Beyond Earthships, Ecovillages



Where Earthships are an individual housing representation of permaculture principles, ecovillages are a social representation that has many different facets. However, the term ‘ecovillage’ is very loose. Ecovillages range from a few families living together on a small farm to farm co-ops to large income sharing communities with a hundred people or more living together. There are at least three currently in Manitoba and many others across Canada. Another term for ecovillage is ‘intentional community’, as it is a community that coalesces around a specific intent or set of values.

“Intentional communities are formed when people choose to live with or near enough to each other to carry out a shared lifestyle, within a shared culture and with a common purpose.”

Bill Metcalf in The Findhorn Book of Community Living (Findhorn Press, 2004)

What is the essence of an ecovillage? In their book, Eco-Villages and Sustainable Communities, a Report for Gaia Trust by Context Institut, Robert and Diane Gilman define an ecovillage as “A human-scale, full-featured settlement, in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future.”


A home at the Northern Sun Farm Coop Ecovillage.

Often referred to as “Communes”, these communities were part of the counter-cultural mixture of the 60s and 70s. The “everything old is new again” ideals of communal living attempts to demonstrate social values that harken to what is romantically thought of as a simpler time. It may be that their time has come. An intentional community was featured in the 2012 Hollywood movie “Wanderlust” starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston. Forbes also ran a featured article called ‘Ecotopia’ in April of 2008 accompanied by a photo essay of eight different communities.

Ecovillages and permaculture offer systems for those who come together to co-create a shared community that, if well-designed, may change the direction of human effort from individual survival to individuals cooperating in a thriving community. Transformational in nature, they offer the chance for co-creators to design their own culture.

There are still jobs to do and work to be done. In an ecovillage, a strong work ethic is required, but the dynamics change on a fundamental level. Members work for and with each other; some may hold outside jobs as well. Like an Earthship, ecovillages are highly complex and designed with ecological values in mind but afford a simplicity that may be the answer to many of our planetary challenges.

For more information, check out these resources:

Built to connect people interested in ecovillages with others of like minds, provide resources and a directory, this website also helps to facilitate the creation of eco-villages in Manitoba.

Manitoba Ecovillage Network
A group of people in Manitoba interested in ecovillages.

Fellowship of Intentional Communities

The Canadian Ecovillage Network.

Global Ecovillage Network

Finding Community, by Diana Leafe Christian. New Society Publishers, 2003

Having lived in ecovillages since the 70s, this author draws on many experiences in her book to help the reader figure out what will work best for their own unique individual situation.

Creating a Life Together, by Diana Leafe Christian. New Society Publishers, 2003

Be sure to read The Earthship Has Landed and What is Permaculture? also by H. Jacob Buller.

As well as, Living Rural, But Not Lonely by Meg Crane


jacob_port-10H. Jacob Buller is a freelance journalist, writer and dad.  He adventures with his family to Earthships, ecovillages and intentional communities and blogs about it at




3 Responses

  1. Paxus Calta

    July 17, 2015 9:01 pm

    Dearest Jakob:

    Thanks for this piece. I would frame this distinction between earthships and ecovillages more sharply. Earthships are certainly better than most conventional houses, they use available materials, they are rich in ecological design principals and they are very modest resource users.

    They do however still represent the fundamentally unsustainable idea of single family (or person) housing. Unlike “ecovillages” where the infrastructure of living (including heating, plumbing, electrical and even exterior walls) is share among a larger group of people, earthships still represent a non-sustainable path.

    If you are going to build a single family or person home, by all means build an earthship or tiny house. And is saving the planet is extremely important to you, recognize that the sharing cultures embraced by especially the income sharing intentional communities is the long level fix for climate change.

    Some number to prove this can be found in

    For my review of the above mentioned Wanderlust movie (which really is a parody about Twin Oaks) see:

    • Jacob

      December 8, 2015 9:06 pm

      Paxus, this website does not update me when comments are posted. So I am very sorry for the very late reply here. Thank you very much for your comment! I loved Wanderlust, and I sure could see echoes of Twin Oaks in the movie. You’re right about the single family dwelling not as efficient as the income sharing model. It’s still a pretty long shot though for people just starting to open their eyes to different, better ways. Baby steps. 😉


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