Come Celebrate! EcoVillage at
is 20 Years and Growing. Ithaca
“I’m so excited to hear there’s a new neighborhood growing at EcoVillage at
,” says prominent environmentalist Bill McKibben, founder of the worldwide climate action group, 350.org. “The place is a touchstone for Americans excited about the newest/oldest ways of life!” Ithaca
McKibben is in good company. Although he can’t be present for the festivities, over 200 people are expected to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI) on Saturday afternoon, September 17th, including the “ground-turning” for the third neighborhood. From 1-4pm the public is invited to join free tours of the new 50 killowatt solar array, the village itself, and the innovative green buildings and on-site organic West Haven Farm. Kids of all ages will enjoy a scavenger hunt, U-Pick raspberries, solar-cooked popcorn and snacks, local music and a crafts show. It will all take place at the EcoVillage site, just 2 miles from downtown
, at the crest of West Hill, off Route 79 West on Ithaca Rachel Carson Way.
But perhaps the most momentous event will be the 3:30pm ceremony marking the beginning of TREE (Third Residential EcoVillage Experience), the planned third cohousing neighborhood at EVI. TREE has three interwoven goals: sustainability, accessibility and affordability. “We’re planning to model Passive House design (http://www.passivehouse.us ), one of the most energy efficient designs in the world,” said Jared Jones, chair of the Energy-Design committee for the neighborhood. These homes use a small fraction of the heat that is required by a typical home in the northeast
“In fact, on a cold winter day, one of these homes can be heated with the same amount of energy used by a hair-dryer,” said Jones. To date there are just 13 certified Passive Houses in the U.S. U.S., although it is a well-proven technology, with more than 25,000 built in Europe. When TREE is completed, it would almost triple the number of certified Passive Houses in the U.S.
TREE plans 25 houses and 15 flats in a four-story “
Sustainable Living Center.” The Center will also include neighborhood-wide amenities, such as a large dining room and kitchen, a sitting room and multi-purpose room for yoga, crafts and performances. Current estimated prices range from $80,000-$250,000 based on the size of the house. Three quarters of the homes will be accessible for someone with mobility impairment, with a bedroom and full bath on the ground floor.
The group has 25 committed members, from as far away as
Malaysia and Texas, and as close as downtown . “It’s a wonderful group,” said Lisa Ripperton, TREE membership coordinator, who lives with her 20 year old son Daniel in Ithaca . “We need a few more people to join to give us the critical mass to start building.” Ripperton, a small publisher, enjoys meeting new people, and drives up from North Carolina for the TREE meetings every third weekend. The group expects construction of the new homes to start early in 2012. Chapel Hill, NC
At the TREE “ground-turning” ceremony Mohawk elder Tom Porter will focus on the connection between the planned neighborhood and the larger web of life surrounding it. Using the Permaculture technique of sheet mulching, the group will help to prepare a community garden bed for TREE, as a first step towards future residents growing much of their own produce.
Twenty years ago, EcoVillage at
held a kick-off event, a five day “Envisioning Retreat” attended by 100 people. The purpose of the retreat was to inspire people to create an ecological village, one that could serve as an educational model of sustainable living. Now, twenty years later, EVI is one of the most well-known ecovillages in the world, and the largest in the Ithaca It has won local, national and international awards. U.S.
“We have a lot to celebrate from the last 20 years,” said Liz Walker, EcoVillage co-founder, and Executive Director of its non-profit outreach arm, the EVI-Center for Sustainability Education (EVI-CSE), in turn a project of the Center for Transformative Action at Cornell. “But I’m most excited about how our vision continues to unfold in new ways.”
EVI is looking ahead to the future, according to
Walker, with the TREE neighborhood expansion, a new 50 KW ground-mounted solar array to power the first neighborhood, and new educational programs, such as for Local Food & Farming http://www.groundswellcenter.org/ and an EPA Climate Showcase Communities collaboration with Tompkins County Planning Department. Both Groundswell and the Climate Showcase program of EVI-CSE have recently won major national grants, allowing the small non-profit to greatly expand its reach. “Now our message can reach more people,” said Groundswell Center . “We want to let people know that as both individuals and as whole communities, we can take practical steps towards a more sustainable future. We can wean ourselves from fossil fuels, and use far fewer resources, yet have a wonderful quality of life. And we can do it now. No one else is going to do it for us.” Walker
Walker, who wrote Choosing a Sustainable Future: Ideas and Inspiration from Ithaca, NY, an award-winning book which chronicles the burgeoning environmental and social justice movement in
, is grateful to the larger community. “EcoVillage at Tompkins County is really a reflection of what has been going here for decades. We’re lucky to live in such a progressive, environmentally-friendly place. This celebration is a small way that we can give something back to our friends and neighbors.” Ithaca