A couple of weekends ago I had the privilege of attending the Plant Healer’s Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous at Mormon Lake just outside of Flagstaff, AZ.
It was a magical time!
One full of cutting-edge classes, folk music, dance, and plant celebration.
But more importantly, it was the community.
The weekend was driven with purpose. Everyone was happy, healthy, and active. For a few days we all lived together in a community where it became the norm to:
- wake naturally with the sun.
- engage in intellectual socialization.
- share mealtimes.
- drink tea together.
- take plant walks.
- hike in the forest.
- rest our bodies as needed.
It certainly was a sharp contrast to the lifestyle of many in the U.S. — as we often find ourselves living in communities where it is largely common to wake in the morning with an obnoxious alarm, live with anxiety, sit isolated most of the day, eat whatever foods are fast and/or convenient, watch tons of TV, stress out about time…
It is true that many of us have found ways to reject these negative habits of our culture, yet I think it’s safe to say that we often struggle to find a supportive group of people to foster further/deeper growth.
So what are we supposed to do if we’re “in with the wrong group of people”?
Start a sustainable living community.
Framework of a Sustainable Living Community
*As I was searching online for tips on starting a sustainable living community, I was enlightened by reading this article written by Leo Babauta. It was the trigger that set my mind on course and the catalyst for this post.
Thankfully, there isn’t one single shape for which a sustainable living community can fit into — if you look at other successful communities such as the examples set forth in the…
- intentional community
- religious cooperatives
…there are a plethora of routines and practices that the people living in these communities hold to.
Nevertheless, here are seven that seem to be of utmost importance:
- Live within seasonal bounds. Proponents of sustainable living aim to conduct their lives in such a way that mimic the example given to us in nature. Natural balance and respectful for humanity’s relationship with the Earth’s natural ecology and cycles should be our driving force. This could include — yet is by no means limited to — the practices of: (a) Waking up naturally. As quoted from Sherry L. Ackerman, Ph.D., in Improve your sleep quality by waking up naturally, “waking up naturally is far gentler on the body. Teach yourself to wake up on time by priming your body’s internal clock — stick to a regular bedtime routine and train yourself to wake at a certain time. Go to bed at the same time every night and allow yourself to sleep until you wake up naturally. No alarm clocks! If you continue to keep the same bedtime and wake up naturally, you’ll eventually dig your way out of fatigue and arrive at the sleep schedule that’s ideal for you.” (b) Eating seasonal foods. Those foods that can either be grown, preserved, hunted for, or gathered in your local area during — and throughout — each change in season. (c) Using plants as medicine. For every season of the year and of life, there is a plant to help the body heal.
- Meet together. Interacting daily with others is of vital importance within the sustainable living community. Whether it be talking via phone or email, visiting neighbors, ride-sharing, coordinating bulk food purchases, going to church, or hosting a DIY get-together…interact daily with others in the community.
- Positive outlook on life. Attitude is EVERYTHING. A “can-do,” positive attitude possesses healing powers. Dispel all negativity within the community and live with purpose.
- Reduce Poisonous Habits. A majority of our most poisonous habits have their roots in hyper-consumption and convenience. In order to reduce poisonous habits, we must first look to alter our spending habits, methods of transportation, energy consumption, and diet. Likewise, it is important to note that the most healthy sustainable societies have built-in requirements for daily physical activity — whether it is working the land or walking to get around. It is usually performed for exercise, out of necessity, and/or for socializing purposes.
- Eat together. Adopting a traditional diet — and sharing it in the company of others — is a truly nourishing experience. The hunter/gatherer within the sustainable living community is responsible for, and finds joy in, food preparation and meal coordination. They achieve ultimate fulfillment in bringing life-giving sustenance to the group — and likewise recognize the importance of eating together.
- Grow your own. Gardens are sprouting up (literally) all over the place (home and public). It’s a revolution of sorts! Gardening is an extremely therapeutic, empowering, and bonding experience. An absolute necessity for the thriving sustainable living community.
- Foster accountability. To be accountable within a sustainable living community means you have an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for your own actions. A lifestyle that attempts to reduce one’s own — or society’s — use of the Earth’s natural and personal resources almost demands accountability in order for the dream to be realized.
okay…and one more
Live with an open heart and open hands. The very word “community” tells a story of devotion to others…not only to oneself. The sustainable living community must live with an open heart and open hands toward each other — sharing everything and combining resources. When we are committed to each other, as a group, and have everything in common…selling our possessions and goods in order to give to anyone as they have need, healing the sick, and caring for those who need our help doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
There are without a doubt other practices that are important to a sustainable living community (include yours in the comments below), but I think the
seven eight things outlined above would be a sure part of laying a good foundation for the group.
What does a sustainable living community look like? Practically.
I assume that the large majority of us live “regular” lives in either a modern urban, suburban, or rural setting.
Hear me when I say…completely withdrawing from society and living in a commune is not AT ALL the goal here.
A sustainable living community can be successfully created in a multitude of situations.
For example ::
With Like-Minded People
Two people are all that’s needed to form a community. All we need is one other person that “gets it” to join us in our mission. And as the pillars, practices, and new routines of our lifestyle begin to bleed out…others close to you might be inspired to join when they see all of the healthy, more sustainable, changes you’ve made.
Start with local like-minded family and/or friends.
And perhaps, in the beginning, just start by meeting regularly together.
You all could…create the ritual of some sort of physical activity together (i.e. yoga/hiking/walking/perhaps helping with farm chores/etc.). In a few weeks, aim to coordinate bulk buying habits and perhaps schedule a day to preserve the foods together (maybe even combining financial resources to purchase items necessary for canning, energy reduction, and water conservation). Next, you could commit to reducing one poisonous habit together. And so on.
Get together regularly — daily if at all possible, but 2-3 times a week minimally. But if you can’t, make sure to you talk on the phone, on Facebook, or via email. Make it a daily priority. This type of consistent contact helps you get support from each other, keep each other accountable, and forms a bond while doing something meaningful together.
If you can’t seem to find anyone like-minded person locally, then find them online.
Today we have little excuse for not being able to find people interested in similar things to what we’re interested in — they exist in troves online.
Unsure and nervous about where/how to start?
How about Facebook friends, or Facebook groups? Or daily visits to a few sustainable, natural living, eco-friendly blogs and join the commenting community. You could also search for (on Google or ask in the comments of this blog post) and find online forums that focus on the topics you’re interested in.
And when you do find a few online friends, start your own group. Or forum. Or better yet…start your own blogging community together!
There are a multitude of ways to join and/or form an online group that communicates regularly. One that can support each other toward a more sustainable lifestyle.
Attempting to start a sustainable living community within your neighborhood may be one of the toughest options out there!
This based on several different reasons, yet most often due to the fact that:
- influencing a large group of people to change is hard.
- you may not talk to your neighbors that much (consider it a blessing if you do)!
- trying to convince people who might not want to change that they need to change is near impossible.
But don’t focus on the negative!
You can start small by simply getting to know your neighbors, and creating something new and exciting.
In the beginning, you could lay the foundation for a sustainable living community in your neighborhood by:
- starting a community garden
- hosting a DIY get-together
- open your home to teaching people sustainable living practices such as soap-making, herbal medicine, gardening, or keeping chickens.
These are just a few ideas.
The greatest challenge is learning the needs and desires of those living around you and coming up with ways to meet them…sustainably.
Continue the Conversation
What are some of your ideas for starting a sustainable living community right where you are? Have you tried? What works, what doesn’t? What are some of your fears?
Let’s share with each other in the comments!