How to Start a Modern Sustainable Living Community (right where you’re at)

How to Start a Modern Sustainable Living Community (right where you're at)

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.
  • laugh.
  • 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
  • eco-village
  • cohousing
  • commune
  • co-op
  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Your Neighborhood

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.
  • ride-sharing.

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!



  1. This is so beautiful! I imagine the world of the future to look a little something like this. I’m so eagerly trying to create my own little community online here in my corner of Australia with the potential for it to spread beyond the virtual world. There’s no doubt that you are your own best example as you live and breathe this passion! Love your work 🙂

  2. There is a time and place for everything….for certain today, and here on this blog – this missive-for me, is the right time and the right place apparently. These well thought out concepts of creating ‘community’ however you can within the borders of your current ‘world’ aretruly thought provoking and many ORIGINAL in the manner you propose them.
    This is now going to be redirected and slammed into Pinterest on every board I can pin it.

    Thank You Sister, you have made my day…
    Patricia (aka Rishia) O’Neill

  3. This is lovely! I, too have been promoting this exact way of living!
    Everyone please feel free to friend me on Facebook or follow my fledgling blog! Always love meeting new friends with similar interests anywhere I can find (since we are such a small part of society!)

  4. Funny, i had this very idea this morning. I had in mind a sort of safe house/community. I live in a very small town in the middle of the state and we have a perfect back drop for this type of setting. Thank you for the information.

  5. Awesome post! We are firm believers in community among homesteaders and other like-minded people. Our own support community includes extended family, neighbors, and friends in the region where we live, plus others who are with us in spirit if not in location. We’re sharing this post!

  6. I’ve been so interested in doing something along these lines. I am older than you, and my family is grown and gone. No husband. I was around back in the free and easy 70s and was in a food co-op in two different locations. Back then it was easier to find people willing to share work, land, skills and meals. I haven’t found anybody near me now who is willing to embark on an adventure such as the one you are describing. I’m going to look, though, and you have given me fresh energy to do that search! Thanks as always.

  7. Hi Andrea – Love your post! Over the past three years I have been part of the Ladies Homestead Gathering which has just become a non profit and is now a National Organizations. We currently have about 6-7 chapters on the east coast. COMMUNITY is our main focus and we do many of the ideas you have listed minus the living together. This weekend we have our annual Ladies Retreat where about 18 of us will learn, plant walk, eat – lots of this, drink teas, share ideas, dreams and stories and just enjoy! It is just for us ladies and the families stay home. We do farm work days and the families all get together and help out, whether it is mending fences, cutting trees, clearing brush, building gardens…you name it.
    Thank you for all you do Andrea! Here is a link for our group if anyone is interested and wants to learn more.

  8. It sounds a lot like the community at our Grange Hall – Southard Grange #218, in Howell, NJ! We promote sustainable living, including: organic gardening/farming; homestead skills such as canning, sewing, hand crafts, woodworking; humane animal husbandry; music programs such as our weekly “Pickin’ Parlor” bluegrass & country music jam sessions; a thrift shop; and so much more! Check out our Facebook Page! I love our Grange!

  9. I’ve been hoping to find like-minded people in my area of Missouri, but I live in a small town that is getting hit hard by the shut down so a lot of people are just locking their doors and trying to hide from it. I thought about starting a blog about what I’ve done in my home with what I can find online (love the homemade bleach I found on here!!) but the library I where I get my internet I don’t know if I’d be here on a regular basis.

    • Have you heard of Dancing Rabbit Eco-village? It’s in northern Missouri, near the north east corner of the state. They have a web site and blog and you can take tours of the village, too. Good luck!

    • Where are ya in Missouri? My family and I are in St. Louis, but will be moving out to a place w a bit more room soon! I’d love to share some ideas. I also am interested in dancing rabbit Eco village…you should check it out.

  10. Pastor Bob Farr says:

    We have a group in extreme Southern Illinois. We are raising chickens and gardening as well as attending our assembly services. We LOVE it! Great post!

  11. Great ideas! We met some folks who are living in an eco-village and we weren’t sure it was exactly what we were looking for at the time, but now we’re living in a small town in a rural area in a different state and don’t seem to know anyone of a like mind. (We’re raising our own organic veggies, composting, recycling, doing crafts, etc.) It would be great if there was a place were folks could put out an “SOS” online and find others nearby to meet with and to form support groups. I know there’s got to be others out there not too, too far away!

    • Pastor Bob Farr says:

      Our group in extreme Southern Illinois, are in a small town, of the name of Stonefort 62987.
      We are a small group, that believe in keeping the Torah and keeping the feasts in Lev. 23 We have an assembly hall, known as the Philadelphia Assembly of Stonefort. We also have an old School building on three acres of ground, where we plan to have a community garden, as well as a food and clothing pantry for the poor. We just need the work men for the harvest.

  12. I’ve hosted community swaps for clothing, books, and food. I like the idea of opening my home to teach skills that I have, especially since I’d love to learn something new from someone else in the same way. My neighbor once taught me and another neighbor how to bake bread. this was a few years ago and I am still grateful.

  13. l Love this idea.I live in a small town.I would love to get to know like minded people.

  14. I think that this is amazing! A group of friends and I are kind of at the beginning stages of this. I can’t wait to see where it takes off to. We’re better together. I think that when people form this community amazing things happen. I’m from a small town that has gotten away from that throughout the years, but thanks to a few it’s slowly and surely coming back. I’m so fired up after reading this! Thanks for the post!

  15. to se the real thing go to facebook group: shambhalabamba

  16. I’m in the gulf coast of Florida and would really like to find some others close willing to even barter goods or services and get together bulk buying days. 🙂

  17. My best friend and I have been talking about doing this for awhile now. We already have a bit of a ritual- we do yoga together every Tuesday, and we walk together on Sundays and Thursdays. We’ve even been planning to have a day where we bulk buy food and create crock pot ready meals to freeze. I guess we’re already on our way! We live in South Mississippi, and I haven’t thought about reaching out to see if there are others in our area. Thank you for this post! 🙂

  18. Laurie Lam says:

    My husband and I are interested in something like this. Anyone have or know of anything in california?

  19. I have had this very idea for sometime now. I am on the brink of starting a sort of sustainable/ hippie/artist garden home in Vero Beach FL. I understand that city/county officials are not very receptive to ideas and practices that are not their own. But I feel compelled to create this outpost of sanity regardless. Like fruit trees and berry bushes close to the street so anyone passing by who is hungry can have something without resorting to stealing. This could make the place either a resource for those in need or a target for vandals and thieves. But that’s a chance regardless of location, right?

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