Re: ecovillage vs cohousing distinctions
From: Craig Ragland (
Date: Fri, 12 Feb 2010 10:00:08 -0800 (PST)
Great topic!

Robert Gilman, who gave the closing address at the 2009 Natl Cohousing
Conference, provided the most widely accepted definition/set of
ecovillage characteristics:

- full-featured settlement
- in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world
- in a way that is supportive of healthy human development, and
- can be successfully continued into the indefinite future
- with multiple centers of initiative

He, and others, sometimes suggest that there may not be actual
ecovillages in the United States - YET.

Why? They need to be larger to qualify as a full-featured settlement
and to have multiple centers of initiative (of significant size). I've
heard the idea from a few ecovillage movement people that an
ecovillage requires least 500 people to have these characteristics.

He, and others, suggest that current US "ecovillages" are all under
development, communities with the ecovillage intentions, that are in
the development process. They may grow into ecovillages.

One of the more important roles that a number of ecovillages fill is
to serve as models and as living laboratories which serve as education
centers. They invite people to come learn with them through workshops,

As Fred suggests, Diana is one of the better known resident advocates
of Ecovillages and anybody interested in learning more should consider
visiting her website and sign up for her newsletter. Just as there are
many cohousing-interested parties out there who follow cohousing from
afar, there are many ecovillage advocates. Diana is an advocate who
walks her talk at Earthaven Ecovillage.

As he closed our 2009 conference, Robert Gilman suggested that Coho/US
and the cohousing movement in general, build closer relationships with
the ecovillage movement, as there is so much value alignment. This is
happening, though not so much on an national or international level.
This thread exemplifies the interest among cohousers, as does the
increasing use of the name ecovillage in conjunction with cohousing
communities. One of the larger existing US "ecovillages," Ecovillage
at Ithaca, has now built two cohousing communiites and are working on
a third. They view cohousing as an important model of housing and
centers of initiative within a larger Ecovillage.

Craig Ragland
Executive Director
Cohousing Association of the United States (Coho/US)
craig [at]

Please consider attending the National Cohousing Conference. Click here:

On Thu, Feb 11, 2010 at 11:48 AM, Fred H Olson <fholson [at]> 
> I've wondered about the ecovillage vs cohousing distinctions.
> I'm much more familiar with cohousing but read about ecovillages
> some.
> Some interesting observations in this thread so far.
> Clearly actual examples of each have characteristics that
> overlap.
> One typical difference that I've noticed is that ecovilllages
> are more likely to be established "smaller" than than they aspire
> to be.  This is illustrated by a recent email from elsewhere:
> > I live at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri.
> > DR has as its stated goal growing to be a village of 500-1,000, and
> > we are about 50 people currently.
> Whereas most (but not all) cohousing communities are constructed
> at one time to house their final population.
> I imagine an ecovillages may also build a cohousing portion
> initially with the intent to build additional cohousing communities
> as well as enterprizes, coops, stores etc later to make them more full
> function villages.  This sort of describes Ecovillage at Ithaca which has
> it's third cohousing community in the planning stages.
> Building a full function village is an even bigger undertaking than
> building a cohousing community and building it in stages and evolving
> is more practical.  The financing piece alone probably dictates this.
> Imagine the meeting schedule if you tried to plan it all in advance :)
> The ultimate size of ecovillages remains to be determined in most cases.
> It will be interesting to see how well they have succeeded in 10 - 20
> years.  Curiously note that current cohousing communities often have more
> residents than current ecovillages even tho the latter hopes to be
> considerably bigger.
> Diana Leafe Christian, publisher/editor, Ecovillages newsletter
> who is a subscriber to Cohousing-L
> will hopefully get to addressing this topic when time permits
> (we exchanged enough email to find out she's currently busy.)
> Fred
> --
> Fred H. Olson  Minneapolis,MN 55411  USA        (near north Mpls)
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