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Sustainable Living
Alexandra Miano

Ecovillages, or communities who practice social, spiritual, and ecological sustainability, are springing up across the world. This movement has been encouraged through the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) which is divided into geographic groupings: GEN Europe and Africa, GEN Oceania, and the Ecovillage Network of the Americas. Members of this worldwide sustainable movement have the same goal. They wish to “counteract the decline of supportive social structures and destructive environmental practices”. Ecovillagers strive to achieve this vision through adapting their lifestyles away from the detrimental practices found in much of western society. Ecovillages that make up the Global Network (GEN) range from the 11,000 interconnected sustainable villages in rural Sri Lanka to the 48 unit apartment complexes found in urban Los Angeles.

I have yet to see the workings of a rural village like that in Sri Lanka, but recently I witnessed the social and environmental vision of the Network in action at the local Los Angeles ecovillage. In 1996 the residents, under the Cooperative Resources and Services Project (CRSP), purchased the complexes that are located in a dense, minority neighborhood. Those who live in the complexes have committed to living within the parameters of the ecovillage principles, but any one of the five hundred people who live in the self proclaimed boundaries of 1st street, 3rd street, Whitehouse Place, and Bimini are welcome to join in the weekly community meetings, meals, and workshops.

Unlike the majority of complexes found in Los Angeles, the sound ecological practices found at the ecovillage will aid to its indefinite survival. One very important aspect of the village’s sustainability is food self reliance. In the once paved courtyard, a vegetable and fruit garden now thrive using organic growing procedures including large scale composting. The courtyard is also home to three chickens that provide eggs for the group. Members of the ecovillage also grow fruit trees, including guava and apple, on the city streets which increase the beauty of the neighborhood, while also providing a healthy snack for the children walking home from the nearby middle school.

Inside the complex, sustainable guidelines are adhered to as well. For efficient use of space, every four hundred square foot apartment requires a two person occupancy; no more, no less. The most local and non-polluting materials are used during renovation to ensure social and environmental responsibility. Nearly all appliances are energy efficient, including the compact fluorescent bulbs which cast their glow as you walk down the wide hallways. A grey water system, a plumbing conversion where water from sinks and tubs are reused to water the garden, is being proposed, as well as a more expansive solar panel system.

This style of living is becoming increasingly more desirable. Lois Arkin, resident and founder of the ecovillage, must sift through many applications to find the right tenants for units which become available. One major determining factor of admittance is auto ownership. With the ecovillage located in close proximity to 25 major bus lines and 2 subway stations, most villagers choose not to own cars which are expensive and contribute to pollution and congestion in the city. Car-less residents have the added bonus of a twenty dollar rent reduction. Besides auto ownership, Lois also stresses to new residents that the ecovillage is not a utopia. People at the village must work hard and make sacrifices for the common good.

The common good that ecovillagers envision extends to the neighborhood beyond the complex walls. The ecovillage has programs, such as murals and weaving with green waste, rags, and plastic, which engage youths in the neighborhood and middle school. The ecovillage also has a “bike kitchen”. In the bike kitchen, people from the neighborhood can either drop off their bike for repair, or actually learn how to do the repairs themselves. This encourages self reliance and alternative, non-polluting modes of transportation. According to Arkin, the ecovillagers’ involvement in the community helps “create friendships, dialogue, and intellectual and emotional growth between people of diverse backgrounds”.

Members of the ecovillage have played a big part in transforming this neighborhood from one racked with prostitution, graffiti, drugs and violence into one in which people respect the environment and each other, regardless of culture, religion, or socio-economic class. The growing success of the Global Ecovillage Network, as seen in the L.A. village, shows that many people around the world have begun to understand that the survival of the human race is dependent upon joining together. We must change our current behaviors to ones that will meet the social and ecological needs of those alive today and of those alive in future generations.

LA Ecovillage Tours are Available:

We ask for a $10 per person donation and this can be on a self selected
sliding scale.

You must have a reservation. I will confirm your tour date request via
phone or email.

Here's the tour outline:

1. Introduction of the tour group members' interests
2. History and context for LA Eco-Village
3. Definition of an ecovillage and our role in the international movement for more sustainable communities.
4. Walking tour of the two block neighborhood noting the actual changes, planned changes and visions for future changes.
5. Tour of buildings and grounds of the two CRSP owned properties.
6. Spontaneous interactions with neighbors along the way.

What you need to know if you are planning to begin ecovillage processes in your own neighborhood or if you are interested in entering our process for residency in LA Eco-Village.

8. Concluding discussion.

Questions are invited throughout the tour, and frequently there are a
number of spontaneous encounters with other Eco-Villagers.

Here are directions to L.A. Eco-Village from the interseciton of First
Street and Vermont Ave in Los Angeles. This intersection is 1/4 mile
south of the Hollywood Freeway (101) at the Vermont exit or 4 miles
north of the Santa Monica Freeway (10) at the Vermont exit or 3 miles
west of the Harbor Freeway at the Third Street exit. We are also very
accessible by bike or public transit. Call MTA for transit info
(213/626-4455) or me at 213/738-1254.


Lois Arkin
Executive Director CRSP
Resident L.A. Eco-Village
117 Bimini Place, #221
Los Angeles CA 90004
Ph: 213/738-1254
Fax: 213/386-8873
email: crsp@igc.org
web: www.ic.org/laev

Western U.S. Council Representative, Ecovillage Network of the Americas

CRSP is a nonprofit organization committed to small ecological
cooperative communities founded in 1980. CRSP is the sponsoring
organization for L.A. Eco-Village, founded in 1993 as a demonstration of
the processes for creating a more sustainable neighborhood.

Alexandra Miano is a student at Santa Monica College. She has not decided on a major, but is leaning towards Art and/or Environmental Studies.






The Women’s College Magazine at Santa Monica College
Copyright 2003 Santa Monica College