The pairing of powerful educational resources and an intense environmental conscience has made Ithaca the perfect setting for the newest innovations in the ever-growing green movement. In an attempt to integrate the ordinary public with a more communal relationship with the environment, Ithaca hosts one of these new developments, the ecovillage, located just outside the city.
“The ecovillage began as a dream in ’91 with lots of excited people and no money,” said Liz Walker, the community’s director.
Since then, it has expanded into two housing neighborhoods, land for organic farming and several more projects currently in development.
Because of its strong educational approach, the village was given a three year grant from the National Science Foundation, which, along with various donations and input from future residents helped to finance the now nonprofit organization.
“We’ve done little advertising,” Walker said. “Word of mouth and our excellent website have brought in a lot of interest.”
This interest has attracted international media coverage, including stories in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and CNN, and has brought in residents ranging from the local area to outside of the country.
These environmentalists are united in their concern about a society that is becoming more and more separated from nature. “We are trying to create a model of a different way of life that is more ecologically sound and community-oriented than mainstream life,” Walker said. This environmental model includes the preservation of 90 percent of the 175 acres of land owned by the ecovillage community, which is conserved for organic farming as well as for wildlife habitats. “We’ve made the housing to be a small footprint on lots of open space.”
The housing is constructed using green building techniques. They incorporate recycled and salvaged materials and use various methods of conserving energy, such as the use of solar heat and well insulated walls. These energy efficient techniques have helped to “save approximately 60 percent of natural gas and electric consumption compared to average homes in the Northeast,” Walker stated.
A large part of the ecovillage pertains to educational purposes as well. “From the beginning we set ourselves up as educational and nonprofit to relate experience to the outside world,” Walker said. Many of the residents of the village teach courses in sustainability and energy efficiency and independent study summer courses are offered to students at both Cornell and Ithaca College.
Through an overall growing concern for the environment and the ecovillage’s educational efforts, those involved hope people are becoming more aware of the impact of both individual actions and the collective societal impact on the environment.
“Individuals are changing their own attitudes and behaviors,” Walker said. “We are influencing each other to be more environmentally sound over time.”
Archived article by Gretchen Heckman