harmless integration of human activities into the natural
world.” Gilman also said that eco-villages should
limit their populations to 150 individuals, which is the
maximum size for any working social network according to
the teachings of sociology and anthropology.
the term eco-village did not come into common usage until
the 1990s, the concept may in fact be older. Arcosanti,
a self-described “experimental town” in the
high desert of Arizona, 70 miles north of Phoenix, has been
under construction since 1970 and eventually will be the
home of some 5,000 forward-thinking residents. In keeping
with the concept of clustered development so as to maximize
open space and the efficient use of resources, the large,
compact structures and large-scale solar greenhouses of
Arcosanti occupy a small footprint—only 25 acres—within
the community’s 4,000-acre “land preserve.”
architect Paolo Soleri designed Arcosanti according to his
concept of “arcology” (architecture + ecology),
whereby, in his words, “the built and the living interact
as organs would in a highly evolved being.” Underpinning
the concept is that “many systems work together, with
efficient circulation of people and resources, multi-use
buildings, and solar orientation for lighting, heating and
interested in learning more can attend a four-week workshop
at Arcosanti to study building techniques and arcological
philosophy, while getting a chance to contribute to the
city’s ongoing construction. To date, some 5,000 participants
have all had a hand in the construction of Arcosanti.
other “intentional communities” designed with
sustainability in mind around North America include Cobb
Hill in Vermont, Vegan in Hawaii, Dancing Rabbit in Missouri,
Maitreya in Oregon, Dreamtime in Wisconsin, Paz in Texas,
Earthaven in North Carolina, Prairie’s Edge in Manitoba
and Kakwa in British Columbia. For information on these
and other eco-villages, the Ecovillage Network of the Americas
as well as the Global Ecovillage Network offer extensive
resources for free online.
at Ithaca; Robert
Gilman’s “The Eco-Village Challenge";
Network of the Americas; Global
EarthTalk: How can I determine if it is more
eco-friendly to fly or drive somewhere?
-- Christine Matthews, Washington, DC
Most experts agree that driving in a relatively fuel
efficient car usually generates fewer greenhouse gas
emissions per capita than flying -- and it only gets
better when you carpool.
© Getty Images
The simple answer
is that driving in a relatively fuel efficient car (25-30
miles per gallon) usually generates fewer greenhouse gas
emissions than flying. In assessing the global warming impact
of a trip from Philadelphia to Boston (about 300 miles),
the environmental news website Grist.org calculates that
driving would generate about 104 kilograms of carbon dioxide
(CO2)—the leading greenhouse gas—per typical
medium-sized car, regardless of the number of passengers,
while flying on a commercial jet would produce some 184
kilograms of CO2 per passenger.
What this also
means, of course, is that while even driving alone would
be slightly better from the standpoint of greenhouse gas
emissions, carpooling really makes environmental sense.
Four people sharing a car would collectively be responsible
for emitting only 104 kilograms of CO2, while the same four
people taking up four seats on a plane would generate some
Päster of Salon.com extends the comparison further
to a cross country trip, and comes to similar conclusions.
(Differences in the math are attributable to the use of
slightly varying assumptions regarding fuel usage and source
equations.) Flying from San Francisco to Boston, for example,
would generate some 1,300 kilograms of greenhouse gases
per passenger each way, while driving would account for
only 930 kilograms per vehicle. So again sharing the drive
with one or more people would lower each individual’s
carbon footprint from the experience accordingly.
But just because
driving might be greener than flying doesn’t mean
it always makes the most sense. With current high gas prices,
it would cost far more in fuel to drive clear across the
United States in a car than to fly non-stop coast-to-coast.
And that’s not even factoring in the time spent on
restaurants and hotels along the way. Those interested in
figuring out driving fuel costs can consult AAA’s
nifty online Fuel Cost Calculator, where you can enter your
starting city and destination as well as the year, make
and model of your car to get an accurate estimate of what
filling ‘er up will cost between points A and B.
made your decision whether to drive or fly, consider purchasing
carbon offsets to balance out the emissions you are generating
with cash for renewable energy development. TerraPass, among
others, makes it easy to calculate your carbon footprint
based on how much you drive and fly (as well as home energy
consumption), and then will sell you offsets accordingly.
(Monies generated through carbon offsets fund alternative
energy and other projects, such as wind farms, that will
ultimately take a bite out of or eliminate greenhouse gas
Of course, an
individual’s emissions from riding a bus (the ultimate
carpool) or a train (many of which rely solely on electric
power generated by their own motion) would be significantly
lower. Paster adds that a cross-country train trip would
generate about half the greenhouse gas emissions of driving
a car. The only way to travel greener might be to bicycle
or walk—but the trip is long enough as it is.
Fuel Cost Calculator; TerraPass.
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