Ecovillage at Ithaca, Lessons Learned

Date:Jan 04, 2012

Since its inception in 1991, EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI) has been recognized nationally and internationally for its pioneering work in developing a mainstream, green community that appeals to middle-class Americans while cutting resource use by more than half.  It is the largest and one of the most well-known ecovillages in the U.S. There are currently two co-housing neighborhoods with a third one (TREE) under construction.


EcoVillage is located on 175 acres of land just 2.5 miles from downtown Ithaca, NY. Over 90% of the EVI land is preserved as open space for farming, wildlife habitat, and recreational trails. The land includes meadows, woods, wetlands, streams and ponds. Fifty acres of land have been set aside as a permanent conservation easement, and are administered by the Finger Lakes Land Trust. There are two farms on the site which together provide vegetables and fruit for 1,500 people in the greater Ithaca area. The sixty homes of the current community are densely clustered on a footprint of just a few acres of land, nestled within a total buffer zone of 10 acres.

EcoVillage at Ithaca – Center for Sustainability Education (EVI-CSE) is the grassroots, non-profit organization that founded the entire project, continues to work on the long-term vision, and that educates the public. EVI-CSE is a project of the Center for Transformative Action at Cornell, which serves as its fiscal sponsor. EVI-CSE works with students and researchers, often by utilizing the “living laboratory” of the village and small farms. It provides tours to over a thousand visitors annually.

One of its newest programs, Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming, recently won a major USDA grant to teach beginning farmers all aspects of starting small farms. EVI-CSE also has a close partnership with Ithaca College, and teaches courses every semester on some aspect of sustainability.
From its inception, EcoVillage at Ithaca has enjoyed great recognition as an integrated model of environmental and social sustainability. It has received local, national and international awards, and has been consistently covered by major national and international media. This overall public appeal is based on how well these best practices work together to create a deeply satisfying way of life, one that speaks to the need for both social connection and connection with nature.

EcoVillage at Ithaca, with all of its components: a village of cohousing communities, land preservation, small farms, and its non-profit educational work, has enjoyed stunning success. By integrating “best practices” from many sources, the project has created a great place to live, and wonderful hands-on learning opportunities. Residents enjoy enormous benefits of a strong sense of community, caring neighbors, living in proximity to natural areas and organic farms. In addition the location is very close to downtown Ithaca.

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