The project “Ecovillages for Sustainable Rural Development” financed by the EU’s Baltic Sea Region Programme, 2007–2013, which started in February 2010, is approaching its completion, delivering a number of significant results. Aimed at fostering the development of ecovillages as a more sustainable way of living in rural areas of the Baltic Sea Region, the project has been implemented by project partners from Lithuania (the lead partner), Finland, Latvia, Poland and Sweden. In addition, the project has involved associated partners from Belarus, Finland, Germany, Russia and Sweden. Simona Griškute reports.
The core project results include launching of 3 manuals on: eco-settlement practices, and environmentally friendly technologies applied in ecovillages; socio-cultural aspects of ecovillage establishment and governance; and green business and entrepreneurship. By identifying and documenting many inspirational examples and case studies, the manuals aim at contributing to the further development, application, and spreading of the sustainable solutions and innovations tailored in ecovillages, and regaining the balance between the ecological, socio-cultural and economic dimensions of sustainable living on a broader society level.
We are happy to announce that the manuals are available in the project’s website for a free download in English, Swedish, Finnish, Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish (more details further down). Manuals have also been printed and spread in the libraries of the Baltic Sea Region countries as well as other distribution channels.
By identifying and documenting many inspirational examples and case studies, the manuals aim at contributing to the further development, application and spreading of the sustainable solutions and innovations tailored in ecovillages, and regaining the balance between the ecological, socio-cultural and economic dimensions of sustainable living on a broader societal level.
The project team has also formulated a set of policy recommendations and delivered them to responsible EU institutions. Six issues: Energy; land use; planning & building regulation; public funding & support; alternative business & organizational models; education; training; information dissemination & exchange; and more R&D focus on eco-living; and alternative food production – as well as potential reforms to tackle these areas – have been identified in the recommendations.
They are addressed to national MEPs, EU institutions and other organizations on an EU level, in order to improve the development of ecovillages, and to utilize their full potential as sustainable development drivers of rural areas. Recommendations have already received positive feedback from the European Commission, that is considering the requests under the new legal framework for the 2014-2020 programming period.
In order to gather valuable knowledge accumulated through the Ecovillage movement and making it accessible to a broader public – as well as to facilitate learning for visitors – and to provide income-generation for ecovillagers, the project has created an ‘Ecovillage Road’ website. This is a virtual platform for ecovillages, consultants and related eco-initiatives to showcase and offer their knowledge, services and products to the general public in a variety of thematic groups.
On the same Ecovillage Road website, visitors can find a guideline for establishing an internship programme in ecovillages. The handbook is intended to assist ecovillages in establishing internships that have the intention to reach out to the wider society with the sustainable living practices; to strengthen the ecovillages themselves; and to provide the opportunities for an interested audience to get to know ecovillages.
Another project result, that is addressed towards leaders of established or initiated ecovillages, is the Ecovillage ‘sustainability self-evaluation test’ that serves as a tool to: a) form a vision of the ecovillage; b) diagnose the real ecovillage situation; c) assess the gap between vision and reality; and d) identify what aspects of the ecovillage governance should be improved. There are short and long versions of the test in six languages that measure an ecovillage’s real and desirable situation on six main dimensions by using a 5 point scale.
Last, but not least, one of the greatest contributions towards sustainable Europe that was not envisioned at the launching stage of the project is the formation of Baltic Ecovillage Network (BEN), which is a transnational umbrella of national ecovillages networks in the BSR. BEN offers a vehicle to continue the work started by the project towards societal recognition of the values that ecovillages pursue, and to transition to sustainable living.
By delivering the results described, the project team is willing to greatly contribute to the fostering of ecovillages development both on a national and international level. For further inspiration and information about project results, please check the latest project newsletter and visit the project homepage at www.balticecovillages.eu
INSPIRING STORIES FROM ECOVILLAGES: EXPERIENCES WITH ECOLOGICAL TECHNOLOGIES AND PRACTICES
The manual presents a selection of inspiring stories about solutions for ecological living concerning planning, construction, energy solutions, waste and waste water management, composting and recycling, food production, and transport and commuting.
These stories are told by the inhabitants of ecovillages around the Baltic Sea region and aim at providing an inspiration to readers already familiar with ecovillages, and anyone willing to learn more about a variety of ecological living solutions. The manual also seeks to enable the reader to form a tangible and – hopefully – inspiring view of the Baltic Sea region ecovillages’ variety, particularities and creative innovativeness, on the one hand, and similarities, familiarity and respect for tradition on the other.
LIVING IN HARMONY: INSPIRING STORIES FROM ECOVILLAGES
The manual is designed as a virtual tour of European ecovillages. Here, the reader can find a collection of short ‘how we did it’ stories that describe different ecovillage models and the main elements of their design and governance. The stories represent the most interesting and effective best practice to be found in the ecovillage movement in Europe, particularly in the Baltic Sea region.
The manual consists of four chapters, each exploring a different stage of the ecovillage life cycle, starting from the establishment stage – when the main characteristics of the ecovillage should be decided – and finishing with the stage when the community becomes stable, has its own traditions and well-functioning governance, and can become a center proliferating knowledge about the ecovillage movement based on its own experiences.
THE ENTERPRISING ECOVILLAGER: ACHIEVING COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT THROUGH INNOVATIVE GREEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP
This handbook focuses on green business and entrepreneurship, offering a practical guide on how ecovillages can create business opportunities that adhere to the principles of truly green thinking.
It gives an overview of the different aspects that should be considered by the aspiring ecovillage entrepreneur, and presents examples of successful business stories from various ecovillages around Europe.
The book also strives to remedy the reluctance that many ecovillagers feel toward business, and demonstrates the ways in which ecovillages are ideally suited to run businesses that are compatible with the well-being of both people and planet; the businesses of the future.
Hopefully the handbook, packed with information, checklists and references to other books and green concepts, can accompany every enterprising ecovillager on their path towards successfully creating their own personal green livelihood.
Lietuvos agrarin?s ekonomikos institutas
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