CoHousing and Sustainable Living

Full Disclosure: I like the idea of cohousing and sustainable living, and I'm actively trying to push these concepts forward where I live, in Santa Monica, CA. Although I thought this would be easy, I was wrong, and not much progress has been made other than colonizing the apartment building where I live with easy-going, friendly people who pretty much share our values. But this is neither cohousing nor sustainable, not even close.

Yet these concepts are thriving elsewhere. There are well over 100 cohousing developments in the U.S., with more in the pipeline, and hundreds more scattered around the world. Here's a very random, very tiny cross section for you to read about. Find more at

"Dancing Rabbit is an ecovillage and intentional community of about 50 people set amid the hills and prairies of rural northeastern Missouri. Our goal is to live ecologically sustainable and socially rewarding lives, and to share the skills and ideas behind that lifestyle. It's very much a work in progress. While in this pioneering stage, our lives are dynamic, often busy, and interesting. Daily life is different for each person who lives here, so it isn't always easy to generalize about life at DR. We've tried to include a lot of detail on our website about what it's like here and how that ties into sustainability. From the everyday needs of food and shelter to the more complex questions of culture and social change, we've tried to at least touch on the major points of our young ecovillage.

"In 1997 the DR Land Trust (DRLT) purchased 280 acres in the rolling hills of northeastern Missouri. We are now 12 years deep into pioneering, constructing buildings while planning and developing community structure. People's social and economic needs are met primarily on-site and locally, though a few support themselves doing web work or off-site consulting. There is an ever-increasing emphasis on internal economy, including a lot of barter and a well-used internal currency. Eventually, we see 500-1,000 people living in our village, with businesses and homes surrounding the village green."

"Breitenbush is an intentional community and worker owned cooperative whose mission it is to care for the hot springs, the land and the Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center. We all live in this rugged and beautiful mountain setting, 154 acres, and serve thousands of guests year round. Our emphasis is on service - to our guests, each other and to the greater global and universal community. Working at Breitenbush requires dedication to this service ethic, a sense of joy and excitement about your work, acceptance of personal responsibility and accountability, a desire for creativity and productivity and a willingness to communicate openly and honestly at all times.

"We are a small community - especially in the late Fall, Winter and early Spring when fewer than 60 permanent staff work here. Our community includes persons of all ages. Many children have been born at Breitenbush and we provide childcare to support their presence in our community."

"Twin Oaks is an intentional community in rural central Virginia, made up of around 85 adult members and 15 children. Since the community's beginning in 1967, our way of life has reflected our values of cooperation, sharing, nonviolence, equality, and ecology. We welcome you to schedule a visit.

"We do not have a group religion; our beliefs are diverse. We do not have a central leader; we govern ourselves by a form of democracy with responsibility shared among various managers, planners, and committees. We are self-supporting economically, and partly self-sufficient. We are income-sharing. Each member works 42 hours a week in the community's business and domestic areas. Each member receives housing, food, healthcare, and personal spending money from the community.

"Our hammocks and casual furniture business generates most of our income; indexing books and making tofu provide much of the rest. Still, less than half of our work goes into these income-producing activities; the balance goes into a variety of tasks that benefit our quality of life - including milking cows, gardening, cooking, and childcare. Most people prefer doing a variety of work, rather than the same job day in, day out."

It's good to know that some people are living sustainably in the midst of our throw-away economy and culture. As the pressure on resources builds, more and more people will inevitably turn in these directions. Someday, I hope to join them.

Where are you on living sustainably? Would you consider cohousing? Intentional community? Rustic living? Drop us a line and let us know whether you're more comfortable in a yurt or a penthouse, or somewhere in between!

More later...

Photo credit: placematters