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CNN – Simple Living and Eco Communities

Posted on August 25, 2008 by
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CNN has had two articles on community in the past few weeks, one on simple living and one on eco-communities in the UK.

The simple living article profiles a woman at the Keystone Ecological Urban Center in Chicago.

Keri Rainsberger isn’t rich. She works in the nonprofit world for a relatively low-profit salary. Yet, as many Americans are scrimping for every penny, she hardly feels the pinch.

How is this possible?

For starters, she has no car and commutes by bicycle each workday. She also has no mortgage payment and chooses to live in an “intentional community,” a partly shared space where $775 a month covers everything from utilities to meals.

Her private quarters — larger and a bit more expensive than some — are about 400 square feet, divided into a sitting room, a craft room and a small bedroom. She shares bathrooms, showers, a kitchen and a large dining room with 28 other residents whose ranks include young professionals, professors and retirees.

“It’s like a college dormitory, but with better conversation,” she often jokes.

The article claims that the poor economy is pushing more people to explore simple and cooperative living:

“The economy starts to tank. People get tired of it,” says Daniel Howard, an expert in consumer research and behavior at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. “It’s people saying, ‘Let’s get together and help one another.’ And it works.”

But those who advocate a simpler, less consumer-driven life say there are lessons in the strategies she and other intentional communities use.

By buying their food in bulk, for instance, Rainsberger and her neighbors spend $100 to $150 per person each month for meals. (Consider that the U.S. Department of Agriculture “thrifty plan” for a single person is $200 a month.)

The article comes around to point out someof the non-tangible benefits of community:

Rainsberger, whose closest family is in Ohio, savors the camaraderie.

“For me, to be able to walk out my door and have everybody in the hall know me, that’s a really great experience,” she says. “And if anything happens to me, I know there’s somebody next door who’ll take care of me.”

The article on Eco-Communities stresses the sustainability focus of many intentional communities:

Communities that put an emphasis on green values range from isolated eco villages to sophisticated co-housing projects.

But where co-housing projects were once primarily intended as a return to a more collective, less isolated way of living, new projects often place an emphasis on sustainable living.

They mention Nubanusit Neighborhood and Farm in New Hampshire and the UK community Living Villages. They go on to look at how widespread eco-communities might become:

Inherent to eco communities is their small scale. Not only does it provide the social glue that holds them together, it allows communal facilities and equipment, such as lawnmowers, to be shared, reducing the community’s carbon footprint. But in a crowded world that size restriction limits how widespread these developments can become.

While these communities will never be for everyone, Berger maintains co-housing is a model for the future. “A lot of the basic concepts behind co-housing are applicable to larger housing developments,” she says.

“Some of the principles could be woven in to conventional developments — things like having the residential area car free, having a common house where you can eat communally from time to time, hold events, and have a children’s room and games room for teenagers.

Read the Simple Living Article on CNN

Read the Eco Communities article on CNN


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