Ecovillages are like bright spots in all the darkness. While most of the world struggles to find solutions to the causes of our worldwide illnesses, ecovillages are communities who are entirely dedicated to eliminating them by being sustainable in four categories: social, ecology, culture, and economy. The ultimate goal is to create models which could, in theory, be scaled up to much larger groups of people. Travelers who would like to be part of a movement that could lead to a brighter future for the planet — and the human species along with it — have many options to choose from as there are ecovillages all around the world. Here we have selected seven ecovillages that invite volunteers to support their mission and learn how to change the world for the better.
1. Findhorn Foundation, Scotland
To find the roots of the ecovillage movement, look no further than Scotland. On the Moray Firth in the North Sea, creating sustainable communities can be traced back to 1962, when three individuals felt guided to settle in a caravan in the dunes of Findhorn Bay and started an organic garden. Since then, the community has expanded; the Findhorn Foundation operates on two campuses, Cluny Hill and The Park Ecovillage site, where more than 500 individuals live and work. Cluny Hill is a former Victorian spa hotel, located five miles from The Park Ecovillage, that houses staff as well as participants in events and workshops. The Park Ecovillage, the site where it all started, is a thriving community that uses the best of technology to create a sustainable environment by focusing on ecological building, local organic food production, renewable energies, and waste reduction and recycling. The Park Ecovillage owns three electricity-generating wind turbines for 90 percent of its electricity needs, solar water-heating systems, a biological wastewater treatment system, and a biomass boiler. There are many ways those interested can get involved with the Findhorn Foundation, but Experience Week, its signature program that 40,000 people have taken part in over the years, is the first step to volunteer in the community.
Where: Findhorn Ecovillage, The Park, Findhorn, Scotland
2. Auroville, India
In South India, an intentional town called Auroville is carrying on an experiment in human unity with the goal of reaching 50,000 members. While this community of 2,400 practices the kind of transformation of consciousness that claims to do away with concepts like racism and sexism, it also researches sustainable living that addresses the cultural, environmental, social, and spiritual needs of human beings. Volunteers can come visit on three-month travel visas (though longer commitments can be arranged) and will work on things such as alternative healthcare, renewable energy, organic farming, and more practices geared toward providing hands-on experience with sustainability. Made up of a number of zones, each with its own focus on farming or applied cultural research, there’s something for everybody at this remarkable ecovillage.
Where: Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India
3. Wilderland, New Zealand
In 1964, an organic farm opened up in New Zealand, selling excess produce out of a roadside tent. The little farm has since become Wilderland, an ecovillage that practices sustainability and intelligent living in Coromandel. At Wilderland, visitors can take courses in permaculture through a four-week educational volunteer program that runs year-round. Guests come away with a better understanding of not only hands-on practices like composting and beekeeping, but “how to live in harmony with the environment whilst supporting local economy, community, and wildlife.”
Where: Wilderland, RD1, Whitianga, 2486, 3591, New Zealand
4. Twin Oaks Community, Virginia, US
In the heart of rural Virginia sits 485 acres of farm and forestland that is home to more than 100 ecovillage members who believe egalitarianism, feminism, and sustainability lead the way forward. Since 1967, Twin Oaks Community has built furniture, made tofu, and indexed books in addition to running an organic farm and maintaining a functional society made up of people from all walks of life. Members begin their time in this community by participating in a three-week program meant to expose them to the different aspects of life here, but visitors are also invited to try it out even without the intention to stay.
Where: 138 Twin Oaks Rd, Louisa Virginia 23093
5. Hummingbird Community, New Mexico, US
Halfway between Santa Fe and Taos in New Mexico lies a transformational living center known as Hummingbird. Members here believe all life is sacred, and aim to create a sanctuary for those with shared values of protecting the planet by offering workshops on conscious evolution, loving relationships, regenerative living, and wellness. Visitors are encouraged to come by and co-create this vision of a shared reality, whether it’s during the biannual Visitor Work Weekend, by taking a class, or scheduling a one-off experience. It’s up to you how you want to contribute.
Where: Mora, NM, 87732
6. La Cité Écologique, Canada
Quebec’s largest ecovillage is in Ham-Nord and sits on more than 700 acres of farmable land. For more than 35 years, nearly 100 people have practiced the principles of sustainable living and respecting all living things. Several businesses operate in this ecovillage, including an organic farm, and a clothing company that up-cycles what it makes. There are many ways to engage with La Cité Écologique, but note that French is the main language used here. Visitors are invited to come on its annual open house day, apply for on-site internships, or simply take a guided tour.
Where: The Green City of Ham-North, 689 8th rank, Ham-Nord, Quebec, Canada G0P 1A0
7. Ground-Up Initiative, Singapore
The Ground-Up Initiative in Singapore is a large-scale ecovillage aiming to create a 5G society: gracious, green, giving, grounded, and grateful. Its solution to the world’s ills is involving people more deeply in the ground upon which they stand, enabling greater connection to the earth and each other. This “school of life” has programs for those wanting to learn about craft-making — many materials can be recycled and reused for the sake of art, and farming, to restore the connection between humans and nature. Volunteers can help with dismantling and organizing craft materials, weeding and planting in the garden, or skills-based tasks like marketing and design. For hyper-urbanized Singapore, the Ground-Up Initiative offers travelers a respite from the hubbub and a chance to give back to a community that’s looking to keep things around long-term.
Where: Ground-Up Initiative, 91 Lorong Chencharu (Yishun), Singapore 769201