Translated with the help of Lucie Battaglia. Thank you Lucie!
As you may already know, Respecterre is part of an ecovillage called “La Cité Écologique”, located in Ham-Nord. Respecterre’s owners and most of its employees live in this ecovillage, which is also home to the Respecterre boutique and dressmaking shop.
“La Cite Ecologique” is not the only example of an ecovillage, as there are several hundred similar projects around the world. Many of those have been visited by some of our residents here at La Cité. In this new series of articles, we will introduce you to these greatly inspiring alternative-living projects.
My Trip to the Findhorn Ecovillage in Scotland
It was a rainy day in the fall of 2014, but rays of sunshine slowly appeared on the horizon. With a somewhat distracted ear, I listened to the rattle of the train on the rails. I had been travelling for about twelve hours, and I was beginning the last part of my trip towards northeast Scotland. Verdant hills rolled along the horizon, where herds of sheep grazed, and trees and sharp cliffs stood tall. Upon my arrival in the town of Forest, I embarked on a bus to the small maritime village of Findhorn nested between bay and sea, right on the sandy hills.
In a crowded room, nearly 300 people gathered in the ecovillage amphitheater for the last day of the New Story Summit event. Attendees discussed the transition towards a new world where human beings would act as protectors of nature and work towards healing the environment. In this world, cultural diversity would be honored, and education, food and technology would be accessible to all, and so on. Let me add that the meeting was not all about dreaming—we exchanged best practices which have proven effective, discussed solutions, and partook in workshops for reconciliation between peoples, groups, and generations. We worked hands-on and left the event with homework and projects to concretely improve our quality of life whilst reducing our ecological footprint. Talk about motivation!
Moreover, a surprise awaited me. In the packed hall, a few familiar faces stood out. I recognized a group of friends I had met two years ago in an ecovillage in Switzerland. What a joy it was to see all these beautiful people again! Among others, there was a young lady from Korea and another from Thailand, a brother from Senegal, a young man who grew up in this ecovillage, North and South Americans… We gathered with some new friends to talk about our experiences and travels. At the end of the evening, we all walked over to the trailer park where the ecovillage was born in 1962, where we spent the night.
The next day, it was time to say goodbye to all and welcome new faces, because the EDE course was starting. This program had led me to visit this legendary ecovillage, which forms a community of about 500 people. Throughout the five weeks of training, I got the chance to experience this beautiful place. The Findhorn ecovillage, originally recognized internationally for its gardens, stands out today with its wastewater treatment system, its wind farm and its revolutionary constructions.
The secret behind the success of these lush gardens is the connection with the devas inhabiting the region. Many books and articles explain this unique relationship (see the book The Findhorn Garden). At the very start, this inspiration was guided by the three founders Eileen Caddy, Peter Caddy and Dorothy Maclean.
Today, we can admire their remarkable work and notice how they truly revitalized this plot of sandy soil. A multitude of flowers, trees and vegetable gardens have changed the place into a nurturing oasis and bird paradise.
In a large greenhouse, there is a “Living Machine” to treat wastewater. This technology uses micro-organisms in plant roots to filter water. It is a must-see and a technique which I recommend exploring. I admit to being a bit skeptical, but frankly, we see and smell the water coming out of the greenhouse and it’s impressively pure! During the course, we got the chance to experiment and build our own small filtration system!
The energy used in ecovillage comes from various renewable sources, mainly three wind turbines that are managed by a cooperative founded by the residents.
Last but not least, we could go on forever about the houses. The Findhorn ecovillage residents have tried out every concept related to green building. Here is a small list of techniques used, to name just a few: passive solar orientation, super-insulation, local materials, new cutting-edge technologies, a greenhouse on the south façade, minimalist home design, grouped dwellings, and repurposed whiskey barrels! It is true laboratory for construction enthusiasts.
In addition, there are several on-site businesses, a local money system, a fleet of shared vehicles, a school, an art center, workshops to upcycle and create objects, a community center, a collective kitchen and much more. In addition to all these beautiful, practical discoveries, we had the chance to travel thanks to the course. Written by the Gaia Education network, the program draws on achievements and solutions proposed by a multitude of international communities. The concept of sustainable development is approached under four main angles: ecological, social, economic and cultural. It’s an extremely rewarding experience!
Canada’s first EDE courses. In the summer of 2015, La Cité Écologique hosted the very first EDE course offered in French.
Today, myself and the group from La Cité Écologique are preparing to offer the 3rd edition of the EDE course in Quebec, which will begin on July 7. My wish is to inspire even one of the participants to pursue this beautiful adventure in their part of the country!
More info on Findhorn Foundation → https://www.findhorn.org/