Anna Lebedeva writing on shared communities…

Moving to the EcoVillage Ithaca in New York was one of the best decisions Laura Beck ever made.

“We have ponds to swim in and to ice skate on in winter. We have walking trails running all over our land, and you can go cross-country skiing in winter right from your back door here,” says Laura.

“When I lived in mainstream America, I drove to my garage and rarely saw my neighbors. I know everything about the people in my neighborhood here. The way that people engage is different. We support each other.

Laura moved to the ecovillage in 2001 from Austin, Texas where she had a busy life working in TV production.

It is one of the bigger cohousing communities consisting of three neighborhoods with 30-40 households each. About a fifth of the residents are retirees while the rest include a diverse mix of stay-at-home parents, farmers, teachers, academics, and legal and financial professionals. All residents volunteer two to three hours every week contributing to the smooth running of the community and maintain active control of their life.

Laura says that the neighborhoods in the EcoVillage feel warm and cozy.

“Our unfenced houses are right beside each other and situated around a pedestrian walkway with cars kept away from the center of the neighborhoods. We have a common house for shared meals, business spaces, laundry facilities, meetings, and celebrations, and everyone thinks about the common house as an extension of their own home. We do village-wide, shared meals and neighborhood-specific meals for people who prefer smaller groups.”

“Living in a cohousing community has positively impacted my well-being and made me feel deeply supported in some difficult moments.

“Once, I seriously injured my knee walking through the center of my neighborhood. I just cried out for help. Within seconds, two neighbors emerged from their homes and carried me home. Shortly after, through word of mouth and our community email, I had a consult from a nurse, crutches, a warm meal, a bottle of wine, videos to watch, and someone to watch them with,” says Laura.

“I could have never managed this for myself on my own in so little time under the circumstances.”

The ecovillage prides itself on reducing the ecological footprint by 70% compared to an average American when it comes to travel, heat, electricity, food, water, and waste. Many homes have solar panels and most of them are built to strict environmental standards. Only 10% of the 175 acres of land is developed and the rest is preserved as green spaces and forests.

Residents re-use, recycle, and share resources.

“Part of our goal is to not have many appliances in the houses,” says Laura. “So we share what we can. Instead of every home having a lawnmower and washing machine, we share those, which saves money and resources and helps to make sure that fewer things go to the landfill at the end of their life.”

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