The very idea of more for less indicates a culture of consumption, the concept of “getting” without “giving”, which is essentially contradictory to the principles of being environment-friendly. One has to believe in a certain value system of sharing and caring for each other and the environment, which will reap benefits that are intangible yet immeasurable.
All for one and one for all
Going green has turned into a trend today, and every individual has realized the relevance of being sensitive to the environment. Although this is a positive sign, we need to look further than the jargon—which is more technology-driven—and examine the real issues involved in being environment-friendly, in the context of present-day lifestyles and economic conditions.
An eco community is composed of like-minded people who live together, sharing utilities such as water and sewage systems, common spaces and facilities. An investment in an eco community would result in not only owning the piece of land that one has bought; the homeowner would also taker ownership of the larger community space, which expands the visual and physical space available.
Bigger than the individual...
So essentially, one would not need to own a large piece of land individually, and yet one would get to enjoy a much larger space. Maintenance of garden spaces, water tanks, sewage systems, back-up power facilities and security would also become a shared enterprise, which could be supported by all members, and individual maintenance would be limited to one’s home and personal gardens.
...becomes cheaper for the individual
Several technologies—such as waste-water recycling, water treatment and rainwater harvesting—require a critical mass to become economical. An individual investing in these technologies would end up spending much more of his total budget than is desirable. In a larger group, it would amount to less.
Benefits beyond your doorstep
Neighbours who become extended family, open spaces where children are free and secure, and spaces where the elderly need no longer be lonely are some other benefits of living in a community.
Such communities can recreate some of the culture of small towns and villages where a lot of us come from, while trying to retain the advantages that a city offers. It is this character of community living that our cities are losing, and our children may never experience unless we act now. The emphasis needs to be on creating an ambience which is human in scale, while retaining the character of the land; “place-making” vs space-making being the underlying theme in the planning, creating places that celebrate the oneness of the human spirit with nature and not icons that exhibit man’s supposed superiority.
Living NOT to the maximum
Fewer burdens can be imposed on the land by not utilizing the maximum permissible area one is allowed to build on and reducing the footprint and material resources required.
The breakdown of traditional forms of community, wasteful consumerist lifestyles and the destruction of natural habitat, urban sprawl and over-reliance on fossil fuels are trends that must be changed to avert ecological disasters. Small-scale communities with minimal ecological impact are one alternative.
Natacha Iype, the author is an architect and designs for Good Earth Pvt. Ltd, which is involved in building sustainable communities