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Living Routes - Ecovillage Education Consortium





We are living in the most challenging, yet also, in many ways, the most promising era of human history. The culture of our industrialized society appears very much like the Titanic - charging forward with disregard for the warning signs of climate disruption, overpopulation, over consumption, habitat loss and social injustice, while we dine below deck, toasting our technological prowess. It may not yet be too late to change our course. But if we are to keep our ship afloat, we will need to develop new visions and maps to guide us toward more peaceful and sustainable lifeways.











Fortunately, as deep ecologist Joanna Macy has said, we have already begun a "Great Turning." Ever increasing numbers of people, organizations, and communities across the globe are evolving new models of education that help develop the understanding, commitment, and skills we need to build healthy lifestyles and ecosystems.


There exists today a growing international network of "ecovillages" - communities that are striving to create cooperative lifestyles in harmony with their local environments. These ecovillages are refining social and ecological tools such as consensus decision making, ecological design, community-scale renewable energy systems, and organic farming that offer positive visions and alternatives for humanity and the planet. Many of these communities have matured to the point where they are ready to share their growing wisdom and expertise with a broader audience. Ecovillages in other countries such as Crystal Waters (Australia), Findhorn (Scotland), and Auroville (India), and in North America such as Sirius (MA), the EcoVillage at Ithaca (NY), The Farm (TN), and Earthhaven (NC), have already experienced considerable success as educational centers, often in partnerships with schools of higher learning.

There is also a growing number of innovative educational programs that are bringing together the best that academia and sustainable communities have to offer. For example, the Community Studies Program runs semester programs at Findhorn through Pacific Lutheran University and Geocommons runs programs to Auroville through the University of New Hampshire. Other university campuses that are embracing sustainability in their curricula and operations include Brown, Cornell, Oberlin, Tufts, and Harvard, to name but a few.


Project Description

The mission of Living Routes is to develop and support a diverse, yet integrated set of ecovillage-based educational programs that empower participants to help build a sustainable future. Living Routes is working closely with the Global Ecovillage Network (www.gaia.org) and a consortium of ecovillages, academic institutions, and other organizations to create these globally connected yet regionally developed programs.








At the core of Living Routes is an expanding collection of experiential learning programs that support participants to develop knowledge, skills and values through direct experiences within sustainable communities. Some programs are semester-long residential experiences in one or more ecovillages. In these programs, students create their own "learning communities" within "living communities" as they help design and build ecological structures, learn effective methods of decision-making and conflict resolution, research sustainable strategies, grow and prepare organic food, study and reflect on readings and experiences, support each other's personal and spiritual growth, and work to enhance the health of wider communities and ecosystems.


Many of our ecovillage-based programs will be closely integrated with ongoing, related coursework that students are taking at neighboring colleges. While some of these programs may not include residence at ecovillage sites, they will still have many of the same holistic, community-based components of the residential semesters and will be ideal for long-term research into sustainable strategies. By linking the developmental priorities of ecovillages and partnering schools, these programs will help students and their sponsoring colleges become significant players in developing societal models that help restore a healthy relationship to our planet and to each other.

Living Routes programs will be connected to a consortium of colleges and universities that allow students to participate as part of their academic career. Some students may take only one program; others may pursue a sequence of programs leading to a "major" within an academic institution or to a "certificate of mastery" awarded by Living Routes. While hands-on learning and community living is a hallmark of these programs, we hope to augment these experiences through distance learning courses and through internet linkages among students and ecovillages around the world.


Research, Development and Demonstration

An integral part of Living Routes' vision is to develop a network of Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D) sites focusing on appropriate technologies and permaculture design (a whole systems approach to developing sustainable habitats) in the context of sustainable social systems. Research projects that compare technologies and practices across participating ecovillages and campuses will provide outstanding educational opportunities for students, vital input for ecovillage and campus development, and excellent venues for educating the broader public.

Initially, the RD&D program will focus on assessing sustainable development in current ecovillages through "ecological footprinting", carbon indexing, and other methods that measure our impact on the Earth. It will also assist ecovillages in developing strategic plans for optimizing their future development as living and learning centers. Later, students and ecovillages will participate in the design, implementation, monitoring and comparative analysis of numerous technologies and practices such as solar greenhouses, passive refrigeration systems, super efficient stoves and ovens, ecological waste-water treatment, hydrogen energy systems, solar hot water systems, organic food production, and watershed restoration. Students will apply this same spirit of research, experimentation and innovation to the more "social" technologies such as consensus decision making, voluntary simplicity, educational models, and conflict resolution. This complementary balance between social strategies and physical infrastructure will be one of the foundations of all of Living Routes' educational programs.

Living Routes programs are designed to directly benefit participating ecovillages and academic institutions. Ecovillages will benefit from program fees and the carefully coordinated labor and research that dedicated students and partnering universities bring. Universities will benefit from access to these high-quality programs that ground their growing interest in sustainability in an integrated community context. In addition, Living Routes will provide support via faculty trainings, innovative curriculum models and materials, and ongoing RD&D projects and will strive to facilitate local connections among ecovillages, universities, and other like-minded organizations in order to create regional networks of support.


Over time, Living Routes hopes to support a wide range of programs focusing on sustainability and help facilitate dialogues and networking among university faculty, ecovillage participants, etc. Living Routes may also provide a range of support services such as collective marketing and fundraising, personnel and contracts management, and academic liaisoning, to programs that are struggling to make it on their own. Finally, Living Routes hopes to eventually develop programs and curricula for primary and secondary schools as well as for adult learners.

Living Routes' funding will come from a mix of program development grants shared with partnering academic institutions, student tuition, foundation grants, fees for services provided to related programs, and other contributions. Eventually, we anticipate additional funding from curriculum guides as well as royalties from products developed through our RD&D activities.

Next Steps

We expect this vision will take decades to fully manifest. What follow are our priorities for the next two years.

  • Create partnerships with a core group of academic institutions, ecovillages, and organizations

  • Operate current programs (Findhorn Program, Crystal Waters and North America)

  • Lay groundwork for new programs at Crystal Waters, Green Kibbutzim, and N.A. Ecovillages

  • Initiate the RD&D program at a number of ecovillage and campus sites

  • Help develop local partnerships between ecovillages and neighboring universities

  • Offer faculty trainings for Living Routes staff and university liaisons

Meet the Team









A strong team has formed to carry this vision forward. These individuals include: Daniel Greenberg, Ph.D., who has spent five years directing university level programs in ecovillages around the world; Lawry Gold, who has developed the Community Studies Program at Findhorn and is an Associate Professor at Pacific Lutheran University; Jeff Clearwater, who has 20 years of experience in designing appropriate technology and renewable energy and water systems and is a board member of the Ecovillage Network of the Americas; Jeff Grossberg, a board member of the Fellowship for Intentional Community and a consultant in fundraising and planning for progressive not-for-profit organizations; Elan Shapiro, the Director of Sustainable Living Associates with 25 years of experience implementing community and earth-based education programs; Liz Walker, long-time environmental and community organizer and co-founder and Director of EcoVillage at Ithaca; Philip Snyder, Ph.D., the program director of the Global Ecovillage Network, and Will Keepin, Ph.D., co-founder of the Shavano Institute, a non-profit service training institute.

If you are interested please contact Living Routes.
Together we can ensure a sustainable future!

Living Routes


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