This will soon be the home of the new Ecovillage Impact Assessment Tool – an online tool for mapping ecovillage practices, and showcasing GEN’s community-led way of contributing to carbon sequestration and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Ecovillage Impact – Scaling to Achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Ecovillages weave together the four dimensions of sustainability – social, culture, ecology and economy – and pioneer innovative solutions that enable communities, regions and states to fulfil the promise of the SDGs and Climate Agreements.
Research on ecovillage impact agrees. The EU-funded TRANSIT research project identified ecovillages as key sources of the social innovation necessary for transitions to sustainability. And the TESS research project concluded that if only five percent of the EU were to engage in effective community-led climate change adaptation initiatives, carbon savings would be sufficient for 85% of it’s countries to achieve their 2020 emission reduction targets.
TESS also showed that 63% of the surveyed community-based initiatives have been replicated elsewhere. The potential to scale community-led regeneration is high!
Social Impact and the SDGs
In 2017, GEN investigated the impact of 30 diverse ecovillages in 5 continents to find out how ecovillages were already contributing to reaching the SDGs and Climate Agreements. This is some of what we found:
100% provide education and lifelong learning opportunities in the fields of sustainable development, regenerative lifestyles and climate change adaptation
90% have more than 40% women in decision-making bodies
100% actively safeguard regenerative local cultural traditions using local sustainable ways of building, farming and preparing food
90% recycle, reuse and repair more than 50% of consumer goods. 85% compost all their food waste
100% provide education in decision-making and mutual empowerment skills
96% provide training in nonviolent conflict resolution, and 80% have an agreed upon method for resolving conflicts
95% regularly engage in campaigns to protect human rights, the rights of communities and the rights of nature
Ecological Impact and Climate Change Adaptation
- 97% of showcase ecovillages work actively to restore degraded ecosystems
- 90% work actively to sequester carbon in soil and biomass
- 97% actively work to restore or replenish sources and cycles of water
In their efforts to restore ecosystems, water cycles and atmosphere, ecovillages use and often teach many of the top 100 carbon drawdown solutions, as identified by Project Drawdown in “the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming”. These include:
- Regenerative agriculture
- Reforestation and afforestation
- Restoration of farmlands, orchards and mangroves
- Sustainable water management and river, lake and aquifer restoration
- Composting, local food and reduced food waste
Beyond that, ecovillages provide numerous and diverse intangible benefits, such as building social capital, providing a sense of purpose and belonging, improving well-being, and empowerment. These benefits are less easy to record and measure, but are often identified by ecovillagers themselves as the most important.
Pathways to a Regenerative Future
Learning from the positive impact ecovillages have, GEN is committed to catalysing the power of communities for regenerative future.
On the one hand, GEN celebrates existing ecovillages as demonstrations sites of replicable and transferable social innovations. On the other hand, GEN helps to spread community-led approaches through our five ecovillage programmes.
These programmes create wealth and employment opportunities, halt and reverse environmental degradation, sequester carbon and provide communities with the knowledge, skills and tools to guarantee a healthy future:
- Ecovillage Incubation: supporting the creation of new intentional ecovillages
- Ecovillage Development: transitioning existing settlements to regenerative settlements/ecovillages
- Greening Schools for Sustainable Communities: establishing green schools as hubs of inspiration for whole community transformation
- EmerGENcies: rebuilding sustainable communities after disasters or with refugees
- Urban Eco-Neighbourhoods: establishing ecovillages within and around urban areas
Earlier versions of GEN assessment tools
GEN previously developed a Community Sustainability Assessment Tool, CSA, developing the concept of sustainability auditing suitable to ecovillages. The aim was to provide a way for individuals and existing villages and communities to see and compare their current status with common goals for ecological, social, cultural and economic sustainability. The CSA still exists, and consists of a questionnaire to help the project or individual assess their current situation and possible areas of growth and improvement. You can download the old CSA in one of the following formats:
There is also an even older version of the CSA. This version, while extensive, primarily targets intentional communities in the North American and European cultural contexts. It also does not include some of the latest developments in sustainability thinking. As an additional resource you may download the old version of the CSA as a PDF here.