Living in a big city — tall steel buildings blocking the sky; foul, tainted air; and people packed together everywhere, but with little connection between them. According to USA Today, almost half of Americans dream of living somewhere else, and most of those folks are city dwellers. Have you ever felt like there must be some better way of living? Some way that you can feel as though you have the amenities and opportunities of a city, but also some space and fresh air? Not in the middle of nowhere, but someplace with a good balance of urban and natural amenities?
Studies are showing that the answer to these problems lies in the hidden gem of small towns. Studies are showing that cities are shrinking in growth, while small towns all across the country are expanding more rapidly.
Take the charm of a small town, and blend it with a sense of environmental stewardship, and you have the concept of an ecovillage. Based on the structure of a small town, ecovillages are community-based living models that keep stewardship of the environment as a key part in the community’s decision-making process. One such village is the town of Dancing Rabbit, located in northeastern Missouri.
In 1997, a group of founders started the Dancing Rabbit Land Trust, and with that organization bought 280 acres near the town of Rutledge, Missouri. For years, the founders and early members all lived in a small double-wide trailer, living mostly off of dreams and views for what Dancing Rabbit could become.
In 2003, they began work on the community’s common house, and the next year it was finished. Since then, the population of Dancing Rabbit has exploded, through visitor tours, work exchangers, and Milkweed Mercantile guests (Dancing Rabbit’s sustainable Eco-Inn) more and more people move to Dancing Rabbit each year.
So, what exactly does Dancing Rabbit do? The main mission of Dancing Rabbit is to provide an example of how people can live sustainably. Through their outreach programs, they invite visitors to come see the village, and the members there lead by example for all that wish to follow. Particularly, members follow these ecological covenants:
- Dancing Rabbit members will not use personal motorized vehicles, or store them on Dancing Rabbit property.
- At Dancing Rabbit, fossil fuels will not be applied to the following uses: powering vehicles, space-heating and -cooling, refrigeration, and heating domestic water.
- All gardening, landscaping, horticulture, silviculture and agriculture conducted on Dancing Rabbit property must conform to the standards as set by OCIA for organic procedures and processing. In addition, no petrochemical biocides may be used or stored on DR property for household or other purposes.
- All electricity produced at Dancing Rabbit shall be from sustainable sources. Any electricity imported from off-site shall be balanced by Dancing Rabbit exporting enough on site, sustainably generated electricity, to offset the imported electricity.
- No lumber harvested outside of the bioregion, excepting reused and reclaimed lumber, shall be used for construction at Dancing Rabbit.
- Waste disposal systems at Dancing Rabbit shall reclaim organic and recyclable materials.
What do you think about the concept of an ecovillage? Have you ever considered moving to one? This is just the first post in a series I hope to do about life at Dancing Rabbit (where I currently live). If you have any questions or comments, I will try to answer them, or write a post on the topic next week. Let me know below!
Photos courtesy of Dancing Rabbit